Ingenue: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Ingenue by Jillian LarkinGloria Carmody had to leave Chicago in a hurry after killing a mobster. She hoped to find a new start in New York City with Jerome Johnson. But a white woman loving a black man is just as hard in New York as it was in Chicago. Love aside, living in New York is much harder without the Carmody money supporting her.

Vera Johnson knows Gloria and her brother Jerome left Chicago for good reason. But when trouble threatens to follow them to New York will Vera be able to warn them both before it’s too late?

Lorraine Dyer is reader for a fresh start of her own in New York. One short summer is all that stands between her and a clean slate at Barnard. But before she can forget about her less than glamorous departure from Chicago society, Lorraine needs to mete out some justice. Gloria was supposed to be her best friend. Instead she abandoned Lorraine and let her be humiliated. In public. It’s only fair that Lorraine help give Gloria what she has coming to her.

Following her boyfriend Marcus Eastman to New York seemed like the perfect idea. Clara Knowles was sure it would help cement her new life leaving her flapper days far behind. But when a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity draws her back to glittering world of booze and flappers, Clara isn’t sure she can walk away again.

A new city. A new life. Everyone is trying to get away from their past. But sometimes life won’t let you forget a thing in Ingenue (2011) by Jillian Larkin.

Ingenue is the second book in The Flappers series which started last year with Vixen. (The series will conclude in 2012 with Diva.)

Much like the blase parties Clara observes upon her return to New York City, the latest installment in this series has lost some of its luster.

While the plot moved logically here building on the events of the first book, the characters did not. A lot of their behaviors felt contrived, especially Clara who went abruptly  from reading a lot to fervently wanting to a writer. And then became kind of selfish about it besides. It was also disappointing to see Lorraine once again being so sorely abused. (She is either a much abused heroine or the most sympathetic villain in the entire world–which one she is will hopefully be determined once and for all in Diva.)

With none of the characters actually seeing each other until the last hundred or so pages of the novel, the alternating chapters following each heroine just feel choppy and disjointed. Combined with the numerous missed connections between Vera and Gloria the book started to feel very forced.

Ingenue is a decent installment and a fine bridge to the conclusion of the trilogy. It just was not, sadly, quite as brilliant as the first book in the series.

Possible Pairings: Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, Flappers and Philosophers by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher, Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen, The Luxe by Anna Godbersen, The Sheik by Edith Hull, Bowery Girl by Kim Taylor

Exclusive Bonus Content: The titles of these books are annoying me. I really think they should have been reversed and the first book should have been called Ingenue since Gloria really was new to the flapper world and everything in the first book. Vixen, to me, is a much more fitting title for this second volume. At least the third title (Diva) sounds like it will be appropriate.

Vixen: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Vixen by Jillian LarkinGloria Carmody thought she had everything she could want: the big diamond, the handsome fiance, the promise of a secure, respectable life among Chicago’s high society. But as her wedding looms ever nearer all Gloria can think of is a notorious speakeasy and the piano player who intrigues her more than her fiance ever has. Or will.

Lorraine Dyer doesn’t understand the sudden change in her best friend, but if Gloria wants to release her inner flapper, why not? After all Lorraine is known for innovating the flapper style among their circle of friends. She’s also known for some less flattering attributes like being brash. And perhaps being a bit indiscreet with her flask. But isn’t that what the Roaring Twenties are all about? Maybe Gloria’s dive into the world of flappers and speakeasies will mean Lorraine can finally shine on her own.

Gloria’s cousin, Clara Knowles, knows more than her share about being a flapper. A lot more. But with the threat of reform school and her reputation in tatters, Clara is sent to Chicago to help plan Gloria’s wedding. It isn’t glamorous or particularly fun. But maybe starting over in a new city is just what she needs to leave her sordid past far behind for once and for all.

It’s 1923. Prohibition has driven drinking underground, women are cutting their hair and raising their hemlines, life is a party and everyone is ready to have some fun. For three young women in Chicago the world is full of possibilities if they’re ready to take a chance in Vixen (2010) by Jillian Larkin.

Vixen is the first book in Larkin’s series The Flappers.

Published in December 2010, it will inevitably be compared to Anna Godbersen’s widely anticipated Bright Young Things released in October 2010. Don’t let the similarities fool you, Vixen stands on its own two feet.

The story is told in chapters alternating viewpoints between Gloria, Lorraine and  Clara. The narratives shift and twist with each character’s experiences but ultimately come together to create a poignant, exciting story. The combined perspectives add depth to the story, especially for Lorraine and Clara who spend most of the story tragically misunderstood by a lot of the other characters, not to mention by each other.

Here is an effervescent story that captures essence of the 1920s in book form. Larkin blends fashion, historical detail and vivid writing to create an original story that evokes not only the exuberance of life in the 1920s but also the confusion felt by women, particularly her three heroines, as they struggle with what it means to be a free-spirited flapper after growing up in the straight-laced world of the 1910s.

Vixen is strikingly authentic with fun slang, engaging characters and an exciting story that will leave readers guessing until the sensational conclusion. This book also has a stunning cover by Zhang Jingna.

Gloria, Lorraine and Clara’s story continues in Ingenue.

Possible Pairings: What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell, Flappers and Philosophers by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher, Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen, The Luxe by Anna Godbersen, The Sheik by Edith Hull, Bowery Girl by Kim Taylor, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, Heroes and Thieves by Vanessa Carlton (CD)

Exclusive Bonus Content: I cannot say too much but I really loved Lorraine. Clara might have been the most well-rounded character but Lorraine is a spitfire with a heart of gold–even if no one knows it. I hope everyone appreciates her more in the second book.