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'Happiness had never been something she'd looked for. A quiet day with no insults or wallops, that was the best she could imagine.'
Kate Goss lives in a dark, freezing cold garret, despised and bullied by her aunt and cousins after the death of her mother. She dreams of being rescued by her handsome father, who she only dimly remembers. No one quite knows where he is, or what he is doing, just that he is sure to come back a rich man.
By the time Kate is seventeen, she is tough and hardened. When her aunt throws her out on to the streets of south London, she answers an advert for a cleaner in the Bermondsey Bookshop and Reading Room, founded by a wealthy woman who dreams of bringing literature to the poor.
Here she will find a world she never knew existed. But for Kate, trouble is never far away and long-held secrets are about to burst into the open and ensnare her in a web of lies and violence. Can she ever escape? And will the man she has begun to love still be there if she does?