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Woman of Ill Fame Paperback – 1 Feb 2007

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Heyday Books (Feb. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597140511
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597140515
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14.6 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,031,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Loved this book characters really gutsy and it gave you a real feel of what itwas like to live in that era.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars 32 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down 6 Feb. 2007
By bookfan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is one of those start-in-early-afternoon and-read-til-5 AM books. And I had to be at work the next day. The historical atmosphere is so rich, and the main character Nora is such a treat, you just don't want to come back to modern times. Talk about a woman who defies every stereotype of the prostitute yet feels like a real lady from Gold Rush times. I was shivering in my seat as the tragedies kept creeping closer to the protagonist. The leading man also defies every stereotype. Take Peirce Brosnan and go to the opposite pole, and that's the guy we fall in love with, and for precisely that reason. Highly recommended!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Woman of Ill Fame 12 Dec. 2013
By Erin Davies - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I freely admit that I approached Woman of Ill Fame with a certain degree of caution. Generally speaking I haven't had a lot of luck with gold rush era lit, but I'd also never heard of Erika Mailman and my unfamiliarity with the author didn't exactly help matters. Fingers crossed, I was hoping for a halfway decent read, but what I found was a captivatingly authentic tale of an enterprising soiled dove trying to make her way on the streets of San Francisco.

It's been my experience that most who tackle this subject rely on trite stereotypes and sap-saturated gimmicks to warm readers to their not so virtuous heroines - the hooker with a heart of gold, etc. and so on. What I liked about this piece though, was Mailman's refreshingly blunt approach to the world of eighteenth century prostitution. From the provocative tricks of the trade to the more mundane details of daily life in a society that looked down its nose at the ladies of the night, Mailman's realistic portrait of the profession really appealed to me.

Another aspect I appreciated was the range of characters that populate these pages. San Francisco was a hub of activity in 1849 as people from all over the world flooded the port in hopes of finding their fortunes in the hills of California. Mailman not only recognized this fact, but took advantage of it and created a cast with a really diverse set of backgrounds, principles and personalities.

Finally, I have to applaud the mystery at the heart of this story. Crime rates during this period were exceptionally high so a string of murders is not in and of itself particularly interesting or original. It was absolutely imperative that Mailman do something more than recreate a violent crime wave. She needed to make it personal and here again I think she rose to the challenge, offering up a truly chilling series of events that keeps both her cast and her audience on their toes.

A surprisingly engaging and creative fiction, Woman of Ill Fame is a well-balanced and highly enjoyable historic thriller.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Naughty and Nice 13 Mar. 2007
By R. Tocalino - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
For as many books are written on the subject, you expect that every prostitute on the market has a heart of gold. Since such homogeneity is unfeasible, if not downright reductive--the population of soiled doves is surely as diverse as any other of society's phyla. Nora Simms, the protagonist of Erika Mailman's new novel, Woman of Ill Fame, is one of the kindest--and strongest--ladies of the evening in recent memory.

Nora's most memorable trait isn't her kindness, however. It's her frank acceptance of her situation, and her desire to make the most of it. She isn't squeamish about sex, takes pride in her physical gifts, works hard, and tells white lies to protect those she cares for. Arriving in San Francisco just after the Gold Rush has turned the city into a boomtown, Simms is shocked to discover a connection between her and a rash of murders. With considerable acuity she manages to protect her fellow prostitutes, duck the moral judgement of her landlord, elevate her status, find a suitor, all while trying to track down the vicious murderer.

Mailman seeds her historical research carefully, letting it bloom in just the right moments and measures. Woman of Ill Fame is a compulsively good portrait of vice, virtue, and early California.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great For Book Clubs 16 Dec. 2015
By LBK - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Set in gold rush era San Francisco and published a few years ago, Woman of Ill Fame feels modern and fresh. Nora was a pure delight. Witty, charming, plucky, good - I fell in love with her right away. Despite the dark subject matter, there is something really sweet and hopeful about this story. It might be classified as a murder mystery or a historical fiction, but for me, it was about a brave young woman making a life for herself against all odds. Erika Mailman did such a nice job of balancing the good and tender with the bad and ugly...shady characters abound, but Nora finds a couple of truly good friends who bring sweetness and light into a dark time.
I highly recommend Woman of Ill Fame to book clubs. What's more fun to talk about over drinks with girlfriends than hooker sex and who you thought did it (there are several viable options at one point!)? Nora's expressions are so funny, I wish I'd made a list of them. The sex scenes range from hilarious to cringe worthy to steamy. But they are unexpectedly tasteful and so natural that I never once rolled my eyes.
I think people who loved Jo Jo Moyes' character Lou in Me Before You will love Nora for many of the same reasons. She's a wily, smart, kind young woman getting through something incredibly heavy and difficult with grace and good humour. Yet, like Lu, she is also flawed and so real -- the glimpses into her vulnerability and naiveté will make you care for her all the more. One of the best books I've read all year, and one I'd love to see made into a film.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars San Francisco 1850s 13 July 2009
By Lyn Reese - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
It is hard not to like Nora Simms as she plies her trade from San Francisco's notorious row cribs to the more lucrative and fashionable parlor catering to a different class of males. When she discovers that prostitutes being murdered at an alarming rate were all found with items of clothing which had been stolen from her, Nora realizes that she might be the sadistic muderer's next target. San Francisco's volunteer police force and even her fellow "soiled doves" dismiss her fears, leaving her to worry on her own about which of her many male "visitors" might be the one to fear.

Having Nora arrive fresh off the ship in the first chapter lets us experience the still primitive boomtown through the eyes of a newcomer. While goldrush era political events are interspersed throughout the story, Mailman's descriptions of San Francisco's physical and social life are better done - the harbor, the periodic fires, the windy ocean dunes, the multi-ethnic mix of people, the rising cost of scarce goods, the liberal use of opium, the accepted acts of violence revealed in vigilantism and cruel bear and bull baiting shows. Dominant, of course, is the problematic life of the endless supply of young women who swell the ranks of a group rarely written about - the women of ill fame. The reader even learns of the methods they used to satisfy their clients. As relevant is the extent to which the possibility of a quick accumulation of wealth (gold! gold! gold!) informs the sensibilities and actions of the city's inhabitants. Perhaps lawlessness was an inevitable result.

A list of sources, or page of background information, would have been welcome.
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