The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki

The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki
Pub. Date: February 11, 2014
Source: Library (though I’ve ordered a copy ♥!)
Summary: Socialite Peggy Shippen is half Benedict Arnold’s age when she seduces the war hero during his stint as military commander of Philadelphia. Blinded by his young bride’s beauty and wit, Arnold does not realize that she harbors a secret: loyalty to the British. Nor does he know that she hides a past romance with the handsome British spy John Andre. Peggy watches as her husband, crippled from battle wounds and in debt from years of service to the colonies, grows ever more disillusioned with his hero, Washington, and the American cause. Together with her former love and her disaffected husband, Peggy hatches the plot to deliver West Point to the British and, in exchange, win fame and fortune for herself and Arnold.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Recommended for: Fans of biographical fiction, those curious about the Revolutionary War and the man who betrayed his country

Oh, this was lovely. Absolutely wonderful. I spent a little longer than I would have liked reading The Traitor’s Wife, but I wanted to savor it, to really get down deep into these characters’ lives. While I liked it when reading, the more I think about it since finishing, the more I love it – and I’ve already ordered a copy to keep on my shelves! That’s certainly saying something about this book; even when I love a story, I rarely – RARELY – purchase my own copy. The Traitor’s Wife is definitely a special story.

Peggy Shippen, the youngest daughter of the respected Shippen family, is the socialite. She’s beautiful, smart, and charming – and she knows it. While there are a few other debutantes in her Season, none are of Peggy’s caliber. Every night is spent at another dance and Peggy is never without a man happy to be seen with her on his arm. At seventeen she’s in no rush to settle down, though there are plenty of suitors who would love to have Peggy Shippen as his wife. Instead, she regularly breaks curfew, preferring to spend her time hidden in the shadows with John Andre, a Major in the British Army. She’s certainly attracted to him, but I wonder if Peggy’s rebellious nature didn’t also play a part in their relationship (Peggy’s father, Judge Shippen, refused to side with either the Colonists or the British).

While The Traitor’s Wife is absolutely, positively about Peggy, the story itself is told through the eyes of a young maid, Clara Bell. On her deathbed, Clara’s grandmother made arrangements for her granddaughter to have a position in the Shippen household. Once she arrives, Clara is told she’ll be the handmaid to the Shippen daughters…though, naturally, Peggy takes her all for herself. As a maid, Clara is virtually invisible, allowing her to hear every single secret whispered among the household.

When Andre leaves, Peggy is heartbroken, though she quickly finds solace in the much older Benedict Arnold. Over time, the two further their relationship, ultimately ending in marriage. Through it all Clara is right by Peggy’s side, from the first encounter with Arnold to the initial hints at something sinister to come.

I honestly cannot say enough about The Traitor’s Wife. I loved it while reading, I love it even more in retrospect. Everything about it was wonderful: the vivid details, the setting, the fantastic characters – both good and bad. Pataki’s characterization of Peggy was delightful. She’s definitely a character readers will love to hate. When we first meet her she’s a bratty, selfish teenager…and she really doesn’t change much at all. As an adult she’s still bratty and selfish, only thinking of herself and the gains she could make. When he first met her, Benedict Arnold had a limp from a war wound. Peggy led him on for months until announcing she would no longer have anything to do with him since he was old and couldn’t even dance. Arnold’s love for this girl was so great he all but overcame his disability, rehabilitating himself until he no longer needed a cane. Even still she refused to marry him until he could buy her one of the largest estates in America. He did, but it left him all but destitute.

While I’m not sure how much of the actual plot is based in fact, in The Traitor’s Wife, treason was entirely Peggy’s idea – and I completely believed it. She wanted wealth and a fancy title and would do anything she could to get them. I certainly don’t think Arnold was innocent, but he was definitely sympathetic here.

While I adored the characters (everyone, from the servants to George Washington himself, was absolutely perfect), there were two issues I had that could have been easily fixed and would have made this a five-star read (because it definitely was). I noticed a number of typos and errors. There was one sentence that stuck out in my mind where it read understand instead of understood. A quick edit would have eliminated these. The other issue was a factual error. There’s a scene where someone is hurt and the servants are told to check for a pulse. Not a single one has any idea what that means. Yes, they’re servants, but they can all read and write – they’re educated. I’m supposed to believe an entire household staff (who are no strangers to butchering the livestock for meals) wouldn’t know what a pulse was? Read up on medical history: doctors in the Middle Ages, China, Ancient Egypt were all familiar with pulses.

