Can a whore have honor? Mary Pilgrim is a foundling raised by an English country parson and his wife to a strict code of honor. The time is the mid-nineteenth century. When her adoptive parents die, Mary is married to, and defrauded by a young parson who abandons her in London. Trying to fend off starvation by selling herself, Mary is discovered by wealthy nobleman Ralph Hardcast, a bitter, cynical and alcoholic rake due to the brutal slaughter of his wife during the Second Afghan War.
A bargain is struck whereby Mary can leave the streets and with training in all the accomplishments of a noblewoman - riding, dancing, witty conversation and French and Italian - will be trained to be not a whore but a courtesan. Mary is a quick study and takes London by storm and is soon earning a thousand pounds a week. She is briefly mistress to the Prince of Wales, which greatly enhances her desirability among the males of the upper classes.
When Hardcast loses his fortune in a Ponzi fund, the real culprit disappears and Ralph is thrown in prison and is at risk of lynching. Mary appeals to one of her clients, Benjamin Disraeli, to protect Ralph. The future P.M. agrees to exile Hardcast to America, if Mary will undertake a dangerous mission. The mission leads to rape beating, rape and torture for Mary, who ensure it all believing she is repaying Hardcast for rescuing her from the streets. Yet even as she suffers in a dungeon of horrors, she prays that if she survives she can somehow accompany Hardcast on his voyage to freedom in the United States.
A new novel in the classic manner of Fanny Hill and A Woman of Quality.