Popsugar Reading Challenge 2023 Prompt #41

Lots of books start as part of NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – which takes place in November. In an interview, author Krystal Marquis says that her brother dated her to write a story. And after finding an article about C. R. Patterson, a black automobile manufacturer, she found the inspiration she was looking for.

What it’s about?

The Davenports are one of the few Black families of immense wealth and status in a changing United States, their fortune made through the entrepreneurship of William Davenport, a formerly enslaved man who founded the Davenport Carriage Company years ago. Now it’s 1910, and the Davenports live surrounded by servants, crystal chandeliers, and endless parties, finding their way and finding love—even where they’re not supposed to.

There is Olivia, the beautiful elder Davenport daughter, ready to do her duty by getting married . . . until she meets the charismatic civil rights leader Washington DeWight and sparks fly. The younger daughter, Helen, is more interested in fixing cars than falling in love—unless it’s with her sister’s suitor. Amy-Rose, the childhood friend turned maid to the Davenport sisters, dreams of opening her own business—and marrying the one man she could never be with, Olivia and Helen’s brother, John. But Olivia’s best friend, Ruby, also has her sights set on John Davenport, though she can’t seem to keep his interest . . . until family pressure has her scheming to win his heart, just as someone else wins hers.

Inspired by the real-life story of the Patterson family, The Davenports is the tale of four determined and passionate young Black women discovering the courage to steer their own path in life—and love.

What I think:

This is really great YA historical fiction that fills a massive gap on the market. It’s been called the ‘Black Bridgerton’ but I think that undersells the book.

Exploring life in Gilded Age Chicago, this is told from four different female voices. Olivia and Helen are the Davenport daughters. Rich and beautiful, they feel the wait if expectation. Just one generation removed from slavery, they are are navigating the social world as young black women. Olivia’s best friend Ruby is desperately looking to marry well after her father has invested his future in a political campaign. Amy-Rose is caught between worlds as a friend and maid to the Davenports. Her feelings for their older brother are becoming more complicated. She’s also trying to open her own business and faces prejudice as a bi-racial woman in a man’s world.

This has all the glamour and romance you would expect of a period drama with lots of fashion and social dilemmas. But there is added depth as Olivia explores the world beyond her social circle and gains an insight into the poverty and hardships of the black community. Her excitement for a society wedding wains as she becomes more socially and politically aware.

Helen is also struggling to find her way. A natural tomboy, she is interested in mechanics and automobiles, hobbies which are not appropriate for a young lady.

Each of the characters is well-developed, and you get to know them all by the end of the novel. The switching of narrative viewpoints can be frustrating when you want to find out more about a character and this sometimes slows the pace of the novel.

This is billed as the first book in the series, and I will definitely be interested to see where the writer takes the characters in the future.

Thanks to Netgalley for a gifted digital copy of The Davenports.

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