Madam in Silk
2nd book in The American Madams series
by Gini Grossenbacher
Paperback: 476 pages
Publisher: Gini Grossenbacher (August 27, 2019)
ASIN: B07VH5SXVN - Kindle $2.99
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
Review by Christina Francine
Is making a living worth risking life and reputation? For Au Toy during the American Gold Rush, it was. There isn’t another way. When her abusive husband dies from consumption on the journey by ship from China in 1849, Au is left with her freedom, but without a way to support herself.
The price women pay for independence and safety historically is high. Many women used the only resource they had – their body. For Au Toy, her choices were even more limited due to her bound feet. Not wanting to subject herself to prostitution, Au opened a “Lookee shop” instead. The San Francisco bay held unspeakable danger though, especially when Au was “fragile” and “dainty,” twenty years-old, and “varmints” and “ruffians” filled the streets. Her loyal servant, Chen, is big and strong, yet the two need safer accommodations. Mining camps sprang up and more men than women roamed the area. Au had to be careful with who she allowed inside her shanty for a look, but not touch her naked body. When one of her observing customers is a policeman from New York assigned to protect the area, he unnerves her. Ever careful, she works to not encourage him or any of her clients. And yet, John Clark’s gentle nature and soft voice give her pause. He tells her “You are so very lovely, Mrs. Toy. Your skin is like alabaster, your hair like spun silk.” He agrees to pass by regularly on his round for her safety. John Clark warms Au and yet she’s not sure exposing her heart is a good idea. She may never recover.
Grossenbacher’s Madam in Silk is a suspenseful romance to be sure, but also a treat for those longing to travel through history. She captures the essence of people, time-period, setting, and historical events perfectly. Her dedicated research is obvious. She also captures the dangers and stigma women face in order to make a living no matter the time in history. Though an historical account, the situation unfortunately exists present day. Grossenbacher reminds readers of humankind’s ability for cruelty and evil, but also for kindness and love. A heart-warming novel intricately plotted with historical data. A valuable exploration too of how women, especially foreign women, fit into the larger scheme of Gold-Rush history.