Lilies of the Bowery by Lily R. Mason
A vividly portrayed turn-of-the-century romance.
Joan Passerini is a disabled spinster disembarking to the New World with her mother and brother to meet her father in the “land of milk and honey”, or so she thinks. After a stressful arrival, the disenchanted family seeks work until they can be reunited with Joan’s father.
Joan finds solace and steady employment with Paloma's laundromat, where Joan gets paid very well for mending clothing and making original creations. The two women quickly become close through daily interactions,bonding over their missing fathers and a growing emotional connection.But Paloma is assisting a secretive tenant upstairs, as well as customers that never seem to pay for their mysterious services.
The novel starts very strongly, with the author painting a vivid world of complex textures and emotional depth reflecting the difficulties faced by immigrants in early twentieth-century New York City. From there, it stagnates into daily encounters that lose their freshness over time, with secrets remaining undisclosed for far too long. Meanwhile, Joan's family (integral at the beginning) fades into the background, becoming two-dimensional versions of their once-essential personalities.
But overall, the capacity of the author to stimulate the senses far exceeded my expectations, and the building chemistry between Joan and Paloma was believable and bewitching, if a bit slow. I continued to cheer for Joan and Paloma's happiness throughout the narrative, and could see a lot of potential in this author's ability. Those looking for a historical romance with vivid world-building would do well to pick this one up.