The year 1868 and it is a tough time to be intersex—and in love. Eliza Malkins, a printer at the Kingston British Whig newspaper, is secretly in love with reporter Alex O’Shea.
Although they are best friends with a shared passion for many things, including the mystery novel Alex is writing, Eliza would never dare to voice her feelings for fear of being rejected due to her unique anatomical makeup.
Their relationship takes an unexpected turn when, while on assignment in Ottawa, Alex encounters a vulnerable young woman who has escaped from confinement in her own house. The further he is drawn into the mysterious young woman’s world, the more compelled he feels to protect her from the dark forces that seem to be draining her life right before his eyes. Before he can enact his plan to rescue her, however, he finds himself embroiled in a murder mystery that seems like it came right out of one of the novels he enjoys, with one significant twist: he’s the primary suspect. Desperate to help her friend, Eliza sheds her identity as a woman and takes on the persona of Timothy Fairlight, detective. Her investigative skills are put to the ultimate test as she seeks to save her beloved from the hangman’s noose. Not only that, for the first time in her life, her identity as intersex becomes an asset rather than a liability.
Just finished reading Ralph Smith’s novel. Historical fiction set in Ottawa and Kingston, back in 1868. Intrigue, danger, romance, mystery. A perfect summer read! – AMC
This curious mystery, with a historical setting in 19th century Canada, brims with intrigue and fascinating characters. Alex’s growing interest in Mary, a young woman living in reclusion with her sister, seemingly against her will, leads him into risky situations, as he discovers that not all is as it seems in the women’s disturbing household. Aided by his friend Eliza, who takes on another identity as a man, Alex resolves to get to the bottom of it. It is an interesting and sometimes provocative reflection on sexual mores of the time. The author has great style and his love for Charles Dickens come through in a thoroughly enjoyable way. A great read. – annemc
Newspaper reporter Alex O’Shea searches Concession street for a little female comfort. Instead, he encounters a lost woman wandering the street, unaware of her dangerous surroundings. Immediately enamored with the innocent young woman, Mary, who reminds him of his mother, he walks her home. He is drawn into her baffling life as the protected invalid who her sister, Madeline, tries to shield from life. His instincts tell him there is so much more to the story, as Madeline weaves a web of half-truths around her sister, Mary. And that is just one of the mysteries Alex must unravel. The others involve his best friend at the newspaper, whether she is man or woman or both! And what about his beloved’s uncle who has a mysterious hold on sisters? Alex feels he must wed Mary to save her from the evil undercurrents of the house. Will it be enough to save her, or will he be dragged under as well? Great who-done-it from Ralph Smith! – Rebecca Rosenberg