The books starts in the disgusting streets of London, where she first fell from the protection of her parents when she was raped. and got pregnant after getting too close to a vendor while looking for a pretty ribbon. From there she spends time as a prostitute to feed and clothe herself, under the protection of a new streetwise friend-Dolly. It eventually leads her to the country in Monmouth-where her parents grew up, under the protection of her mother's childhood friend who gives Mary a chance at a new start in life (and one where no one knows who or what Mary was before she arrived). It is this mistress who Mary is convicted of killing. Mary's life reads like a Dickens novel except there is just misery at the end. A sad, sad tale.
I would give this 3 1/2 of 5 stars and classify it as a really good beach read. The writing is better than that of Phillipa Gregory, for example, but it didn't sparkle for me other than being a good, fast and interesting read.