We meet Tully Truegood in 1756 in Newgate Prison, where she’s awaiting trial for the murder of her husband. She does not lament her deed. Instead she clings to her memories by writing her autobiography with pen and ink as she sits in her cell in an attempt to out the truth of her unjust situation.
Wray Delaney has written a saucy rags-to-riches erotic novel that is entirely entertaining in its raunchy description of sexual encounters, as heroine Tully comes of age and blossoms into a confident woman.
From her time spent cooped up in a decaying London dwelling, where her brute of a father forces her into a marriage, to the brothel she comes to call home, Delaney shades in Tully’s journey to an emancipation of sorts in a completely engaging manner. She whips up a strong feminist chant about inequality regarding women’s choices for financial independence and sexual freedom.
There’s fun to be had with Tully’s apprenticeship under a highly regarded magician, who helps her harness her medium skills. Their relationship becomes the caring father-daughter type she so longed for, and its evolution is both warming and exciting. This narrative also conjures up some fantastic fairy-tale-like imagery.
Tully in fact inheritstwo step-sisters and a step-mother, though in a cunning subversion all these characters are not wicked, but very good. They’re a product of their times that may have been vilified for their profession, but exhibit traits such as decency, loyalty and integrity.
However, it must be said that the ghosts almost feel like a secondary consideration. Though many appear, few stick in the memory aside from a young girl named Pretty Poppet whose tragic demise is truly upsetting. The manifestations become mildly repetitive as their yarns unfold and they lack a certain spookiness with the atmosphere feeling more mysterious than chilling.
Towards the end, a cheap twist involving male homosexuality leaves an entirely icky residue, which is strange considering the lesbian arcs are so gracefully handled.