Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Review: The Wicked City

Summary: New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams recreates the New York City of A Certain Age in this deliciously spicy adventure that mixes past and present and centers on a Jazz Age love triangle involving a rugged Prohibition agent, a saucy redheaded flapper, and a debonair Princetonian from a wealthy family. 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. In 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. . . . -- William Morrow

I've been remiss in posting my review for my book club's latest selection THE WICKED CITY by Beatriz Williams. We met over a week ago, and while I did a quick recap of our meeting, my review kind of slipped through the cracks. But I always say, "Better late than never."

THE WICKED CITY tells the story of two women, separated by over seventy years, who live in Greenwich Village next to an old jazz nightclub -- Gin and Ella. Gin is a flapper girl living in New York (aka the wicked city) in the 1920s. She grew up in the mountains of western Maryland and wanted to escape her difficult home life. She is dating a Princeton man from a very wealthy family (whom she knows she should marry); however, she is also attracted to Oliver, a Prohibition agent. Gin decides to help Oliver catch her stepfather, a major bootlegger and an overall horrible guy.

The (almost) present day story is about Ella. Ella is a forensic accountant (the job is way more interesting than it sounds!) who has recently left her husband after catching him with a prostitute. She abandons their gorgeous loft (not very smart) and rents out a small apartment on Christopher Street -- the very same house where Gin lived. There she meets Hector, a handsome guy who shares her taste in jazz music; and she finds herself drawn to him despite still being married.

The novel goes back and forth between the two women's stories, and readers can't help noticing that there are a few similarities in the women -- although probably many more differences. Gin is a bit of a firecracker while Ella is a bit of a wallflower. Although as the two stories play out, Ella takes on some of Gin's more free-spirited behavior!

Overall, I really enjoyed THE WICKED CITY. But that's not altogether a surprise because I love, love, love Ms. Williams' novels. I always appreciate how she ties together a present day storyline with one from the past as well as how she brings different time periods to life. In the case of this novel, I will admit that I enjoyed Gin and her story more than Ella's. Who can really argue with a spunky flapper living in Greenwich Village in the 1920s who falls for a Prohibition agent that is trying to capture her wicked stepfather? It's just a great story!

I also really enjoyed how there were a few twists in the novel. Naturally, I can't tell you what they are, but suffice it to say that I, and my fellow book clubbers, were all surprised and didn't see one of them coming! Another fun thing about THE WICKED CITY is that Ella ends up being related to the Schuyler family. If you have read Ms. Williams' other novels, then you know how everything seems to come back to these characters!

THE WICKED CITY was a terrific book club selection. There is a reading guide with ten questions that will definitely get your conversation up and going. Some things you might want to discuss include marriage, secrets, plot twists, class structure, love, family, responsibility and more!

THE WICKED CITY is the first in a new series and I, for one, can't wait for the next installment THE WICKED REDHEAD!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

I've only read one of her books and I loved it too. This one sounds like another winner!

Kim@Time2Read said...

I haven't decided it I want to add this to my list yet, but I've heard a lot of good things about this book, so I'm guessing it will end up there. Thanks for the review!