Cartier’s Hope: A Novel
New York City, 1910. Vera Garland is the unmarried daughter of department store magnate Granville Garland. She’s also Vee Swann, author of the society column “Silk, Satin, and Scandals” and numerous exposes. Though she was injured on her latest assignment, two events coincide to bring her back to writing. First, Cartier brings the Hope Diamond to New York and plays up its history of bad luck to drum up interest. Then she finds a letter among her late father’s books stating that he and his male lover had been blackmailed. Her investigations lead to a spiral of secrets, blackmail, and thievery, showing the uncomfortable underbelly of the upper crust of the Gilded Age.
I have to admit that at first I wasn’t certain about this book. It’s wonderfully written, which is obvious from the very first chapter. It’s also, however, stuffed full of exposition, at least in the first few chapters. While this does help to bring readers up to speed regarding Vera’s world, I worried that the whole book would be closer to a textbook than a novel. Luckily, the chunks of exposition eased up as the book went on, and I hardly even noticed when they finished. History buffs will certainly find them interesting, but casual readers may well be daunted. My advice is to push on. Once you get well into it, Cartier’s Hope is a fascinating book.
Its quality, of course, comes not least from its well-written characters. Vera is a powerful figure, flawed yet forceful, and she drives the plot forward in her determination to deal with her father’s blackmailer. Jacob Asher, the mysterious jeweler who catches her eye, is intriguing, keeping Vera (and readers) forever on her toes. Even the side characters are excellent. So many writers fall into the trap of making their side characters one dimensional, but M. J. Rose escapes this without going too far in the opposite direction and giving exhaustive exposition on everyone the protagonist meets. Everyone in Vera’s world is clearly a fully realized person, but they all have the privacy to keep their own secrets until the plot forces them out.
Cartier’s Hope absolutely swept me away. I loved every page, even those full of exposition, and would gladly recommend it to any fan of historical fiction. In fact, I’ve even begun suggesting it to some of my friends.
This page was created by an City Book Review staff member.
|Author||M. J. Rose|
|Page Count||336 pages|
|Amazon||Buy this Book|