"Illinois, 1874: With a birthmark covering half her face, thirteen-year-old Madelyn Branch is accustomed to cold and awkward greetings, and expects no less in Reliance, Illinois. After all, her mother, Rebecca, was careful not to mention a daughter in the Matrimonial Times ad which brought them to the struggling river town. When Rebecca weds, Madelyn poses as her mother's younger sister, and earns a grudging berth in her new house. Deeply injured by her mother's deceptions, Madelyn soon leaves to enter the service of Miss Rose Werner, prodigal daughter of the town's founder. Miss Rose is a suffragette and purveyor of black market birth control who sees in Madelyn a project and potential acolyte. Madelyn, though, wants to feel beautiful and loved, and she pins her hopes on William Stark, a young photographer, and a haunted Civil War veteran. Volmer's large-hearted, captivating novel takes in not just precocious, romantic Madelyn, but a whole town and way of life. Gossip, murder, love and hate, lace-making and drunken fist fights, sinners, saviors, and even Mark Twain himself grace the pages of Reliance, Illinois, a brilliant and beautiful window into American life during a period of tumultuous change. "-- Provided by publisher.