Best selling author, Toni Maguire turns her hand to fiction, and the result is a powerful novel set in Victorian England. Agnes, a talented and natural young artist from Saltburn, goes to London to find her sister, whom she believes has been taken into service in a wealthy household. Instead of joining her sister, she finds herself in the dark world of Mary Jefferies, the infamous brothel madame. Beautiful Emily, the daughter of wealthy landowners, is kidnapped especially for Mary Jefferies. Agnes sees her at the brothel, and remembers being stunned by her exceptional beauty once before – when Emily holidayed in Saltburn with her family. The two girls fall in love, and find comfort in each other, until one day, Mary asks Agnes to paint a miniature of Emily, a request that terrifies her for every child she has drawn was never seen again. Real, historical characters such as King Leopold, Queen Victoria’s cousin, and the Victorian reformers who struggled to end child abuse, mingle with fictional characters in an exciting and vibrant story on the backdrop of one of England’s most colourful eras.
"Toni Maguire is very good indeed at creating living backdrops, through beautiful descriptions of the characters' surroundings and of the characters themselves. Mrs Jefferies sent shivers down my spine, as did her appalling and almost unbelievable treatment of the children she buys and sells. This novel truly shows the cruelly grimy underbelly of Victorian society. It’s a brilliant snapshot of the nineteenth century -- the neat contrast between the lives of the rich and the existences of the poor, illustrated in Emily and Agnes: there is an almost inconceivably vast gulf between them." - Hazel Orme, Editor