As an actor, I’ve had the chance to play characters from a wide range of economic backgrounds as well as several different decades. It’s always fun to play a rich woman, and a rich woman in a period piece is particularly enjoyable. Sometimes I’m even fortunate enough to have my costume designed by some really talented people like in the picture below.
Maybe that’s why I’ve gotten interested in reading some period books, especially when the main characters live a sort of well heeled life. I enjoy imagining what it would be like to own designer clothes and valuable jewels and classic hats. I expect the imagining of such things is actually lots more comfortable than the actual wearing of them. After all, I’m pretty attached to my jeans and casual shirts, too.
I recently read a most enjoyable book that took place around the turn of the century in New York City. It featured a woman who was a member of the “old money” set in New York and in addition to the storyline of mystery and intrigue it had some fun peeks into the wealth and lifestyles of these fabulously rich people. It was enough for me to imagine attending a ball in a bespoke gown without actually having to experience the discomfort of wearing all the clothes and undergarments required and then trying to move in them at the same time.
The book itself was really enjoyable, both from a mystery and intrigue standpoint and the opportunity to spend some time in a different era with the wealth and social placement of a blue-blooded New Yorker. All around, it was a satisfying read. For more information on the book, here’s my review.
Take one part murder mystery, one part corruption investigation and intrigue, add a dash of romance and put it all in turn of the century New York high society and you’ve got Deception by Gaslight by Kate Belli. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable adventure and mystery for Genevieve, member of a blue stocking family from New York who, when her engagement and society wedding was cancelled by her fiance one week prior to the wedding, had embraced her future as an eventual spinster and pursued a job at the local newspaper.
She is a talented reporter who is relegated to stories lie the “best baby contest” when she has an interest in doing more serious news. With the richest of the city being robbed by someone who has been dubbed “Robin Hood” since he robs from the richest of the rich and gives the money to the poor, Genevieve sets herself the task of writing an expose of the robber and thereby making a name for herself in her chosen field.
As she pursues her goal, she comes across a group of toughs, one of whom is the most handsome man she has ever met, in an alley on the wrong side of town. As she challenges the trio, who have been talking about Robin Hood, she spies a dead body with a head wound, the likely cause of his demise. While trying to see more, she is bundled out of the alley by the handsome tough when one of the other three try to drag her into a building in the alley.
Genevieve’s curiosity is further tweaked when she attends one of the social functions of the season and spies the handsome tough at the ball, only this time in elegant black tie. To further her confusion, she learns he is the elusive Daniel McCaffrey, who inherited one of the richest estates in NY City, setting off the rumor mill as everyone tries to find out who he is, what his relationship was to his benefactor, and why he was named sole heir.
Genevieve and Daniel are drawn together as the book continues, with Daniel being constantly amazed at his feelings toward Genevieve and both of them aware they have an unspoken connection. They soon form an alliance to try and learn what is behind at least one if not two deaths and how they are linked to a corporation that appears shady; but about which almost no information can be found.
As their relationship expands, Daniel finally opens up to Genevieve, sharing his life story with her, the first time he has ever done so. While Genevieve remains interested in the Robin Hood story, her interest is more and more drawn to the corporation, it’s investors, and it’s business. As she gets closer to the information, she is attacked by an unknown assailant which draws her even closer to Daniel as they decide to pool their information and unmask the corporation for the shell corporation it is.
The book is well written, in a style somewhat reminiscent of the golden age of mystery with fancy balls and a peek into high society. Pacing is excellent and although it might be easy to put down and pick back up; the level of interest is so strong the urge is always to read “just one more chapter”. This pulls the reader through the book at a rapid pace.
The solutions as to Robin Hood’s identity and the goals of the corporation are both reached in a satisfactory fashion. While the relationship between the two is not resolved, the reader can reach their own conclusions as the book ends. The only frustration I have is the cliff-hanger on the final page of the book, however the book is too well written to avoid it because of that.
My thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for providing me an advanced digital read copy of this book. The opinions offered in this review are entirely my own.
I wanted to share this book with you in case you were looking for something new to read. It’s scheduled to be published on October 6, 2020; so you’ve got just enough time to order it from your independent bookseller or check with your library about getting a copy. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Happy Reading.