An epic historical romance that spans two continents, from 1914 to 1932, and touches on the events of World War I, the Easter Uprising, the Depression, into Prohibition, in this rags-to-riches story.
Fifteen-year-old, Irish-born Jude Mooney and his best friend, Pete, deliver fifty-pound packs of ice in 1914 New Orleans. Ambitious, frustrated by poverty, Jude’s life changes forever when his brother, James, commits suicide, and Jude and Pete cross the line of respectability by taking jobs for renowned madam, Emma Johnson, who runs a brothel in the Storyville district, where the town’s well-to-do pay to witness and participate in acts of depravity.
Young Jude is drawn to the alluring prostitute, Maureen, but is shamed when her young daughter, Nieve, sees them together, and runs. The rift between him and his father causes Jude to jump ship with no money and no plan, bound for Belfast, where he finds work at a bar and is bewitched by the fiery, beautiful Maeve, to whom he returns after a period with an Irish regiment deployed to France to fight the Germans.
Back in Dublin, Jude fights side-by-side with Maeve, now his wife and the mother of his twin sons, in the Easter Uprising of 1916, and he and his family return to New Orleans, which is dominated by the mob boss Charles Matranga and his associate, Sam Carolla. Jude tries to keep his distance while accepting a job caring for Carolla’s racehorses, but his family’s misfortunes indebt him to the mob, and he and Pete become smugglers and owners of an illegal speakeasy. He promised Maeve when they left Ireland that he would provide for them, but prosperity comes too late and at a price as Jude slips further and further into a moral gray area until he finds himself ensnared by the last woman he would have expected.