In Depression-era Boston, a city divided by privilege and poverty, two unlikely friends are bound by a dangerous secret in this mesmerizing work of historical fiction from the New York Times bestselling author of The Perfume Collector.
Maeve Fanning is a first generation Irish immigrant, born and raised among the poor, industrious Italian families of Boston’s North End by her widowed mother. Clever, capable, and as headstrong as her red hair suggests, she’s determined to better herself despite the overwhelming hardships of the Great Depression.
However, Maeve also has a dangerous fondness for strange men and bootleg gin—a rebellious appetite that soon finds her spiraling downward, leading a double life. When the strain proves too much, Maeve becomes an unwilling patient in a psychiatric hospital, where she strikes up a friendship with an enigmatic young woman, who, like Maeve, is unable or unwilling to control her un-lady-like desire for freedom.
Once out, Maeve faces starting over again. Armed with a bottle of bleach and a few white lies, she lands a job at an eccentric antiques shop catering to Boston’s wealthiest and most peculiar collectors. Run by an elusive English archeologist, the shop is a haven of the obscure and incredible, providing rare artifacts as well as unique access to the world of America’s social elite. While delivering a purchase to the wealthy Van der Laar family, Maeve is introduced to beautiful socialite Diana Van der Laar—only to discover she’s the young woman from the hospital.
Reunited with the charming but increasingly unstable Diana and pursued by her attractive brother James, Mae becomes more and more entwined with the Van der Laar family—a connection that pulls her into a world of moral ambiguity and deceit, and ultimately betrayal. Bewitched by their wealth and desperate to leave her past behind, Maeve is forced to unearth her true values and discover how far she’ll to go to reinvent herself.
Tessaro's (The Perfume Collector) sixth novel navigates a complicated friendship between two damaged young women in 1932 Boston. After finishing secretarial school, Maeve Fanning moved to New York to seek her fortune a venture that lasted less than a year and ended with a stay in a mental institution. Now she's returned to her native Boston, and in order to put New York behind her, she decides to reinvent herself. She dyes her red hair blond, shortens her name to the less Irish-sounding May, and fibs her way into a job as a sales clerk at Winshaw and Kessler Antiques, where her penchant for embellishment proves to be an asset. May's cover is nearly blown when young socialite Diana Van der Laar recognizes her from their shared time in the mental institution. Bound by this secret, May and Diana become fast friends, and May's suddenly swept up in the wild social scene of Boston's upper crust. An illicit affair with Diana's dashing older brother complicates the friendship, as does Diana's own secrets. To varying degrees of success, Tessaro overlays a historical setting and antiquated moral code onto some very modern-feeling situations. An intriguing correspondence between May and the shop's mysterious absentee co-owner brings further entertainment and character insight, though it doesn't fit seamlessly into the rest of the plot. Still, Tessaro's complicated heroines and the shattering reveal of secret after secret will keep readers guessing until the final page.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Very good. Great characters. Very different and worth reading!