The author writes vividly about San Francisco and how difficult life could be during this era. My favorite phrase was "a sunbonnet" - a phrase used to refer to a decent and honorable lady. At the time of this story, ~ 1849, sunbonnets were in short supply in San Francisco.
Rachel is a strong character who is called upon to face her prejudices against folks who did not live according to her strict moral code. This main character feels safe in her self-righteousness because the people who offend her view of morality live outside her circle.
When her younger sister, Lissa, steps across the line; this puts her in conflict with her brother. Rachel must re-evaluate her views. I thought that `who really owned the building and rented it to her' brought her prejudice into sharp focus.
It was an interesting story about how all of us can feel comfortable with negative feelings, as long as the people closest to us ascribe to the same feelings. When facts come to light, we have a choice - stay blind (and lose those people from our lives) or change.
Rachel knew that if she did not change, she would lose her brother too. She saw that she might be the oldest sibling but she could learn something from her brother, Michael. The author makes the point that all of us learn from others - as long as we are open to seeing beyond our view.