It is 1852 when we first meet seventeen-year-old Josephine, on page 3 of Tara Conklin’s The House Girl, as she’s on the receiving end of a blow from her master. And she vows to leave, and never come back. Never mind that she has nowhere to go. Never mind that she’ll be punished for it. She has to go.In 2004, Lina Sparrow is pulled into her boss’ office and told she has a new case — one that’s very high-profile, with a very tight timeline. And as she starts digging into the case, she finds that there’s so much to learn — about history, about life, and about love. Well, you can’t really learn about life without also learning about love, can you? Or vice-versa?Tara Conklin weaves a fine setting for this tale of two women, in two very different lifetimes. I enjoyed reading Josephine’s story, even though it wasn’t a pretty or easy one. I admired her for her pluck and her courage, in a time when neither are an asset to a woman, and definitely not when you’re a slave. At least, not in the eyes of anyone other than Josephine. As it is, it takes her long enough to get around to actually doing, that I was despairing that she ever would. And even as she’s getting ready to leave, she’s worrying about her mistress’ health.As for Lina, I thought she was a bit wishy-washy — for a lawyer, that is. She lets her boss walk all over her, then she lets her co-worker get the better of her. She’s angsty over her father’s paintings of her mother, and his possibly-new-ish relationship. About the only time she’s tough is when she’s tracing down leads to Josephine, and towards the end of the book — and I was glad to see it, too.Tara Conklin made her characters seem real to me (yes, even when I complain about them), and I enjoyed the story she’s woven around them. The House Girl would make a fine book club read, if one does book clubs. drey’s rating: Pick it up!