Cover Image: Wild Women and the Blues

Wild Women and the Blues

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Member Reviews

The jazz age in Chicago came to life in this book and transported me to the 1920's from the beginning. The setting is so vividly described that I felt as if I was there with Honoree, seeing, hearing, smelling the clubs and watching as she danced and entertained. I could taste the liquor, feel her hard work in her dancing and picture the clothes she made. This book really transported me to a time I didn't know much about and made me care about Honoree and her friends. The twist at the end was so well done and the story kept me riveted and turning pages. I definitely recommend this book!
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Oh my!

Thanks to the good folks at NetGalley for the chance to read an advanced reader's copy of this marvelous new book.

I loved everything about it: the perspectives, the split timeline, all of the characters (especially the characters!), the place, the authentic history, plus the stories, the pain and the love.

Debut novel, you say? Oh good. I'll be watching for what Denny S. Bryce writes next.
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This was an interesting read. I loved the storyline. All characters are well crafted. This book is a must read and was excellent for a debut.
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this story went back and forth in Chicago in 1925 to present time. There was nothing left out of this book it was genuine and intriguing. I loved every minute of this book. I felt the back and forth went smoothly through the chapters. I didn't want to pt this book down. I look forward to reading more books by Denny S Bryce.

** I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchanged for a honest review**
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Fans of historical fiction are in for a treat with Wild Women and the Blues, a dual timeline novel about Jazz Age Chicago with its beautiful, fun but dark and dangerous world of juice joints, dance girls and racketeering, and a young man searching for redemption in twenty-first century America.

Sawyer Hayes’ life changed in an instant. He was driving during the car accident in which his sister Azizi died and has been haunted by guilt – and her ghost – for the past year. He’s tired of mourning and longs for a return to normality. Since he’s a documentary film maker/student, normal for him would be to tell an important story of black history.  He believes his grandmother’s memory box contains the key to doing just that, because within it he found pictures and a film reel which link 110-year-old Honoree Dalcour to the legendary black director/producer Oscar Micheaux. He’s not sure what the relationship between Honoree and his grandmother is but he knows his grandmother pays for Honoree’s care, which means he knows where she’s at, how to get access to her and that she’s still sharp as a tack. He’s hoping Honoree can fill in some of the gaps in the great man’s history and give Sawyer a thesis that will help him launch his career. All he has to do is get Honoree to agree to an interview.

Her response to that request: Why would I talk to you about my life? I don’t know you, and even if I did, I don’t tell my story to just any boy with long hair, who probably smokes weed. You wanna hear about me. You gotta tell me something about you. To make this worth my while.”

Honoree has packed her 110 years with a lot of living. Before she wound up in the retirement facility where she will spend her final days, she had been a queen of song and dance. From her humble roots as a sharecropper’s daughter, to the dingy dancing stage of Miss Hattie’s to the brightest star in the 1920s black and tan Chicago Jazz scene the Dreamland Café, Honoree sang and danced her way to unimaginable heights. Dreamland introduced her to the best life had to offer – gorgeous clothes, bootleg whiskey, socializing with celebrities like Louis Armstrong and filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. But the Dreamland had its shadowy, sinister side, too and perhaps nothing is as perilous to Honoree’s dreams than former lover Ezekiel Bailey. He’d broken her heart once but the second time around getting tangled up with him could cost Honoree a lot more than a little pain – it could take everything from her that she worked so hard to build.

Sawyer wants Honoree’s story, but that story contains secrets. Secrets which even now have the power to hurt those she once loved, and while Sawyer might not know it, to hurt those he loves, too.

This novel portrays the world of mob violence as it was – racism, rape, physical abuse, sexual assault, murder – all make appearances on the pages. The book doesn’t glorify these things at all, but it makes it clear they were part of everyday life for women like Honoree and her friends. Rendering the situation all the more heartbreaking is the young age of the ladies who suffer through all this. Many of them have long sexual histories by the time they are in their late teens and a lot of that sex isn’t a matter of choice but survival. Yet somehow the author makes their tales an utter triumph. In a time where the life of a young black woman was as easy to snuff out as a candle, the heroines featured in these pages are bright enough, strong enough, clever enough not just to survive but thrive. Especially Honoree. My favorite portions of the book deal with her life in the speakeasy era, when she danced and sang for men who only wanted to use her. I liked that she was able to use them right back.

