I am surrounded by men, as I was the day I arrived in this place ... We step into the courtroom together, though we are anything but equals...
In 1806, a fateful decision sends Eleanor Marling from the salons of London to a prison ship bound for New South Wales. She is put to work at the female factory of Parramatta; a place where the women’s only hope of food and lodgings is to offer their bodies to the settlement’s men.
Nell is given shelter by Lieutenant Blackwell, a brooding soldier to whom she is inexplicably drawn. Despite warnings from the other women, Blackwell’s motives seem decent, and beneath the roof of a military officer, Nell sees a chance to become more than just a convict woman sent to the factory to be forgotten.
But tensions are high in New South Wales, with the young colony teetering on the edge of a convict rebellion. And as Nell treads a dangerous line between obedience and power, she learns the role of a factory lass is to remain silent – or face a walk to the gallows.