Cover Image: Wild Women and the Blues

Wild Women and the Blues

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This book was the closest to perfect that a book has come in a long, long time. I love a dual time period historical novel. This one drew me in from the first lines and I could NOT put it down once I started! I heard an editor talk about this book a few weeks ago and sang its praises and I just didn't expect the vibrant prose and vivid imagery- felt like I was in the room. I wish there would have been a "better" explanation for a key detail, but overall, this was a great, entertaining read.

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The story is about a film student with a tragic past trying to get information from a 110 year old former dancer to unlock secrets about a famous film director. You follow two timelines, the present day timeline of our film student, Sawyer, and the 1925 timeline of our former dancer, Honoree. The book shows us 1925 Chicago right in the middle of booze and dirty dealings. You get black history, fun historic slang and the feeling of being in the midst of more than you can handle.

The idea is captivating, and as someone who enjoys historical novels and Gatsby erra fashion and influence, the black experience of the time is something that I long for. I was very excited to be dropped into the time period and see what the author had in store for us.

Unfortunately I just didn't enjoy the book as much as I had hoped which lead to me DNFing it at 38% in. I didn’t enjoy the characters, I didn’t like the film students timeline, I felt like the timelines didn’t line up in a way that I enjoyed or made sense to me. Since I didn’t finish the book I can’t say if it converged in a satisfying way. I was bored, and although Honoree’s storyline was vaguely interesting there wasn’t anything really grabbing me to make me want to push through the boring parts. No strong romance, no strong mystery, no suspense or fear. And since I don’t like any of the characters I kinda don’t care what happens to them. I also didn’t feel like the internalize racism was necessary for the story even if accurate to the time and it only made me dislike the characters even more.

I think this may be an enjoyable book for some people, and again I do really love the idea behind it. But it just wasn’t for me. I think I could get behind the unlikeable characters if the plot was more compelling and vice versa. But since the plot felt so-so, and the characters were annoying I just didn’t really want to read it. It is possible that if I had more time I would come back and have a different opinion and experience and might even finish the book but at this moment in time it is just not for me.

(Spoiler thoughts available in my goodreads review)

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irst off, I love the era, I love blues, and I love this book. I'm so glad I requested it, it's a gem. So why four stars and not five? We'll get to that later.

I knew the very second I saw Honoree and how she talked that this was it. The author managed to capture the expressions used in the 1920s with such accuracy. It never felt awkward or took me out of the story. I really appreciate the writing in general, it's a work of art.

The characters, most notably Honoree, won my heart. How can a single character be so amazing? I'm in awe.

The whole atmosphere was magnificent as well, it's like I was really there. Certain moments reminded me of the times I sat in the living room with my dad, listening to his blues collection.

I knew in my heart that Cab Calloway had to be in this. I knew it, and I was right. He means something special to me (and dad) so I'm absolutely giving bonus points for this.

I enjoyed the author's portrayal of other historical figures and how well they tied into the story too.

The plot is where it gets tricky. I was fully on board for most of it, but the murder mystery wasn't my favourite. It was a little messy and could've been handled better.

And the romance...that's my second complaint. I won't say that it was unneeded, but I wasn't feeling it.

The plot twist near the end I wasn't expecting at all. And the ending itself was nice and satisfying, for the most part. BUT!!! I have more questions. And I know poor Sawyer does too.

The Sawyer angle was an interesting one and I wish he wasn't so reluctant to share his own story. I wish him a happy life.

I would recommend this book to everyone. That's right, everyone. It deserves to be read.

*Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review*

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This book had my interest from the moment I read the synopsis as there is not enough books written regarding the roaring 20’s and this was set in Chicago which was the icing on the cake. The story was good, but there was something more I wanted from Sawyer’s perspective. I did love Honoree’s story and I liked that cranky Ms. Honoree who wanted an even trade for her story I loved. This book did have all the gangsters, racism, speakeasies, crime, jazz, and dancing that I was expecting, but I would have liked to know more. I did appreciate the epilogue but I wanted more from that too. I suppose it is a good thing when you want more of a story and it really was well researched and well written. It did have a fair amount of action and was fast paced. Trigger warnings for sexual assault, violence, murder, racism, and suicide attempt. I hope Denny Bryce continues to write because she is definitely an author I would read again!

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Wild Women and the Blues is a historical fiction novel with a dual timeline. The 1920's timeline follows Honoree Dalcour, a young black woman who finds herself alone in Chicago after her mother leaves town. Honoree becomes a dancer and through her, we become immersed in the world of flappers, speakeasies, racial tension, and bootlegging in Capone’s city.

The second timeline follows Sawyer, a young black man facing his own life struggles. In order to finish a film school project, Sawyer spends time with an aged Ms. Dalcour, learning about her life in the 20's. Through their interaction, many family secrets, both past and present are revealed.

The plot of this book is well developed, and I enjoyed it, despite a few elements being fairly obvious early on. I appreciated that the romantic scenes were not described in detail, and the end of the book tied up loose ends nicely. The only negative I can say is that there was a little too much profanity for my taste. Overall, a well-written, worthwhile read!

Review will be posted on retail sites, Goodreads, and on YouTube Channel Hicks Picks Books.

Thanks go to NetGalley and Kensington for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Thanks to Kensington Books for an advanced copy of Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce.

This historical fiction set in Chicago in 1925 and 2015 brings us to the Jazz Age in Chicago. Honoree is a dancer in the clubs of Chicago in the 1920s at one of the top clubs the Dreamland Cafe. In the modern storyline, Sawyer finds an old film and videos that include Honoree and goes to her nursing home to speak to the 110 year old woman to see if his can finish his doctoral research.

