True love confronts Gilded Age class hierarchy in Jakes's latest engaging historical potboiler. Railroad tycoon Sam Driver sets out to conquer the summer resort of Newport, R.I., at the 1890s pinnacle of its glamour and snootiness in order to avenge its snubbing of his dead wife and find a prestigious match for his daughter, Jenny. It's a world ruled by New York socialites, where the slightest blemish of background or breach of protocol triggers ostracism. Sam struggles to conform while fending off the efforts of an old rival to exclude him, but Jenny throws a monkey wrench into things by falling in love with a handsome, lower-class Irishman. Jakes serves up a melodrama and satire of the tyranny of social convention with a girl-power ending. It doesn't always ring true, especially when Sam pressures Jenny to marry the obviously villainous Count Orlov, and action set pieces like a tennis match and a carriage race are less than gripping. But Jakes is a fluent storyteller, and his meticulous reconstruction of fin-de-si cle excess will have fans savoring the lavish details of jewelry, fashion, food and follies. (Nov. 7) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Jakes's latest historical novel is a very mixed bag. The details of life in the so-called Gilded Age of the 1890s are fascinating, but the political and economic travails of the rich as shown here are confusing and detract from the story. Worse, the plot is predictable. Robber baron Sam Driver made his money as a railroad mogul after the Civil War and now wants his family to be accepted in the socially elite community of Newport, RI. His daughter, Jenny, of course, falls for a poor if ambitious young Irishman but is forced to marry someone else; however, we all know she will eventually find true happiness. Those Jakes readers who enjoy his novels best when they are massive and wrapped around a major war or historical event (e.g., the Civil War in the "North and South" trilogy) will be disappointed, as this new work is on the short side, lacks drama, and is more a romance than an epic. At 74, Jakes shows no sign of stopping, but he should go back to what he does best. For larger collections.-Robert Conroy, Warren, MI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Folksy storyteller Jakes (Charleston, 2002, etc.) directs a relatively economical drama of scandal and bad manners amid newly rich robber barons climbing the summer social ladder in Newport, RI. Having cut his teeth working for Erie Railroad moguls Jay Gould and Jim Fisk after the Civil War, Samuel Driver has gotten to be a millionaire railroad baron in his own right-the break-your-knees way. Having married the good-looking hotel dancer Grace Penny, and with a grown auburn-haired daughter named Jenny, Sam the swell is blocked from cracking polite society by the nobs at Newport, however, mainly on account of bad blood between him and William K Brady III, undercut by Driver in a Wall Street bond scheme decades before. Now, in 1893, an intruder in Driver's home leaves Grace dead from a gunshot, and Sam and 18-year-old Jenny decide to build that house in Newport after all, because Grace wanted it. Mrs. Astor, Mrs. Fish and Mrs. Vanderbilt, however, must be vanquished, and especially Mrs. William Brady, Emmeline, aka the Tigress, sherry-sodden and off her rocker, who concocts the plot to ruin Jenny Driver by urging her daughter, Honoria, to befriend the girl all the while talking ill behind her back. And Honoria has her cap set on suave young architect Dickie Glossop, but once Dickie spots Jenny, he agrees to design the new Driver cottage, despite his better social instincts. Jenny has a will of her own, though, and is terribly attracted to a handsome Irish sportsman, Prince Molloy, who wins Jenny's love but pays dearly for it when roughed up by her father's thugs. Driver, naturally, aims to have his daughter married to a titled gentleman, such as the charming, brutal Count Orlov, of bogusRussian-French title, but good enough for Driver's purposes. Historical personages blend nicely with the fictional in Jakes's neatly organized saga, and the folly and ambitions of a father and rapacious businessman are exposed and forgiven. Another well-hewn American history lesson for Jakes's devoted fans. Agent: Frank Curtis/Rembar & Curtis