Thursday, January 27, 2022

Book Review: Our Kind of People by Carol Wallace

Pages: 368
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: January 11, 2022
Publisher: G.P. Putnam
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 

Goodreads says, "Among New York City’s Gilded Age elite, one family will defy convention. Helen Wilcox has one desire: to successfully launch her daughters into society. From the upper crust herself, Helen’s unconventional—if happy—marriage has made the girls’ social position precarious. Then her husband gambles the family fortunes on an elevated railroad that he claims will transform the face of the city and the way the people of New York live, but will it ruin the Wilcoxes first? As daughters Jemima and Alice navigate the rise and fall of their family—each is forced to re-examine who she is, and even who she is meant to love. From the author of To Marry an English Lord, the inspiration for Downton Abbey, comes a charming and cutthroat tale of a world in which an invitation or an avoided glance can be the difference between fortune and ruin."



It's the Gilded Age in New York City where manners, money, and old families rule high society.  Helen Wilcox used to be part of New York's elite until she married Joshua, a mere country boy.  She met him at her family's summer home and despite her mother's disapproval, she went ahead with their marriage.  Two daughters later, the Helen and Joshua are still on the fringes of society, especially so because he has invested all their money in an elevated railroad that will run through congested New York City.  Their eldest daughter, Jemima, is about to enter society, but things aren't easy for the Wilcox family.  Certain old families aren't welcoming to them; plus, Joshua has made some poor decisions financing the elevated railroad.  The timing couldn't be worse and now they find themselves in dire straits.  Thankfully Helen's mother has come to the rescue, reluctantly, but Jemima's chances at making a decent match are few and far between now.  It appears that doesn't matter though as Jemima has her eyes on a bachelor who is definitely not part of their social circle. Will the Wilcox family ever rise from the ashes and will Jemima make an advantageous match?  Our Kind of People by Carol Wallace is a quiet sort of historical novel that brings to life the manners, decorum, and the cut-throat social scene of the Gilded Age in New York City. 

I really enjoyed bookish Jemima from the start of Our Kind of People.  I had high hopes for her, but she latches on to a most unsuitable gentleman that not only isn't part of her social circle, but is also someone her father owes money to.  Cue the awkwardness.  As the Wilcox family fortune comes crumbling down, they lose even more to Jemima's love interest. I don't want to give any more away, but Jemima's entrance into society is a bumpy one.  It appears that runs in the family as her younger sister, Alice, also is interested in someone that her mother and grandmother would never approve of.  So, lots of drama is in store for the Wilcox women.

Wallace also gives us background regarding Helen and Joshua's relationship in Our Kind of People and many chapters are from their perspectives. When Helen first met Joshua she Helen put herself, much like her daughters, in a compromising situation, so her mother has no choice but to let her relationship with Joshua progress otherwise there would be a scandal.  Helen didn't have any other suitors, so this may was her only chance at a marriage.  As the years go by, Joshua doesn't really take to life in high society and his mother-in-law never really approves of him.  Once he gets involved in the elevated railroad, high society is skeptical, but he believes it will make them rich, but readers wonder at what cost?

Wallace brings to life the Gilded Age very well in Our Kind of People.  The rules, the manners, the rude people who dismiss others based on their family's history were all highlighted in this novel. One wrong look from a powerful women in society could mean your family isn't invited to future events, etc. These women were the original mean girls.

While I found the intricate details of the Gilded Age to be fascinating at first, I slowly tired of the "rich people problems".........who wore what dress, who is wearing the biggest jewel, who didn't acknowledge whom, etc. The last half of the book grew repetitive in this manner and it made me roll my eyes.  Wallace's previous novel was partially the inspiration for Downtown Abbey, so I had high hopes for Our Kind of People; however, it was just an average read for me.

So, are you a fan of the Gilded Age? Is Our Kind of People on your TBR list? Let me know in the comments below.




  1. The Gilded Age is always a setting I love! It's just so different from our lives, it's fascinating reading about the "rules" that people lived by back then.

    1. I agree! So many rules! I think the Gilded Age is making a come back, because there's been a lot of books/tv shows on the topic lately! Thanks for visiting, Angela.

  2. This one was on my radar. I was looking forward to a novel set in the Gilded Age. Thanks for sharing your review. Best, LA

    1. There are so many good novels coming out set in the Gilded Age - I think this time period is making a big come back! Thanks for visiting, Laurel!


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