Fans of Victorian fiction are sure to enjoy this novel by Lilly Adam. The illegitimate daughter of Lady Margaret Hutchinson and her lover, Poppy enters a world of rejection and adversity. Refusing to even look at her daughter, Lady Margaret pays her housemaid, Nelly Driver, to take Poppy away. Nelly takes the baby toward the country hamlet of Hurst. Along the way she stops to rest, but places the infant in a poppy field several feet away so as not to hear her crying. A passing miscreant named Sidney Woods finds the baby and picks her up, intending to raise her solely as a house slave. Because he found her in a poppy field, Sidney names the child Poppy.
Abused, neglected, and half starved, Poppy nevertheless exhibits an obedient and pleasant nature. She finds favor with most of the townspeople and the kind-hearted Greenfield family in particular. Mrs. Greenfield attends to Poppy’s hygiene and gives her some decent dresses to replace the rags provided by the Woods’. This arouses Sidney’s ire, causing him to mistreat Poppy even more. One day, in Poppy’s absence, Sidney kills his wife during an argument. He tries to lay the blame on Poppy, but the townspeople rally against him and Sidney lands in jail. The Greenfields open their home to Poppy and during her time there she falls in love with son Arthur.
Arthur, however, falls for the daughter of an Italian family who moves into the Woods cottage. When a family emergency calls them back to Italy, Arthur follows, hoping to win his new love interest. A crestfallen Poppy, feeling she has burdened the Greenfields long enough, decides to find work in the city. Fate reunites her with Nelly Driver, who succeeds in placing Poppy with the Hutchinsons.
Here the story takes a darker turn. Lady Margaret had not recognized Poppy at first but over time realizes the truth. As laudanum addiction erodes her mind, her behavior becomes increasingly bizarre. Poppy must endure Nelly’s death, a kidnapping that places her, as a galley slave, on a ship bound for America, and finally her return to Hurst– only to discover that Sidney has escaped jail and, along with Lady Margaret, now seeks to kill her. Can she possibly escape? Dare she hope Arthur will return to save her?
I really came to care for this heroine and to admire the heroic Greenfield family. While the romantic element was there, it was not overplayed and the suspenseful plot twists kept me turning pages. In my opinion, it is definitely worth a look.
You can check the book out here.
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