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Posted August 12, 2011
Rollicking Fun and Intrigue on the Streets of Old New York
Beverly Swerling's acclaimed New York City saga spans the time from the Civil War to the Gilded Age of the 1880s. The stories of the Turner and Devrey families continue. The book brims over with the city's explosive expansion, gripping characters and a plot that highlights 19th century social mores. The book cover features fireworks over the newly erected Brooklyn Bridge, but the real sparklers are within its pages. We have followed Beverly Swerling's characters and their descendants through two centuries since the New York City saga began in City of Dreams. In this latest installment, Josh and Mollie Turner negotiate the ups and downs of their marriage almost as well as their dream to build "French flats," leased one-floor apartments stacked into a high-rise well north of the city. We sense a collision course will ensue with the project but seeing how it unfolds is revelatory. Along the way we bump into arsonists, brothel owners, real estate tycoons, blackmailers, kidnappers and spies. The real star is New York itself. Swerling's ability to cram period detail into an absorbing plot makes you feel you're walking the city streets along with the characters. Grand mansions spread northward, subways threaten to run underground, and apartment buildings stretch skyward. Ride a steam-driven Otis elevator. Attend the opening of the Metropolitan Opera. Stay on top of events with the New York Times, an upscale newspaper. Learn about Edison's improvements to the Bell telephone, steel-girded apartment buildings and a fashion revelation called the maternity dress. Swerling expertly creates fascinating characters that inform us of history. Her knowledge of New York City's history and geography illuminates her subject.City of Promise is so absorbing that when the last page is turned, the reader is unaware that he had a history lesson to top that of a college classroom. No worries if you haven't read the other books in the series, as the last one stands on its own. How refreshing to see authors take a different tack than in previous books. Swerling has upped her game in City of Promise. Instead of relying on surgical procedures and salacious scenes, she turns her beloved Big Apple into a hero. Intrigue and entertainment are its close friends to the last page. In this reviewer's mind, it is the best book of the series. Simon and Schuster graciously provided the review copy. The opinions expressed are unbiased and entirely those of the reviewer. Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont
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