Review

Ingenue

by Jillian Larkin

Gloria Carmody and Jerome Johnson are in love and setting out to make it big in New York City. Both have music jazzing in their veins. Jerome, a talented piano player, and Gloria, a budding singing star, are inquiring at any and all nightclubs for work. But the year is 1924, and life isn't easy for a biracial couple, especially when they are running from both the law and the mob.

"Larkin brings the colorful 1920s alive with her vivid descriptions....And she doesn't back away from the dangers and dirt of the time period either..."

Vera hadn't approved of Gloria and her big brother, Jerome, dating. In fact, she tried to break them up, but almost got them killed. That's when Gloria shot the mobster Tony in self-defense, and the two ran off to New York to escape. Now Vera feels responsible and is determined to track them down and warn them of even more danger coming their way. The trumpet player in Jerome's band, Evan, learns of her plans and insists on going with her to New York to help. The two of them together may be able to find Jerome and Gloria in time to warn them --- and they may just start falling in love along the way.

Lorraine Dyer and Gloria used to be best friends, but then they had a big falling-out. And since they aren't friends anymore, Lorraine doesn't feel an ounce of guilt in taking the summer job before school starts in the fall. The mobsters looking for Gloria and Jerome hire Lorraine to be a manager of the new speakeasy, The Opera House, in New York City. It's Lorraine's job to track them down and hire them as a singer and piano player, so the mobsters can punish them --- not kill them, just rough them up a bit. But then Lorraine learns the truth: the mob really does intend to kill the couple.

Gloria's cousin, Clara Knowles, is glad her boyfriend, Marcus Eastman, is willing to give her a chance, despite her soiled past. He even got her admitted into his college for the fall. Clara is determined to shed her wild flapper ways. No more illegal speakeasy nightclubs with smoking and drinking and partying until dawn. This is her chance to have a respectable life with a successful man. But something seems to be missing in her life. Then an editor of the up-and-coming Manhattanite magazine approaches her about becoming a reporter and getting the dirty gossip on all the popular flappers. To do so, Clara would have to fall back into her old ways, at least in appearances, in order to dig up the dirt. And though she hates deceiving Marcus and knows he would be angry, she finds a genuine satisfaction in writing her columns. She doesn't want to choose between her writing and her boyfriend, but she may have to do just that.

Gloria, Vera, Lorraine and Clara return for more danger and excitement in this second installment of Jillian Larkin's Flappers series. It's like getting four different stories in one as Larkin alternates chapters among the four lead characters. And as the book progresses, the related stories interweave more and more, becoming one. The author has a gift for ending her chapters with riveting cliffhangers that compel readers to turn the page.

Larkin brings the colorful 1920s alive with her vivid descriptions of the amazing fashions and jazzy music. And she doesn't back away from the dangers and dirt of the time period either, incorporating the illegal speakeasy nightclubs with their smoky atmospheres and flowing liquor bars, and the law-breaking mobsters who rule the streets. She also tackles the racism and bigotry of the time, doing so with honesty and sensitivity. Fans will be excited to know that this talented writer is offering more thrills, romance and history with book three, DIVA, coming in 2012.

Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on August 9, 2011

Ingenue
by Jillian Larkin