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The Wicked City

By Beatriz Williams


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The Wicked CityBrought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele


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. . . .(Goodreads)



Overall, The Wicked City is a delightful read.  While the two alternating story lines, one about betrayed accountant Ella Gilbert in 1998 and the other about feisty Gin Kelly in 1924, are enjoyable, the Prohibition Era narrative is my favorite.  I never quite warmed up to Ella or her musician neighbor Hector, and their story did not go anywhere until the end where things then seem rushed.  Really, I find Ella’s connection to Gin tenuous at best and think the book suffers from the inclusion of the “modern” plot.  In contrast, the plot centered on Gin, prohibition agent Oliver Anson, and Gin’s successful bootlegger stepfather Duke Kelly is full of adventure, suspense, danger, and romance.

Williams’ elegant writing is reflective of a bygone era full of glitz and glamour contrasted with a seedy underbelly.  Through her descriptive settings and lavish style, I feel transported to the changing times of the Jazz Age and the dangerous circumstances and repercussions of illegal activities during the Prohibition Era.  Every character has his/her unique voice indicative of their time.

Unfortunately, I never feel any connection with Emma.  I am sorry for her circumstances but do not care much about what happens to her throughout the book.  Hector is more appealing yet still lacks something, keeping him from jumping off the page and grabbing my heart.  There are a lot of loose ends in this plot, too, and I feel unsatisfied by the end of the book.  That said, I like Gin a lot.  Her independent nature and strong will to overcome her past make her quite captivating and fun to read about.  Prohibition Enforcement Agent Oliver Anson is equally bewitching in all of his straight laced, official persona.  Duke Kelly’s evil nature is really over-the-top, but he is a great source of peril and excitement, especially towards the end of the tale.  If I am to complain about anything here, it is the funky twist to the love triangle that comes to light.  Though there are also unresolved bits in this story, such as the identity of Gin’s birth father, I do not find them as annoying as Emma’s loose ends.  But, readers are left with a great number of unanswered questions.  Perhaps they will be resolved in a future book.

I do recommend The Wicked City to readers who enjoy the 1920’s setting.  Fans of Beatriz Williams will revel in this adventure with cameos from her other works.