New Book – The Sweetest Empire by Sally Patricia Gardner


Publishing year: 2011

This new book, which I started this morning, is a book about the fight of women against the unfair system that they suffered for many years.

We are first introduced to Mary Morrison in 1868. Her parents are quite progressive, and they are happy that their daughter is going to university to read literature. Her father comes up with the idea to go to the derby to celebrate. This event will change Mary’s life. Her mother suffers an accident with a horse; she’s knocked down by a horse, and she never is the same again. Her father suffers a seizure and dies, and her mother passes away shortly afterwards. Mary marries the man who brings the news of her father’s demise. She thinks they’re in love. However, she soon realizes what kind of man Daniel is. She forbids her from going out to see her best friend or reading, and when she goes to see her lawyer, she realizes that she is nobody to the law. Daniel goes as far as forbidding from going out, locking her in the room, and by the time she has her baby girl, he even has brought a woman to the house as her lover.

Thankfully, Mary won’t let herself be subjugated, so she plots with her former maid Alice her escape. So using laudanum for her jailers, she and her daughter Elizabeth escape and go to live with Alice and her mother-in-law. Mary is happy, and she and Alice start a campaign to help women and girls who are forced into prostitution. It is thanks to her good deeds that she meets great woman. For example, Valerie is a well-off women that found herself in a pickle after a serious of unfortunate evens. Her father sent her off to marry an old man, and then she fell in love with the son of the family she worked for as a governess. The family wouldn’t agree to their son marrying Valerie, and then she fell pregnant. In London there was little she could do for a living, and she worked as a prostitute for a pimp, Bramwell, a despicable man. Things came to a head when she sent her little daughter away for safety, but then she discovered that she had been deceived and her little Rosalie was with Bramwell.

Mary, Alice, and Granny help Valerie to get back to her feet, and Valerie eventually find her daughter. Mary helps a great number of women and girls, and when her horrible husband dies, she gets her house back, and in the house she takes in many girls who needed some guidance in the world. She even helps Evangeline, the woman who became her husband’s mistress. Evangeline confesses that she was Daniel’s lover before he married Mary for gain, and they had a girl, who now is sick because of the conditions of the match factories. The girl eventually dies, but Mary starts a campaign against the horrible conditions of women in these factories.

What I didn’t expect is the way Mary’s part would end. Mary is lured out of the house by someone claiming to be a constable, and she’s taken to some kind of store. There the man shows his true colours. It is the year when Jack the Ripper killed all those women, and before this man stabs Mary to death, he tells her to call him Jack. It is not clear who Mary’s murderer is but I think it must be Bramwell, since he was her main enemy as she helped all the girls out of prostitution.

I love the book and the characters. Now the next part is about Elizabeth, Mary’s daughter. I imagine she’ll want to continue her mother’s work to fight for women’s rights and also the vote.


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