Apart from those two easily-corrected errors, The Traitor’s Wife was perfect. I loved every minute of it – even better, it gave me a fantastic starting point for further research on my own!

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
Pub. Date: September 16, 2014
Source: Finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Farrar, Straus and Giroux!!)
Summary: Isolated by a disfiguring injury since the age of seventeen, Sean Phillips crafts imaginary worlds for strangers to play in. From his small apartment in southern California, he orchestrates fantastic adventures where possibilities, both dark and bright, open in the boundaries between the real and the imagined. As the creator of “Trace Italian”—a text-based, role-playing game played through the mail—Sean guides players from around the world through his intricately imagined terrain, which they navigate and explore, turn by turn, seeking sanctuary in a ravaged, savage future America.

Lance and Carrie are high school students from Florida, and are explorers of the Trace. But when they take their play into the real world, disaster strikes, and Sean is called on to account for it. In the process, he is pulled back through time, tracing back toward the moment of his own self-inflicted departure from the world in which most people live.
Genre: Literary, Sci-Fi
Recommended for: Open-minded, die-hard fans of The Mountain Goats, RPG fanatics

I honestly don’t know where to begin with this one. As a fan of The Mountain Goats, of course I had to read Darnielle’s debut! Unfortunately, the magic he creates with his lyrics just didn’t come through in a full-length novel. I really am wondering if perhaps I’m missing something – much like Neverhome (one of the biggest disappointments of the year) – I seem to be on my own with my rating. Every other review I’ve come across, both from professional reviewers as well as average readers, has been nothing but glowing remarks.

Wolf in White Van has an incredibly interesting premise that could – and should – have been amazing. Sean, a man horribly scarred and disfigured after an unnamed accident, lives his life through a game he created. Trace Italian is a role playing game played through the mail where players navigate their way through an America that’s little more than a wasteland. While many players simply mail Sean their envelope along with their move (from a list of options), a few long-time players start to include messages and even letters. Over time, Sean learns more about these players, begins to see them as real people.

Two of those players are Lance and Carrie, high school students from Florida. When their game choices become reality fingers start pointing at Sean and it isn’t long before he finds himself in a courtroom, defending both himself and his game in front of an audience.

I don’t know whether I should be more disappointed in myself or in this book. Was I missing something? Was it all an allegory for something greater, something my piddly mind couldn’t grasp? Or is this a case of a not-so-great book getting love and praise because of the author’s fanbase? Both are entirely plausible and it’s a shame I couldn’t get into this one!

When it comes down to it, I suppose my disappointment lies with the vagueness of the storytelling. Sean is permanently injured and it’s never fully explained what happened. As a reader, that’s the kind of detail I need to know. He’s been living like this since he was seventeen, but he never talks about it. It’s never shown through a flashback or a memory. How could I possibly be sympathetic toward this character (who was, honestly, unlikable) if I don’t know what happened to make him the person he is now?

Upon finishing Wolf in White Van, I spent a good hour reading reviews – what were they seeing that I couldn’t? That was back in August. Now, weeks later, I’ve gone back and looked at those reviews again, the glowing praise, the life-changing commentary. Still I’m not getting it and that more than anything is what frustrates me. Even when I don’t like a book I can still see the other side, understand just what its fans find so appealing. That’s not the case here. Wolf in White Van is barely over 200 pages that still managed to take a few days to read. I hate to say it, but I think I’ll be sticking with Darnielle’s songs, rather than any upcoming novels. I will say though, that the cover is simply stunning. The title is a metallic foil and when the sun hits it just so…gorgeous.

my week in pictures 9/14

In case you have the crazy urge to get bit by a spider, let me be the first to tell you: don’t. I was virtually comatose all weekend and nearly had Matt post this for me yesterday! It got to the point where I had to set aside my current read (The Mathematician’s Shiva) because my brain truly couldn’t comprehend anything – although there’s math in it, so maybe it’s just me :)

ANYWAY. I’m still red and swollen and sore, but I’m up and about. Progress! So here we are, a weekly recap on a Monday. Better late than never, right?

