Synopsis: A young woman without prospects at a ball in Gilded Age Newport, Rhode Island is a target for a certain kind of “suitor.” At the Memorial Day Ball during the Panic of 1893, impoverished but feisty Penelope Stanton draws the unwanted advances of a villainous millionaire banker who preys on distressed women—the incorrigible Edgar Daggers. Over a series of encounters, he promises Penelope the financial security she craves, but at what cost? Skilled in the art of flirtation, Edgar is not without his charms, and Penelope is attracted to him against her better judgment. Initially, as Penelope grows into her own in the burgeoning early Women’s Suffrage Movement, Edgar exerts pressure, promising to use his power and access to help her advance. But can he be trusted, or are his words part of an elaborate mind game played between him and his wife? During a glittering age where a woman’s reputation is her most valuable possession, Penelope must decide whether to compromise her principles for love, lust, and the allure of an easier life.
The author does a great job of bringing the 1890s to life. Her writing is descriptive , understandable and is realistic. We meet Penelope at the ball after being dumped by her fiancée due to her family’s economic hardships. It immediately makes the reader feel compassion for her. The characters were well developed although not always likable. There were too many characters to touch on everyone but I will mention a few. Penelope’s father was so depressed he was withdrawn from his family and idly stood by while her mother made most decisions. I didn’t like Penelope’s mother, she attested to the motto of image is everything and would have allowed her daughter to enter into a toxic relationship just to maintain her lifestyle. I liked Penelope’s sister, Lydia and felt heart broken that at 15, she was being forced to choose marriage to save her family.
It is easy to forget in this modern age, how in that historical time period, women had little rights. How after puberty, a girl was considered to be a woman old enough to marry. At 20+, if not married a woman is relegated to be a spinster. The story pace was fast and the story kept me guessing what would happen next. There were a few times when I wanted to shake Penelope to wake her up because what she and Daggers had wasn’t love. I liked the growth that Penelope experienced in working with the suffrage movement. Overall, I would recommend it to anyone who loves coming of age tales mixed with romance and history.