Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio – Audiobook Review

Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio, narrated by Leslie Carroll
Published in audio by Random House Audio, published in print by Doubleday, both imprints of Random House

Synopsis:

Of course it would end like this, with May on trial for extortion. After all, she has been named the “Most Dangerous Woman” by the Pinkerton Detective Agency and one Pinkerton in particular seems to be trailing her. All May has ever wanted was to provide for her family and get out of her small Michigan town. Chicago had promise, and was so close to home, but that damned Pinkerton Reed Doherty first targeted her there, necessitating a life on the move, always looking for the place she could settle down and be secure.

Thoughts on the story:

Love!

May is a fabulous, if possibly unreliable, main narrator. She’s smart, sly, and self-assured and her story is an absolutely fascinating one. Biaggio leads her readers all over Europe and the continental United States at the turn of the 20th century. Is May really a con woman? Does she just want a good and secure life? Both? Neither? Biaggio has a great sense of pacing, moving back and forth deftly between the trial and the years leading up to it, never losing her reader’s interest. This is the whole package: lovely writing, great story, amazing characters, and vivid settings.

Thoughts on the audio production:

If you pick up the audio, you actually get the whole package plus, because Leslie Carroll’s narration captures May beautifully. Like Biaggio, she has great pacing, and the voices she creates for the secondary and tertiary characters bring listeners even more fully into May’s story.

For more please see my review for Audiofile Magazine.

Overall:

Such a fabulous book and, as good as I’m sure it is in print, the audio production adds that extra je ne sais quoi. I adored it, very highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Print*
Indiebound: Print*
Audible.com

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin – Book Review

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin, an imprint of Macmillan

Cora Cash is just about as close to royalty as an American can get. Her family isn’t old money, but they’re wealthy enough to be the talk of the town – and own a mansion in Newport that makes the Vanderbilt estate look miniscule. Even so, Cora’s mother is always looking for the next step to improve her family’s standing, and she’s fairly sure she has found it in Europe: a title. Rich American girls are all the rage among Europe’s cash-strapped gentry, to the point where there is actually a publication in the States listing those titled men looking hardest for an heiress. After all, who but a duke could be worthy of the Cash family’s only child? Luckily for Mrs. Cash’s plans, the Duke of Wareham happens upon Cora when she is injured in the woods while riding, and before long the two are engaged. It isn’t long, though, until Cora discovers that she is not quite as prepared for this life as she believes herself to be.

Daisy Goodwin’s American Heiress is a fun and engaging read. Nobody is particularly likable – the closest is Cora’s maid Bertha, Cora herself is quite spoiled – but Goodwin still manages to evoke some empathy for those characters who find themselves in situations they don’t entirely understand. The time period was believable, as was the fairly dramatic plot, both of which contributed to the cotton candy can’t-stop-reading aspect. At close to 500 pages, though, it was just too long. Considering it was much more plot-driven than character-driven, not enough happened to justify that length of book. Quite a bit could have been cut down to create a tighter story.

American Heiress is a flawed but interesting novel. Certainly the concept of Gilded Age American heiresses infusing a generation of British nobility with money is a fascinating – and true – one.

The American Heiress is the SheKnows Book Club pick for May.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, for the SheKnows Book Club.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Incognito by Gregory Murphy – Book Review

Incognito by Gregory Murphy
Published by Berkley Trade, an imprint of Penguin

The Gilded Age was a time of big personalities and incredibly powerful people. Lawyer William Dysart is working for just one such person: Lydia Billings, widow of an extremely wealthy Wall Street financier. She wants a piece of property the abuts her own, owned by a single woman. Surely this is a simple task for a well-connected society lawyer, nothing more than talking an older woman into selling her land, making her realize that Lydia Billings will obtain it one way or another. What William finds, though, is not an old farmer’s wife, but a smart, loevly young woman name Sybil Curtis, and Sybil is not selling for anything. Coming at a time when he is growing increasingly disenchanged with his gorgeous but cruel and grasping wife, William quickly becomes enchanted with Sybil, unable to forget about her. Now William must decide what he wants from life, as well as satisfy his curiousity as to what the true history is between Sybil and Lydia.

Incognito is a very engaging book with a fascinating historical setting, always easy to pick up. Unfortunately, it was also relatively easy to put down; the characters, from William Dysart right down to the most bit player, were interesting, but shallowly drawn. Additionally, It is billed as a Gilded Age mystery, but nothing about it is particularly mysterious. Certainly, the question of the relationship between Lydia Billings and Sybil Curtis is an interesting one, but not a driving enough part of the story to consider it the central mystery of the book. The characters, from William Dysart right down to the most bit player, were interesting, but shallowly drawn. Finally, the Gilded Age setting seems almost incidental to the plot itself, lacking the real force of compelling place and time-based historical fiction.

All that being said, for all its faults, Incognito really was an absorbingly diverting book, and worthwhile if you’re looking for a Gilded Age beach read.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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