She doesn’t do this by becoming hard, but by having enough sense to watch out for herself while still having enough heart to be a decent human being. Honoree sees the quiet people who suffer in the backgrounds of life and helps them, such as young Bessie, a fellow dancer at Miss Hattie’s, who’s fallen on hard times and would probably have sunk rather than swum without Honoree’s aid. Honoree’s relationship with Ezekiel displays this mix of wit and warmth as well. He hurt her badly by promising to love and cherish her and then disappearing from her life without a word three years before they encounter each other again in the dance hall scene. She doesn’t just fall back in love with him but demands explanations for the past as well as studying who he is in the present, and she forgives him slowly and makes him earn her trust. At the same time, she is open to him winning her back so long as he can prove he’s worthy of doing so. I liked that their relationship is rebuilt with caution, that while both acknowledge the hurts of the past neither allows that to destroy their hope of happiness in the future.

Sawyer, like Honoree, has been through some tough times. But while hers is an action-packed physical tale of endurance, his is an emotional journey of acceptance and family. When Honoree tells him she wants his life story in exchange for her own, it seems like a simple case of quid pro quo but we slowly realize that their two lives might be more linked than he could have imagined. I loved that journey of discovery and also the budding romance he begins with Honoree’s nurse Lula.

While not listed on the back blurb, the bulk of this story is a mystery. It’s not just a question of the relationship between Sawyer’s grandmother and Honoree, which is a puzzle that slowly comes together throughout the tale, but a certified whodunit with a climatic ending that changes the trajectory of the lives of all those involved. The author does an excellent job with this aspect of the story, letting it build quietly in the background, piece by small piece until the final chapters, when everything starts to come together, and you find yourself reading into the wee hours just to find out what happened.

In fact, the book’s only flaw is that once we reach that climax, the story seems to lose steam, and everything is wrapped up a bit too neatly and quickly in the epilogue. I would have preferred a few more pages to flesh out what happened after the twist, but the story instead becomes an incomplete summation of several crucial years after we reach that point.

The epilogue does at least give us enough information to provide a somewhat satisfactory ending and given the brilliance of the rest of the story, I would still strongly recommend Wild Women and the Blues to those who love historical novels and are eager to dip into one that is beautifully written and rich in detail.
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Beautifully written history story. I loved the dual POVs and the step back into history that Ms. Bryce give us. Want to read a book that is pretty close to perfect? Pick u0p Wild Women and the Blues, you'll not be disappointed at all.
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3.5 Stars

I picked this book up because the summary reminded me of Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which I loved. 

The 1920s part of this book didn’t disappoint. I don’t read many titles during this era, and it was fun to experience a time that you learn about in history class but never get to go in depth about the people. As a former musician I also enjoyed the brief mentions of famous 1920s jazz artists in Chicago.  

Honoree Dalcour is an ambitious dancer In 1920s Chicago who is willing to do whatever it takes to dance her way to the top of the food chain. Unfortunately Chicago is full of gangsters, gambling, and illegal alcohol, and Honoree can never catch a break. How much does one risk to achieve their dreams?

Sawyer is a film student working on his final thesis in 2015 after a terrible tragedy. Honoree Delacour is 110 years old and the only living link to Oscar Micheaux, legendary film maker. Sawyer knows that if he can convince Honoree to help him, he will be able to complete his thesis and move on in his life. Only the links Honoree makes aren’t the ones he thinks she will. 

Both characters deal with love, loss, and forgiveness. 

I really enjoyed reading about Honoree. I thought both she and 1920s Chicago was fascinating. Some of the decisions she made questionable in my opinion, but I wasn’t around then so who I am to judge. I thought the author did an amazing job of bringing the setting to life. 

I really disliked Sawyer’s chapters. They felt forced and unnecessary at times. The conflicts created for his character did not make me care more for him at all. And the supernatural element of the story was confusing and heavy handed at best. Fortunately there are significantly more chapters about Honoree than Sawyer, and I know that’s the formula for historical fiction novels these days, but I would have enjoyed the book so much more if it was just about Honoree. 

I will be recommending this to my readers who enjoy historical fiction and are looking for something other than WWII stories. I think this book fills a niche hole in the genre that my customers are going to really enjoy. Also, the cover is stunning!

CW: death, car accident, attempted suicide, attempted rape, drugs & alcohol. 

I received this book as a free review copy. Thank you to the publisher and netgalley. All opinions are my own.
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For a first time author, I felt the author did such an amazing job with the story.  Sawyer Hayes finds an old movie reel that may contain former dancer Honoree Delacour.  As they talk, Honoree talks about her past, and some of the things she's seen and experienced.  As the two of them continue along with the conversation, secrets are revealed that Sawyer was not expecting. 

