The story begins in Manhattan, USA in March 1911. We meet Emma Quinn and her friend Martina who are both supporters of the American Women’s Suffrage Association. They work at the Joseph Cobb factory, making clothes. Joseph Cobb is an unpleasant man and Emma hates her job. But then there’s a tragedy which changes things forever…
Meanwhile, in Southern Ireland, we meet Alice Murphy. She is an actress, married to Thomas who runs a hotel on the coast. The marriage was arranged by her father ten years ago and isn’t a very happy one, so she has found lovers over the years – some to benefit her career, others for more personal reasons. Her life is seemingly full of secrets…
Emma leaves America and travels to Queenstown in Ireland, where her grandparents were from. She has booked a three-month stay at The Admiral hotel, which is run by Thomas.
The book starts in a very exciting way, drawing the readers into the story immediately. I took to Emma straight away and wanted to know how her story progressed. She has faced a lot of really hard times and you hope she gets the happy ending she deserves.
Alice is absolutely horrible. She treats everyone badly, unless she’s trying to win an acting part she wants and then she is incredibly obliging (if you know what I mean). She is selfish, ruthless and rude. She treats Thomas very badly and when she sees him spending time with Emma, she starts being vile to Emma too.
Thomas, however, is a really sweet and kind man who deserves a much better life than being with Alice.
As well as following the lives of the main characters, we also meet other people in Queenstown and there are many interesting ones here, especially Aoife (who works at the hotel) and Mary, an older woman she befriends.
I really enjoyed the historical setting and also finding out about the time and place Emma’s grandparents were from. The theme of women’s suffrage is also interesting to me and the coronation of King George V, which features in the book, as I am a big fan of the monarchy.
The combination of history and romance is beautifully done, everything felt very authentic and the characters are just wonderful. An impressive debut novel indeed!
Maid Of Steel
It’s 1911 and, against her mother’s wishes, quiet New Yorker Emma dreams of winning the right to vote. She is sent away by her parents in the hope distance will curb her desire to be involved with the growing suffrage movement and told to spend time learning about where her grandparents came from.
Across the Atlantic – Queenstown, southern Ireland – hotelier Thomas dreams of being loved, even noticed, by his actress wife, Alice. On their wedding day, Alice’s father had assured him that adoration comes with time. It’s been eight years. But Alice has plans of her own and they certainly don’t include the fight for equality or her dull husband.
Emma’s arrival in Ireland leads her to discover family secrets and become involved in the Irish Women’s Suffrage Society in Cork. However, Emma’s path to suffrage was never meant to lead to a forbidden love affair…
Publisher’s link: https://www.bookguild.co.uk/bookshop/book/486/maid-of-steel-SMwd/
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/191535269X/
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/191535269X/
Kate Baker wrote terrible holiday diaries as a child, which her husband regularly asks her to read out loud for their entertainment. She has since improved and has written with intent since 2018. Maid of Steel is her second novel; the first is lining drawers in the vegetable rack at their farmhouse.