The greatest day ever: my birthday! The party was fun, super low-key with just family. There was a tiny bit of mayhem when the candles began melting and the entire cake nearly caught on fire! ¡Qué desastre!

Because we began the week with my birthday, it was only fitting to end it on Roald Dahl’s. September 13 is Roald Dahl Day (for previous years + reviews, head here!). Though I didn’t get around to posting anything, although if we’re facebook buddies you might have seen a mention there, I managed to read The Great Switcheroo (short stories were ideal for me this weekend!) and I’m not at all surprised it was originally published in Playboy. If you weren’t aware Dahl also wrote stories for adults, after this one you definitely will be. Two men are lusting after the other’s wife and concoct a plan to switch places in the middle of the night in order to act out their fantasies with the other woman. Certainly not one for the kiddies!

Also, there was a previously unpublished chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that was released!

BOUGHT
Officers and Gentlemen by Evelyn Waugh
Y’all should know by now I love me some Waugh and continue in my quest to own everything he’s written.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
I’ve been eager to get my hands on a copy of this since I first heard of it and it was a total no-brainer for my Priority shelf.
The Diviners by Libba Bray
I absolutely loved this book (my review) but didn’t actually own a copy. FIXED!
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
Another book on my Priority shelf and one that comes highly recommended from Claire Legrand. This is a Thriller that involves some sci-fi elements (a serial killer is able to jump through time to choose the right moment to murder his victims). VERY intriguing!

GIFTED
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Hannah is too good to me. She wasn’t planning on reading this one, so she offered to send it my way – thank you xo! 1920s London. A widow and her adult daughter are struggling and open their home to lodgers. Little do they know, the couple they take in will turn their lives upside-down.

FOR REVIEW
The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien
I debated adding this one to my September’s Gotta Read It! post, and a few days later it arrived at my door! This one sounds like a total whirlwind: the most elite arts school in the country televises the students’ every moment. The students are given sleeping pills (up to 12 hours) in order to enhance creativity, but when one student skips her pill she realizes the school is hiding a sinister secret.
The Graham Cracker Plot by Shelley Tougas
Middle Grade! Believing her dad was wrongfully imprisoned, Daisy hatches a plan to break him out. This one sounds totally adorable and fun.

Thank you, Roaring Brooks Press!

In Case You Missed It
Neverhome was an absolute dud. Worse than a dud. This was one of my most anticipated novels of the year and it was SO disappointing I actually took it personally. 1/5

Neverhome by Laird Hunt

Neverhome by Laird Hunt
Pub. Date: September 9, 2014
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Little, Brown!!)
Summary: She calls herself Ash, but that’s not her real name. She is a farmer’s faithful wife, but she has left her husband to don the uniform of a Union soldier in the Civil War. Neverhome tells the harrowing story of Ash Thompson during the battle for the South. Through bloodshed and hysteria and heartbreak, she becomes a hero, a folk legend, a madwoman and a traitor to the American cause.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Recommended For: no one.

When I first heard about Neverhome I knew I needed it in my life and the months-long wait was going to be absolute torture. In my mind A) it was a Civil War novel so there was no way it was going to be anything less than stellar and B) I dubbed it the next I Shall Be Near to You. Oh how wrong I was on BOTH counts. Neverhome angered me and I took its sub-par writing/storytelling personally. I spent months waiting for this book. I had such high expectations; how could it do this to me?

A year after the War starts, Constance leaves her farm to fight. She wants to see some action and since her husband is the gentler, softer of the two, the decision is made for Constance to be the one to don the Union blues and give her all for her country. As Ash, she becomes something of a legend: Gallant Ash, she’s dubbed, and her sharpshooter skills are renowned. Through it all, however, Ash longs for the day when she can return home to her loving Bartholomew.

Neverhome was essentially told in four parts: Constance becoming Ash and leaving home to enlist; Ash’s life at camp; a wound that left Ash behind and the consequences of spurned advances; Ash walking home. That’s it. That’s all the story is. My e-copy was a mere 197 pages and less than halfway through I began skimming – not a good sign. With a story that short, you’re going to need something of substance and, unfortunately, Neverhome missed the mark.

