AfterEllen’s Summer of Love: “Lilies of the Bowery” by Lily R. Mason


I had the pleasure of reading Lily R. Mason’s novel Lilies of the Bowery for AfterEllen’s Summer of Love.

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*moderate spoilers ahead*

The story begins in the early 1900’s with Joan Passerini and her family traveling from Naples to New York City to join her father. Her father assured them that America is truly the land of milk and honey but the streets are not exactly paved with gold when Joan, her mother, and younger brother step off the boat.

When her father is nowhere to be found, Joan, Luca, and her mother are forced to find housing and work without his help. Joan’s mother is pregnant but is able to find work in a factory. Luca, age 15, finds work as well and Joan tries to find a place that will employ her in spite of her disability. She is a gifted seamstress but many cannot get past the limp in her walk to give her a chance.

Joan eventually finds her way to a laundry run by Paloma Morello. Paloma gives her work, fair wages, and food. Their friendship blooms as they spend each day together in the laundry but Paloma has strange men who visit to pick up their laundry without paying. Paloma also has a pistol under the front counter and secrets she keeps from Joan.

Mason spends a great deal of time and effort painting a picture of pre-World War I New York. She covers the pages of this book with careful details about the era. If you love historical fiction you will love her ability to make you feel like you are there. Catholicism plays heavily into the story. Joan and her family are devout Catholics and prayer figures prominently throughout the story. As a symbolic tool, religion works well for the story but, if you happen to be as allergic to religion as I am, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by its constant presence in the story.

Overall, Lilies of the Bowery is a fun read with plenty of period details to keep historical fiction lovers happy and enough sizzle between Joan and Paloma to satisfy romance lovers.

Lilies of the Bowery is available from Amazon.