In honor of International Women’s Day, I reviewed a book about two strong women written by an AMAZING female author. The perfect bite of history AND fiction!
“How terrible a time is the beginning of March. In a month there will be daffodils and the sudden blossoming of orchards, but you wouldn’t know it now. You have to take spring on blind faith.”
Ella Gilbert has moved out of her ritzy Soho loft after finding her husband cheating. Her new home is an old, Greenwich Village apartment; it’s charm is there, but she’s still reeling from the downturn in her fortune.
And then she had to do laundry, where she meets her new (attractive) neighbor Hector, who warns her to stay out of the basement, and the laundry room, at night. It seems other tenants have reported party noises when down there after midnight — the piano, clinking glasses, laughter. It seems at one point, back in the 20’s, the place was a speakeasy.
Flash back to the 20’s, and we meet Geneva ‘Gin’ Kelly, a beautiful, smart, vivacious flapper. Gin grew up in western Maryland, but now makes a (mostly) legitimate living in Manhattan, spending many of her nights at Christopher Club, as the speakeasy is known. After being caught up in raid, Gin is persuaded to help Prohibition enforcement agent Oliver Anson to catch a notorious bootlegger from western Maryland. The man is the reason she ran, the reason she never returns home. Her stepfather, Duke Kelly.
Gin’s adventures in the 1920’s are exciting, taking her into the high society of New York, shaking the city to its core. We watch as Ella channels that spirit, and finds herself shedding her predicable life for a more free-spirited existence.
Beatriz Williams is the QUEEN, in my book, of American historical fiction. She uses all her research and creates fictional worlds that are part of that time period. Williams is a weaver of history and fiction.
And she uses her previous characters to build her characters. In
But each of these novels stands completely alone, by the way. There is no need to go back and read her previous works if you haven’t before. The character’s are not at all dependent on other works, their storylines only build off of previous books. For instance, Gin’s love interests are sons of high society, and their parents show up in A Certain Age, but they really do not. Just their names. In The Wicked City, their stories are their own. If you don’t read A Certain Age all you will be missing is that connection (and the backstory of their mother, which is fun, but adds nothing to THIS story).
Any way, back to The Wicked City. Williams skillfully weaves Ella and Gin’s stories together (and Ella’s connections, to other Williams stories is another fun tidbit), although Gin is the star. Her verve and vigor add spunk to Ella, who is at a low point in life. Gin’s life story is interesting and lively, and her spirit seems to infect even Ella, in the present day.
Either of these stories would be great to read on their own (although Gin’s story is a little more lively and adventurous!), but together they intertwine beautifully, creating a history of the building where both women lived, contrasting the differences in their spaces and times while also connecting their love for life and Manhattan.
The Wicked City is a book that combines all sorts of goodness: history, The Roaring 20’s, strong women, love, lust, adventure, and fun!
I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
Title: The Wicked City
Author: Beatriz Williams
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 384 pages