Such a well written and amazing story line., as well as a plot twist that was surprising, it made me wan t to throw my kindle.  I just was not expecting some of it.  I truly can't wait for the net book from this author.
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I sadly expected more from this book. It has two parallel stories, one taking place in 1925 and another in 2015 and from the beginning I did not enjoy the modern day story. But I have to admit that the story which took place in Chicago during the 1920s was also not my cup of tea. It had little to do with what the characters were discussing in the present part of the book and has a lot of confusing elements. I know that the author put a lot if research into this book to make it as accurate as possible, but I sadly did not enjoy it a lot. It had a weird twist and the characters were all not very appealing to me. Would sadly not really recommend.
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I heard such great things about this book and went in with high hopes in loving it. 
At first the 1925 timeline was more interesting and kept me wanting to read and the 2015 timeline wasn’t as engaging to me. Then about halfway through the more recent timeline got more interesting and took on a mystery tone.  This is when I really started to engage with the book and wanted to know what would happen. And I really enjoyed how the book ended. 
I also liked how Sawyer was a male talking to an older female. In a lot of HF dual timelines it’s both women main characters.
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I admit it - I picked this book because of the cover. Isn't it stunning? And despite the old adage, sometimes choosing that way works out!

WILD WOMEN AND THE BLUES is the story of Honoree Dalcour, a chorus girl in jazz-era Chicago. Told through dual timelines - 1925 where Honoree tries to get ahead while navigating the dangerous world of gambling, gangsters and bootleg booze, and 2015 where Sawyer Hayes, a film student, visits the 110-year-old Honoree hoping she can shed light on her relationship to an iconic filmmaker form the 20s. 

I loved Honoree's chapters. She's a strong heroine who knows what she wants and doesn't rely on a man to get it. Bryce weaves real people like Louis Armstrong and Al Capone into her story and really brings Chicago during the Prohibition to life. I also really liked her relationships with Ezekiel, her first love who has re-entered her life after breaking her heart and going MIA for three years, and Bessie, a young woman she takes under her wing. 

I had issues with Sawyer's sections. His story never connected with me (although I did like that there was a male POV - I sort of wish we had gotten Ezekiel's instead). There's a lot going on in his plot line and while I'm sure it was supposed to make him sympathetic, most of it confused me. I also found his relationship with Lulu, one of Honoree's nurses, problematic. She shared a lot of Honoree's personal information with Sawyer which was completely unprofessional.

Had this book been soley Honoree's story, it would have been a five-star read for me. The setting and the mystery in her timeline had me riveted and Bryce's writing is vivid and she added some great twists along the way. But Sawyer's parts pulled my rating down to 3.5 stars rounded up. 

Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for a copy to review.
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4.5 beautiful stars for this amazing historical fiction filled with Blues, Black history, mobsters, love, and generational bonds. 

Wild Women and the Blues is an extensively researched book following two fictional characters, Sawyer and Honoree Dalcour as they attempt to piece together the mystery around Honoree's life in 1925s Chicago.

We meet Honoree Dalcour, a chorus girl in 1920's Chicago who has dreams of making it big. While attempting to seek fame at a newer club, a tragic turn of events occurs. We follow Honoree as she attempts to escape danger but also solve a mystery.

We are also following Sawyer in 2015 who is a film student who is seeking additional sources to help complete his Ph.D. while also navigating a terrible family loss. Sawyer believes that Honoree's story will be the perfect addition to the film he is making. However, Sawyer doesn't realize that Honoree's story will not only help him to fill in missing pieces for his film but will also personally help heal him.

Bryce did an amazing job at keeping my attention throughout the entire book. I went into this book thinking that I would learn more about the Chicago Jazz scene but didn't expect to also attempt to solve a mystery. This is a must-read if you're a fan of Black history, mysteries, and music. 

Thank you to Netgalley, Denny S. Bryce, and Kensington for my advance review copy in exchange for an honest review.
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This novel was not only engrossing, it was of high topical cultural interest. Was delighted to include it in the March edition of Novel Encounters, my column highlighting the month's top fiction for Zed Books, Zoomer magazine’s writers and reading vertical (full review at at link).
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I absolutely adored this book. Once I got into it I couldn’t put it down. Loved the history mixed in with the fictional characters. I also loved the surprises the book shared and adored the epilogue.
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Confession time: I picked up Wild Women and the Blues just for the cover; I had no idea what it was about (other than 1-women, and 2-blues) and I didn’t care. I have cover envy on behalf of all the authors out there whose covers aren’t this fabulous!

