“A daring daughter of the Gilded Age must fight her stepmother for her very survival. The death of Judge Thomas MacKenzie leaves his daughter, Prudence, a wealthy heiress. Between his own talents and those of his friend, attorney and former senator Roscoe Conkling, the judge died certain that he’d left his daughter well provided for despite the rapacious machinations of his second wife, Victoria. Prudence, who’s never understood why the judge remarried, loathes Victoria and her slimy brother, Donald Morley, who lives with them. A few short weeks before Prudence is to marry and come into her inheritance, her fiance, Charles Linwood, dies in an apparent accident during a monster snowstorm that nearly claims Conkling too, leaving Prudence a minor under the thumb of her stepmother, who doses her with laudanum to keep her pliable. Realizing that she has only herself to count on in her battle with Victoria, strong-willed Prudence exchanges the laudanum for tea and quietly searches the house for evidence that might free her from Victoria. She gets help from Conkling and southerner Geoffrey Hunter, a former Pinkerton agent and Charles’ best friend since college days. The more closely they investigate, the more it seems likely that both Charles and the judge were murdered. Have Victoria and her brother plotted their way to riches, or does someone else have a grudge against the judge and his family? In an unwilling game of cat and mouse, Prudence struggles to keep herself alive and find the proof that will set her free. Simpson’s debut, first in a planned series, features complex characters, a vivid look at old New York in the late 1800s, and a mystery with a twist.” – Kirkus Reviews, 2/15/2017

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