Monday, January 16, 2017

Book Review: The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams

Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date:  January 17, 2017
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: A Hundred Summers,
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "When she discovers her husband cheating, Ella Hawthorne impulsively moves out of their SoHo loft and into a small apartment in an old Greenwich Village building. Her surprisingly attractive new neighbor, Hector, warns her to stay out of the basement at night. Tenants have reported strange noises after midnight—laughter, clinking glasses, jazz piano—even though the space has been empty for decades. Back in the Roaring Twenties, the place hid a speakeasy.  n 1924, Geneva "Gin" Kelly, a smart-mouthed flapper from the hills of western Maryland, is a regular at this Village hideaway known as the Christopher Club. Caught up in a raid, Gin becomes entangled with Prohibition enforcement agent Oliver Anson, who persuades her to help him catch her stepfather Duke Kelly, one of Appalachia’s most notorious bootleggers.  Headstrong and independent, Gin is no weak-kneed fool. So how can she be falling in love with the taciturn, straight-arrow Revenue agent when she’s got Princeton boy Billy Marshall, the dashing son of society doyenne Theresa Marshall, begging to make an honest woman of her? While anything goes in the Roaring Twenties, Gin’s adventures will shake proper Manhattan society to its foundations, exposing secrets that shock even this free-spirited redhead—secrets that will echo from Park Avenue to the hollers of her Southern hometown.  As Ella discovers more about the basement speakeasy, she becomes inspired by the spirit of her exuberant predecessor, and decides to live with abandon in the wicked city too."

The year is 1998 and Ella Hawthorne moves out of her beautiful NYC apartment that she shares with her successful husband as she has found him cheating on her with a prostitute.  Obviously, Ella is pretty much disgusted by Patrick's behavior, despite his insistence that it only happened once and it won't happen again; nonetheless, Ella moves into a smaller apartment in Greenwich Village with the hopes to start over.  There Ella meets Hector, whom she instantly feels a connection with, and all seems to be going well until she hears strange noises coming from the basement at night. In fact, it sounds like a jazz club, but that can't be as the space has been empty for quite sometime.  Ella comes to find out that it once was a speakeasy in the 20s.  Cut to Geneva or "Ginger" Kelly, a young flapper trying to make it on her own in the big city in the 1920s.  Ginger works as a typist, among other things, and spends her nights at the Christopher Club and with her privileged boyfriend, Billy.  It's time of the Prohibition though and she should be watching her back. When she least expects it, the Christopher Club gets raided and she finds herself talking to a Prohibition officer, Oliver.  He wants her to help him catch a notorious bootlegger, who is none other than her horrendous stepfather.  The last thing she wants to do is get involved in her stepfather's affairs, especially when she might be marrying her wealthy boyfriend. She wants to put her past behind her, but receives a phone call that her mother is dying and has asked for Ginger to return home. In turn, Ginger comes face to face with her up-to-no-good stepfather.  Slowly, Ella and Gin's stories intertwine in The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams and it makes for an interesting tale.

Beatriz Williams has a knack for creating memorable characters, like Gin.  Gin is feisty, outgoing, adventurous, confident, and ultimately, a character that I love and root for. Learning more about her family life in Maryland and what it took for her to get to the city as a single woman made me appreciate her determination and gumption even more than before.  I don't blame her for wanting to leave Maryland and her stepfather, who is a nightmare,  behind for good.


Ella's story, on the other hand, I felt wasn't as compelling or original as Ginger's in The Wicked City. Until I was able to fully understand how both woman's stories were going to work together, I found myself gravitating more towards Ginger's story and even once their connection was revealed, I am not sure it was fleshed out as well as I had hoped.


The setting of Prohibition NYC was also a memorable one in The Wicked City; in fact, NYC felt like a character in itself.  Williams did a superb job of bringing the city to life.  The speakeasy, the dark alleys, the Prohibition officers, the corrupt officials, the bootleggers, the flappers, the booze...it was all great!


I also allusions to characters from Williams' other novels and some of the characters even show up in The Wicked City.  I especially like the Schuyler sisters, so having them reappear or mentioned in conversation is so much fun.


The one aspect of The Wicked City that bothered me a bit was some of the melodrama towards the second half of the novel. I had hard time suspending my disbelief and it felt like there were just too many coincidences.


Other than that, I really enjoyed the romp through a time period that not only is so compelling, but also seemed to be deliciously dangerous.  The Wicked City had a Dick Tracy meets Jay Gatsby vibe, which was downright fun.   I recommend this book to fans of the Jazz Age time period as well Beatriz Williams.



4 comments:

  1. This sounds like an interesting book. Often when I read books that have a modern and historical storyline, the historical part seems to be better than the modern one. I usually feel that way with Beatriz Williams's books.

    Also whenever I hear the phrase "the Schuyler sisters" I can't help but think of Hamilton :)

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    1. Yes, me too, Christina! I think you'd enjoy this one. The Jazz Age is so much fun. Thanks for visiting!

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  2. The cover looks very retro so when you mentioned the year 1998, I thought I was crazy. Lol! But alas, two threads so that explains it. I've been waiting for your review of the author's work, so it's great to hear they're something worth to consider, regardless.

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    1. Haha. There are definitely two story lines, with one taking place during the Jazz Age. Yes, this book is definitely worth reading. Although it wasn't my favorite of her novels, it is a lot of fun if you like historical fiction. I still think you should check out A Hundred Summers first though! Thanks for visiting, Joy!

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