Ok. Let’s get (a bit) serious. Wild Women and the Blues is as fab read (yes, even when one doesn’t know what they’re walking into). Told in 2 alternating timelines, it’s the story of independent young women dealing with harassment and even assault to follow their dreams, and a young man who’s trying to finish his dissertation and finds more than he bargained for.

In 1925 Chicago, Honoree Dalcour is an aspiring chorus girl who’s trying to get a better opportunity than what she currently has, without ticking off her boss. She can’t afford to lose this job, after all. Not until she has the next in hand. She meets Bessie Palmer, and the two somehow wind up in cahoots as they try to avoid getting killed in this story of the wild swinging 20s Black blues scene. Murder, homicide, and arson don’t hold these gals back as they use their wits and charm to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.

In current times, Sawyer Hayes finds clues linking his ailing grandmother to Honoree, though it’s not the link he thinks it is. His interactions with Honoree are initially abrupt and almost rude (on both parts!), before he and Honoree figure out their footing.

I liked Honoree’s POV best. The scenes are vividly painted, the people vibrant and real. And you can’t help but root for Honoree’s ambition – and her heart when her former beau shows up on scene. Sawyer comes across as a bit of a brat initially. It isn’t until about halfway through his interactions with Honoree that I thought he “deserved” to find out more from this 105-year-old.

The ending came a bit abruptly in my opinion, like a freight train screeching into the station too quickly. And the surprise at the end? Totally hinted at in one of Sawyer & Honoree’s initial interactions.

drey’s rating: Excellent!
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This recently published historical fiction novel takes place in Chicago in 1925 and in 2015.  

This was a new time period and subject for me, and I enjoyed learning about it.  It took place during Prohibition, Al Capone’s time, and the emergence of jazz.  It also addresses segregation and racism during the 1925 time period.  

Honoree Dalcour is an ambitious up and coming dancer who is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.  As she becomes more successful, she rubs elbows with celebrities and is drawn into some dangerous events.

Sawyer Hayes is a film student in 2015 and thinks Honoree (still living) might be able to help him with his thesis and a recent discovery.  However, she’s only willing to share her secrets if he will share his.  Both Honoree and Sawyer have painful secrets in their past.  The chapters switch from last to present with most of the story taking place in 1925 (more action). The 2015 storyline is quieter but equally moving.  

4.5 stars rounded up to 5.

Thanks to NetGalley, BookishFirst, and Kensington Books for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
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This book was wonderful and full of intrigue, and kept surprising me at every turn. It literally never went the way I was expecting!! I loved reading about Chicago in the 1920s, and the jazz scene and the lives of Black people during that time. It was fascinating and beautiful and sad. Honoree was a stunning character, beautifully written with depth and grace and a temper. Bessie was lovely too, she deserved so much goodness, even when it was hard to come by. I also enjoyed the present day parts, which were interesting and again, unexpected!! Overall, absolutely stellar.
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Bryce knocks it out of the park with her debut novel. The two time-lines (1925 and 2015) are woven together seamlessly. This is perfect for anyone who loves jazz, Chicago, and well-crafted storylines.
4.5 Stars
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Thank you NetGalley and Kensington Books for providing me with an ARC ebook version of Wild women and the Blues, by Denny S. Bryce, in exchange for my honest review. The subject and the character development along with the dual timeline drew me in and kept me interested  The characters were realistic and so likable (or not).  Even when the book wasn't in front of me, I caught myself wondering about them.  The vivid imagery of the costumes and the settings were also part of what made this a top read. I really enjoyed this book and will certainly be looking for more by this author.
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If only. The theme of this colorful,in-depth story of life among people of color especially Honoree Delacour. Honoree is living the last of her days in a home,protected by those who attend her daily. Into that life comes a man determined to change his if only into a real retelling of her life. Even in age Honoree has rules she follows from a life lived the hard way first and they among the notable later. All along the way she paid a heavy price for the her freedom of movement and a life free from regret. Sawyer the young man in question chafes under her demands but is bound by the need to finish the treatment and move on to a product that will secure his future. Each needs something from the other and it takes a little give from both to satisfy both. The graphic depiction of the times and the emergence of mobs from boyhood gangs is a recurring undercurrent. The dash for cash , and deal making adds a modern element as Sawyer negotiates with the money people and Honoree. In the end Sawyer realizes hers was a rich and vibrant moment in history and he felt a debt to tell it as an honor to her.
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