I mistakenly assumed that a novel about a woman disguising herself as a man to go off and fight would include, you know, fighting. The majority of Ash’s time spent in uniform is at camp where she waits until night to bathe and sleeps in cramped tents with multiple soldiers. The bulk of the story (which, again, at 200 pages really isn’t saying much) deals with her capture and a wound she receives. Along with two younger boys, Ash finds herself in Rebel territory. The three are quickly rounded up and locked up in an abandoned cabin. Inside Ash discovers a closet with an old dress inside. She puts on the dress, jumps out a window, and takes the men by surprise, killing them and saving her two fellow soldiers.

Later on, when she receives a wound, she leaves her camp and finds her way to the house of a nurse. I didn’t understand this part at all. Neva knows Ash is a woman and gives her a fresh dress to wear as she’s recuperating. The pair soon get to talking about their lives before the war and their husbands (I believe Neva’s has died), and over time it appears Neva starts to develop feelings for Ash. She kisses her multiple times and ultimately asks Ash to stay with her, they can farm the land together. When Ash rejects, she finds herself thrown in jail (?!) and accused of being a spy. Not long after she’s taken from the jail and sent to a mental institution. Neverhome is all over the place with its storytelling and I was struggling to see the logic and reason is SO many of these scenes.

Finally Ash manages to leave the institution and walks home to her farm. …that’s it. That’s it. I’m clearly in the minority – perhaps I missed something?? – since every review so far has been nothing but the highest of praise. Sorry, Neverhome, you couldn’t cut it for me. I’ve read better and will read better. The only redeeming factor was its length. I wish I could say otherwise, that I absolutely loved this book, but in the end Neverhome was a huge disappointment.

NOTABLE QUOTE

I was strong and he was not, so it was me went to war to defend the Republic.

my week in pictures 9/7 + August recap

The Penguin book truck came to town!! It coincided with our town’s Harvest Festival and since it was the weekend, there was also the farmers’ market. Basically I was in heaven with all the smells and food – oh my gosh the food!

Haha there was a girl looking at the books on the truck and she had A Discovery of Witches in her hand as well as Me Before You and couldn’t decide between the two. She was curious about Witches, but was recommended Me Before You. I went into total fangirl mode and began spewing my love of Jojo. :) Very pleased to say that’s the book she went with!

I took full advantage of my birthday girl status (mark your calendars – it’s tomorrow!) and picked out a few I wanted – just one of the many ways Matt has been spoiling me all weekend! Two books were from work, two were from the truck. I’m a HUGE tote fan so I nearly fainted when they were giving these away with your purchase! They had tons of freebies including a penguin logo pin and a Roald Dahl audiobook sampler!
The Short Novels by John Steinbeck + Complete Short Stories by Ernest Hemingway
Over the summer I was bit by the short story bug and have been itching to get my hands on any short story collection I can find. I’m a big fan of Steinbeck and I love me some Papa – these two were total no-brainers!
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
This is the first in the Southern Reach trilogy and I’ve heard something but good things. Admittedly, I’m a bit hesitant – I’m not entirely sure how I feel about speculative/weird fiction – but this one is TINY. Less than two hundred pages. I think I can manage!
Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
One of the only Dahl books I didn’t have!

Have you read any of these? What did you think? What are your thoughts on short stories??

image via pinterest

REVIEWS
2AM at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino 4/5

Chock-full of metaphory goodness, 2AM at The Cat’s Pajamas beautifully weaves together three storylines gravitating around a past-its-prime jazz club. The novel’s Old World feel perfectly suited the smokey barroom. The secondary characters were just as intriguing as the key figures and the foul-mouthed nine-year-old at the center of it all quickly became a favorite of mine.

The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero 3/5

Told through a string of diary entries, telegrams, and Paranormal Activity-style camera footage, The Supernatural Enhancements delves into the life of a reclusive man, his estate, a ghost, encryption codes, and a mysterious garden maze. I’m typically not one for epistolary novels – I was never able to get into the story and get a good feel for the characters – but I lapped this one up.

