Libby Seale, working as a piecemeal seamstress for Portlands elite, has made the city her refuge after fleeing from New York and her arranged marriage to an abusive, older man. In Portland, she falls for Peter Eberle, an attractive reporter for the Gazette, but feels she cannot marry him given strict Jewish beliefs about women seeking a divorce. Drawn together in spite of this, Libby and Peter team up to track down the murder of a young man at the Rose Paper Mill, and the subsequent attempts on the life of its disagreeable owner, Hiram Rose.
The authors, a brother and sister team, wisely connect their stories to various Portland businesses. The rise of new tradesmen and others setting up shops in town had turned Portland into a busy port city. Paper making was its major industry. The demise of rag pulp paper to be replaced by wood-pulp is used as a major plot point, as is the replacement of long time mill workers with cheap labor from China, notably Chinese girls who prepared scraps of old clothes to make into rag pulp.
The narrative, which is divided between Libby and Peter, is low on suspense. For historical background, there is a brief note on paper making, and a link to interesting photos and documents, mainly about womens work, the Chinese slave trade, Portland history, and American Victoriana in general: http://www.libbyseale.com/hist.php
Second in the two book Libby Seale series.