Heloise runs a prostitution ring in suburban Baltimore. She comes from a deprived background with a verbally abusive father and a passive mother. Having escaped her beginnings, she has, by virtue of grit, brains and determination, made herself into a sophisticated woman who has a young son and who lives quite well. Unfortunately, her son’s father is in prison and is Heloise’s former pimp and ringmaster. He doesn’t know Heloise is the mother of his child.
Heloise (formerly known as Helen) leads an intricately mapped double life, not only because she’s in the business she’s in, but because she visits Val (the father of her son) in prison, and still pays him a substantial percentage of her earnings, because she must. He has connections on the outside, and peril awaits Heloise if she should meander from her incredibly successful business model, some of which she’s garnered from her former work for Val, and from businesses like Amazon and eBay.
Heloise is quite clever, is self- educated, (intelligent beyond her formal education) knows the ropes, and can read people very well. When a madame in another county is discovered dead (murdered) things become dangerous for Heloise, and the life she has so painstakingly constructed comes under threat of exposure. Or worse: she’s afraid that she may become a target as well. At 37, she must cope with a threat to her life and to the secrets she holds–from Val, from her son (who thinks his father died before he was even born) and secrets she holds from the entire community.
Heloise’s situation becomes more tenuous when another prostitute (and former worker for Val) is found dead. Heloise must decide what (if anything) to do, especially when a former employee attempts to blackmail her. The tension mounts and Heloise’s dilemma reaches frightening proportions.
The story, told in a hip, contemporary style, moves toward a harrowing conclusion and the reader comes to the conclusion that this is not so much a story about prostitution as it is about a bright, self-sufficient woman who rises above her humble and degrading origins and is a master at finding creative solutions to seemingly insoluble problems. Heloise is a true entrepreneur and at heart, a person with a conscience and a soul. Four and a half stars.