Sabrina Matthews is a former prostitute who was saved from the life she led and moves to Montana to have a new life, where she falls in love, helps other prostitutes leave the profession and falls in love with a man who doesn't hold her past against her. A life as a prostitute is rarely what a young woman chooses, especially in Denver in the 1880's. Unfortunately, that is the only option available to Sabrina Matthews and when she is questioned after the death of a man on the street, near the bordello she works at, she suspects her luck has gone from bad to worse.
However, she is thrilled to find that the officer investigating the man's death was a good man. His name was Danny Matthews and he and his wife, Callie wanted to help her have a better, safer life. They offer her an opportunity to bathe, clean, respectable clothing and a hot meal. At the same time, they introduce her to religion, which they believe is an even more important way to help her.
Sabrina soon learns that Callie, who is sweet, polite and a perfect lady…had also been a prostitute for more than two years when she married her beloved husband, Danny. The circumstances of her childhood and lack of alternatives to the life had led her to it, but Danny and his religious beliefs helped her make a new life.
Although there are numerous references to religion within the story, it is not a religious story and true character development is seen as Sabrina explores the world around her. Invited to stay with Danny and Callie, she removes her single bag of items from the room she was renting and moved in. Learning to cook, clean, sew and see to the needs of a home and family allowed her a much larger image of the world.
Sabrina obtains a legitimate job at the laundry, despite her fears of being homeless, hungry and penniless. Despite her many improvements, there are still many people in the area who know who she is and what her former profession was. She relocates to Montana, where she can start fresh and stay with trusted friends of the Matthews.
Upon her arrival, she obtains work as a seamstress and is invited to stay with her new employer while looking for somewhere to stay. She also obtains an additional part-time job working in the general store. She also finds an open apartment, after missing one by just a little while and being intimidated by the owner of another facility.
Although her new home is in less than an ideal area, Sabrina settles in. Unfortunately, she cannot help but notice that some of her new neighbors are working in her previous field and she is drawn to offer them the same type of help she received. At the same time, she continues her own religious education as she tries to make a new world for herself.
There is also a spark between Sabrina and Rylan Jarvik, but Callie is too nervous to act upon it due to her previous associations with men. She is also saddened by the death of a baby belonging to one of her new neighbors, a “working girl” named Eliza who was also a recent widow. Armed with the knowledge and experiences Sabrina offers about making a new life, Eliza and her surviving child leave town.
Unfortunately, Eliza's former pimp is enraged by her absence and repeatedly assaults Sabrina for her part in helping Eliza gain her freedom. We also discover that Sabrina's sister is living nearby and the memories of their final meeting still haunt her. They were both prostitutes, but Sybil had arranged for Sabrina's entry into the field and then abandoned her as a teenager. Meanwhile Sybil married a wealthy man and looked down on her sister because of what her job was.
Eventually Sabrina comes to terms with what has happened to her and learns to trust people, which is especially difficult as she is falling in love with Rylan. She believes she is not good enough for him and when she tells him of her past, he tells her it does not matter. The man who assaulted her is arrested and for the first time she understands that it is possible to hold men who do bad things accountable for them, as she only has examples of them never being punished.
After some soul-searching, she meets her sister once again. Somehow, Sybil's husband found out about her history as a prostitute and their marriage, while intact, was strained. Sabrina manages to forgive Sybil for both forcing her into and judging her former existence as a sex worker.
Sabrina and Rylan become engaged and wed, with no secrets between them and good things ahead. It should be pointed out that one of the undertones of the novel was religiously inspired forgiveness and it is only through that knowledge that relationships are strengthened. Sybil has the life and money she wanted, but no love and little respect from her husband, while Sabrina has a healthy marriage and a loving life. It is not clear how close the sisters will become, but they live near one another as the novel ends and there is hope.
Best part of story, including ending:
I am very ambivalent about this story. It was well-written, detailed and interesting, but somewhat predictable and it was easy to see that Sabrina and Rylan would end up together. I did dislike that she managed to find, without looking, the one man in a million in the 1800's who was fine with his wife having sex for money before they married. It just seemed that he should have been a little shocked, regardless of what a great guy he was.
Best scene in story:
It is petty, but at the end of the book when Sybil and Sabrina are reunited, it was nice to see that Sybil was unhappy. She was so ashamed of how she treated her sister and is obviously surprised at how well her sister is doing, while Sabrina checks in alone at the local hotel. She has money, but nothing else from her marriage that she worked so hard to get and keep.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Sabrina Matthews is so honest, I just question how long an honest prostitute would have lasted in the 1880's, especially given how rough Denver was at the time. She could have been a more fleshed out character and I would have liked her more.