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Eager to escape life on her family's farm, Alice Barrow moves to Lowell in 1832 and throws herself into the hard work demanded of "the mill girls." The hours are long and the conditions are bad, but Alice soon finds a true friend in Lovey Cornell, a saucy, strong-willed girl who is outspoken about the dangers they face in the factories . . . and about Alice opening her heart to a blossoming relationship with Samuel Fiske, the handsome and sympathetic son of the mill's owner.
But when Lovey is found dead under suspicious circumstances, a sensational trial brings the workers' unrest to a boiling point, leaving Alice is torn between finding justice for her friend and her growing passion for the man with whom she had no business falling in love.