The Ryans won’t be found in any history books – but their lives, conducted on the fringes of polite society, are desperate and uncompromising in the face of limited options.
Annie Ryan runs a second-rate brothel in the 1890’s Denver, with an eye toward expansion. What she needs is a special girl, and Annie knows just the one: her niece, Pearl Kelly, who has grown up at the Home of the Good Shepherd. Upon turning sixteen Pearl learns that she has family in Denver. Better still, they want to meet her. When Pearl arrives at Ryan’s, she is swept up in a world of jealousy, booze, vice and even murder, well-funded and well-fueled by the “quality.”
A rollicking tale of blurred lines, flowing liquor, played-out miners, and upstairs girls, The Beaten Territory delivers a compelling look at the intrigues of the Wild West, where women were enterprising and justice could be had … for a price.
- Booklist Reviews : Booklist Reviews 2017 November #2
In 1878, Annie Ryan, a madam in her 40s, arrives in Denver planning to open a brothel; but since the city runs on kickbacks and payoffs, and she doesn’t have much money, Annie and her daughters do the “entertaining.” Then Lydia, a society woman, invests in Annie’s business, and Annie’s niece, Pearl, comes to work. At first this feels like success to Annie, but it brings her nothing but trouble. Lydia doses herself with laudanum while her husband frequents the brothel. And 16-year-old Pearl, who is drinking on the job, is involved with a very violent man. Fear and shame lead to deception; Annie just turns her head and greed leads to murder. Although the story moves briskly toward a surprising denouement, the crude and explicit sex and the cast of unlikable characters will not suit some readers. Allusions to Annie’s earlier life suggest the manipulating madam is not irredeemable, however, and a Ryan-family sequel is in the offing. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.