Jean Fullerton, author of 'No Cure For Love'
Released by Orion this month, Jean won the Harry Bowling prize in 2006, for a novel written about London. This book has also been long-listed for the Romantic Novel of the Year 09 prize. An amazing achievement for a first novel, so our congratulations to Jean for that.
Ellen O’Casey, an Irish immigrant living in the docklands of London in 1832, was widowed ten years before with a small daughter to care for. Living with her mother in poor lodgings, Ellen is fiercely determined to retain her independence and respectability and not fall into the many traps poor, defenceless women with few rights were lured into during this time.
Ellen has a talent, a beautiful singing voice, but the only area she can find so far is to sing at Danny Dovovan’s pub, The Angel. However it’s a means to an end in Ellen’s mind. If she can use her meagre wages to keep body and soul together and put a few shillings away each week, she will be able to take her mother and Josie to join her brother Pat in New York, where surely a better life awaits them all.
One day the figure of Doctor Robert Monroe walks into The Angel and from the moment he sees Ellen, this principled young man is convinced she is everything he could want. However the chasm between their social classes faces both of them at every turn, and besides, Danny Donovan, the docklands local gangster, has his eye on Ellen and believes it’s only a matter of time before she will succumb to his advances.
Ellen, however is equally determined to repulse the odious Mr Donovan, after all she has been called on to give support to the women he has already used and discarded. She has even seen one of them die
Dr Monroe has an agenda of his own in the deprived, cholera ridden docklands where he tries to minister to the needs of the people living there. Time and again he runs up against the Danny Donovan, who has not only the inhabitants, but the local authorities in his grip.
Ellen cannot help her attraction to Robert, but she is aware that if she accepts his proposal she will ruin him. She tries to warn him of Donovan’s power, but Robert’s loyalty is to the people he cares for and he is determined to break the man’s grip on the people and improve their lives.
When an attempt is made on Dr Monroe’s life, he knows he has become a real threat to Donovan. Ellen risks her own reputation and her life in helping Robert expose the man, but will their efforts succeed against a man like Donovan? Will they both live to see right triumph, or will they, as well as their doomed love survive Donovan’s cruel dominance?
Jean Fullerton’s novel is a colourful saga of life in the poor end of London where life was cheap and morals were even cheaper. Women had no status and motives were always suspect amongst the alleyways and public houses where they all scraped a meagre living.
Ellen is an unusual woman and an admirable heroine who holds onto her self respect, no matter what the cost. Even when she sees a way out of her circumstances, she chooses not to make life more difficult for the man she loves. A woman who sees the sun above the mire of her situation and strives for it for the sake of her child in a society where the poor were expected to keep their place.
This is a satisfying read with a beautifully drawn hero in the Doctor Robert Munroe who sets out to change the lives of the London slums for the beter. Jean's heroine, Ellen, takes the reader into a life you cannot help feeling she doesn’t deserve. You will travel with her into a murky world and hope she can pull herself out of it and into the more genteel life she strives for.