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen 4/5

I can easily see why a writer would be intrigued and latch onto these two, putting a romantic spin on their friendship. I actually enjoyed Mrs. Poe! Unfortunately, it’s received a LOT of hateful comments and I think people are forgetting the fiction aspect of historical fiction.

series overview: Cainsville by Kelley Armstrong

Brush up on your Welsh, folks. You’re going to need it with Cainsville! In an author’s note in Omens, Armstrong states she intentionally left out any kind of translation or contextual clues. I cheated a bit and Googled some of the phrases. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil those, but trust me: you’ll want to find out more! Cainsville definitely isn’t your normal sleepy town. Nope. Not at all. There are things going on here – Big Things.

Sister Mother Husband Dog (etc.) by Delia Ephron 3/5

Sister Mother Husband Dog (etc.) is the quintessential one-sitting read – though you’ll want to have a buddy on hand, there are so many passages that are virtually screaming to be read aloud!

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson 5/5

Writing a review for brown girl dreaming doesn’t seem fair at all. How does someone rate a memoir? A biography? A young girl’s life so beautifully-written and heartbreaking it steals your breath away? brown girl dreaming is so much more than I could ever say and my words could never compare to Woodson’s.

FEATURES
my week in pictures 8/3; birthdays! new (to me) books by favorite authors!
my week in pictures: vacation: sleepy rhinos! Cirque du Soleil!
my week in pictures 8/31: more birthdays! KITTIES.

MISC
July recap
Leah’s Gotta Read It novels for August
vacation announcement + the first book jar picks

September’s Gotta Read It! books

Is it just me or is September the Month of Awesome Books?! Seriously, there are so. many. fantastic books coming out this month and I had the hardest time narrowing it down to just these!


The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell | 09.02
The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott | 09.30
The Lightkeeper’s Wife by Sarah Anne Johnson | 09.09

You might have heard of a little novel called Cloud Atlas. Yep, that David Mitchell. Before it was even released The Bone Clocks was a nominee for the Man Booker Longlist – that’s definitely saying something! Part sci-fi, part literary fiction, The Bone Clocks follows 15-year-old Holly Sykes after running out on her old life. See, what sets Holly apart from other teenage runaways is that Holly can hears voices; she’s a one-way link between our world and something else. Those voices she’s hearing? They not only affect Holly and her reality, but they also alter the course of her descendants. I’m not at all surprised by the glowing praise this book has already received!

The Wonder of All Things is Jason’s follow-up to The Returned, a book I had received but never got around to reading (I definitely need to fix that now!). A tragedy at an air show leads to a 13-year-old girl being thrust in the spotlight. Dozens of spectators are killed or injured – including Ava’s best friend Wash. When rescuers manage to find the pair, Ava has her hands placed on Wash’s wounds…and they heal. Suddenly people the world over flock to Ava’s hometown, looking to be healed, not realizing that each healing takes its toll on the girl.

I’m a big fan of historical fiction. BIG fan. The Lightkeeper’s Wife takes the reader to Cape Cod in the 1800s on the night of a bad shipwreck. Hannah’s husband, the lightkeeper, is out of town and though she’s been forbidden from heading to the water (it’s a man’s job, after all), she feels compelled to help. She’s able to save one of the men and while he’s recuperating, she discovers he’s not at all what she assumed. An early review sort of spoiled that part for me (if I’m guessing correctly – and I think I am), but I’m still very intrigued!


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel | 09.09
Sacrifice (Elemental #5) by Brigid Kemmerer | 09.30

The night the world begins to end, an actor dies onstage during a performance of King Lear. In the hours that follow, a descent begins and, fifteen years later, the world is nothing more than a wasteland. Station Eleven bounces back and forth through time and perspectives (one of my all-time favorite narrative devices!) – each one somehow connected to that Shakespearean actor. Although I’m not a huge fan of dystopia/post-apocalyptic novels, I have high hopes for this one!

Sacrifice is one I desperately want to read as well as put it off as long as possible. Its release ends the Elemental series and I’m just not ready to say good-bye! These books are one-sitting reads and I simply LOVE the world Brigid created, the Elemental powers, and of course, the boys. At this point there are 6 or 7 of them and I love each one. Even better is that each book follows a different boy, so we get a look at things from HIS perspective. Sacrifice follows my favorite, Michael, the oldest of the Merrick boys. This is going to be a hard one for me, guys! If you’re interested in the rest of the series (and you should be!), you can check out my reviews for all four books + a side story!


Juliet’s Nurse by Lois Leveen | 09.23
Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth | 09.23
Neverhome by Laird Hunt | 09.09

My favorite sub-genre of historical fiction are the stories that take a minor character (sibling/secretary/etc) and allow them to tell their side of the story. Not surprisingly, Juliet’s Nurse follows Juliet’s nurse. While I wasn’t super in love with Romeo and Juliet in high school, I have a weak spot for retellings!

Bitter Greens in another retelling – this time involving Rapunzel and the court of King Louis XIV. Um yes. It might be considered cheating a bit, since I already have this one and will be part of the book tour (be sure to keep an eye out for my review!) but it sounds WAY too good to pass up!

I love me some Civil War. Neverhome (which I included in that post!) is a book that’s so up my alley it should be retitled Leah. A farmer’s wife, disguised as a man, leaves home to fight for the Union and that’s all I needed to know to be instantly enamored.

Have you read any of these? What September releases are YOU looking forward to??

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine
Pub. Date: June 3, 2014
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Atria!!)
Summary: Jo, the firstborn, “The General” to her eleven sisters, is the only thing the Hamilton girls have in place of a mother. She is the one who taught them how to dance, the one who gives the signal each night, as they slip out of the confines of their father’s townhouse to await the cabs that will take them to the speakeasy. Together they elude their distant and controlling father, until the day he decides to marry them all off.

The girls, meanwhile, continue to dance, from Salon Renaud to the Swan and, finally, the Kingfisher, the club they come to call home. They dance until one night when they are caught in a raid, separated, and Jo is thrust face-to-face with someone from her past: a bootlegger named Tom whom she hasn’t seen in almost ten years. Suddenly Jo must weigh in the balance not only the demands of her father and eleven sisters, but those she must make of herself.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Retellings
Recommended For: Fans of retellings, the Jazz Age, sister relationships

Three things solidified my decision in grabbing this book: 1) it’s published by Atria (you might recall my undying love for Atria in my imprints post!), 2) hello, Jazz Age! and 3) I’m still riding the retellings wave. While The Girls at the Kingfisher Club didn’t disappoint, it wasn’t as great as it could have been – and despite that lovely cover, this wasn’t a book that impressed me enough to purchase my own copy.

The Hamilton patriarch isn’t much of a father, preferring to hide away in his study while the older girls take care of their younger (and often times, baby) sisters. As the oldest, Jo has been dubbed The General, a title she takes to heart. She keeps the girls in line – it’s best not to anger their father – but it pains her to have her sisters virtually locked away in their house.

Overtime, Jo and the next in line, Lou, begin sneaking out to clubs. They come alive when they dance and soon their sisters begin sneaking out as well. The General has managed to create such an orderly system that, eventually, all twelve girls head out multiple times a week to dance their worries away. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and the sisters’ happiness shatters upon hearing their father’s announcement: he’s going to start marrying them off. As The General, Jo now feels a new sense of responsibility: she knows the men her father would choose for his daughters (many of whom he has never even met), and takes it upon herself to keep her sisters together.

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, a story I have never read, but one that’s easy enough to figure out. I’m afraid there isn’t much to say about this one: it was okay, likable while it lasted, a nice quick read but one that hasn’t lingered. Perhaps fans of the original fairy tale will enjoy this one more? Any book with a large cast of characters has its work cut out in maintaining distinct voices and unique personalities and that’s where The Girls at the Kingfisher Club failed. Twelve girls (plus multiple men, love interests, their father, etc) was just too much to have crammed into a book of this length (under 300 pages). Apart from Jo, Lou, and a tiny handful of the more stand-out sisters, I honestly couldn’t tell them apart and the ones I could were only identified through descriptors: Ella is the Pretty One, Rose likes girls, Violet is the youngest.

I’m disappointed in both myself and this book. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club had so much going for it and seemed perfectly suited to my tastes, but couldn’t pull off the task of creating strong characters. While it’s a joy to have a book entertaining enough to read in a sitting, there’s a lot to be said when you can’t tell any of the characters apart from one another. Going through Valentine’s work, it appears the majority of her stories are additions to Steampunk and Fantasy anthologies, while her other two novels are Steakpunk. Perhaps Historical Fiction isn’t her strong suit?