I really loved the 1920s storyline, there were great descriptions and feel for the time period and I find the Jazz Age fascinating and there aren't enough books in this era. I found the modern storyline a little harder to get into and didn't love the twist.

The author's note at the end was fun to read. I liked her inspiration for writing the book and her sharing more about her work.

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I didn’t want to put this one down; it held my attention from the start. It is a mystery and historical fiction wrapped in a romance novel. It is about ambition and loss, friends and foes, breaks and setbacks, lives lived and lost, abandonment and reconciliation, family talent and family secrets. The plot takes several unexpected turns but the ending is jaw-dropping and satisfyingly happy (as a romance novel should be).

There are dual timelines. It shows the grit and glamour of Black people trying to thrive in the 1920s and a modern day student filmmaker trying to capture the essence of Prohibition and Chicago through interviewing a well-connected chorus girl from the Jazz Age.

Learned of this book when my favorite romance author, Jasmine Guillory mentioned it in an interview. Very fortunate to have received an ARC from NetGalley and Kensington Books in exchange for an honest review.

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Highly recommend this Black historical fiction set in 1920s Jazz Age Chicago, with a contemporary 2015 storyline that works to tie up the historical story. Jazz Age Chicago comes alive here. I would have loved even more historical details because I love history, and as an historical fiction fan, it brings the one thing I look for: the desire to know more about the history in this book. So great job there! The setting of The Stroll, the different clubs, the policy gambling, Louis Armstrong, and Al Capone, it all comes together to set the stage for Honoree, the main character. We see her full growth from a young girl deserted by her mother to her dreams of dancing on a bigger stage to how she triumphs. Her struggles, her belief in herself, her success, it's all here. There is a romance attached but this is not a romance genre book, and the romance ends up fully on Honoree's terms as opposed to a central romance plot and character arc for both love interests. This is one to make sure to read the epilogue, which I would instead call the final chapter. It's not just a follow up, it's how all these characters come together for real. I thoroughly enjoyed this and it will go on the keeper shelf.

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The beautiful cover will draw you in, the story will keep you reading. Honoree Dalcour, the daughter of a sharecropper who went to Chicago in 1925. Honoree, a chorus girl at a speakeasy finds herself mixed up in a mob murder and must escape to live. Now reminiscing at age 101 in a she shares her story with a graduate student researching filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, Sawyer, the young researcher things Honoree can help him track down a missing film created by Micheaux. Along the way are clues suggesting another connection between the old lady and the researcher. This is an excellent debut novel.

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The story shares duel timelines – Sawyer Hayes and Honoree Delacour. Sawyer is a film student wishing to get information on found footage from the late filmmaker, the legendary Oscar Micheaux, and believes Honoree is one of the spotted chorus girls in the reel. These two's personality trait clashes from the start. TO ME (and I cannot stress that enough), Sawyer, who is still grieving his sister's death, comes off as childish and a wee bit selfish about finishing his film project, while Honoree is brash and as stubborn as a mule. I didn't care too much about Sawyer's story, being that it was undeveloped, but the star of the show was all about Honoree!

Flashing back on the life of Honoree, we're introduced to some characters that made an impact on her life. One of them is her childhood boo, Ezekiel Bailey. I would have like to see more between Honoree and Ezekiel. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the story not revolving around Honoree being stuck under him, but as strong as their chemistry was, I thought they would have made things work together.

There are areas in the writing that felt incomplete. I don't want to give too much away, but some actions had me questioning why it was done in the first place. When the truths came out, there wasn't an explanation reasoning how we got here. It disappointed me that I couldn't answer all of my questions from this standalone book.

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A special thanks to Kensington and NetGalley for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

In this historical fiction told in alternating timelines, Sawyer is a graduate student working on his doctoral documentary on legendary filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. His research brings him to a Chicago senior living facility to meet with 105 year-old Honoree Dalcour, that just might be the key to unlocking the truth about Micheaux's long lost work. Haunted by the death of his sister, Sawyer is running out of time to get answers from Honoree.

The book takes the reader to 1925 Chicago where the mob runs the town and no one is who they seem. Honoree is a chorus girl at Miss Hattie's speak easy, but stumbles upon a murder that turns her life upside down. With the help of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Bessie, Honoree must escape the mob in order to live. As the book continues, secrets and twists are revealed, along with surprise connections between characters. When the dust settles, the reader must figure out, just who is Honoree Dalcour and how is she connected to Sawyer.

This was an excellent debut novel from Denny S. Bryce. I really enjoyed the historical aspect of Chicago's jazz scene in the 1920's, along with its connections to the mob. While it took a bit to get into the book with all the characters and the intricate details, once you know the scene, it completely pulls you in. No one is what they seem and I was surprised and downright shocked at several points. I also really enjoyed learning more about the Black Belt in Chicago and how that directly correlates to today. Wild Women and the Blues left me entertained and guessing!

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Wild Women and the Blues takes us to 1920s Chicago, particularly the area known as the Stroll. I haven't read much in this time period or place, so I was pleased to see how well-researched the story was. The attention to detail shows up throughout, from the politics of living in Chicago's Black Belt, to the details of Honoree's dress, to the way the characters speak, you'll find yourself immersed in this world. This book has everything you could want: Black and Tan clubs, jazz, mobsters, murder, and a strong heroine. I loved everything about Honoree. She was smart and didn't hesitate to stand up for herself. Highly recommend.

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Wow. This historical fiction had me from beginning to end. Some books just hit it right.

From the blurb, you know that there are dual timelines (1925 & 2015) and that a film student is interviewing Honoree for his thesis on film legend Oscar Micheaux. It implies that Honoree has a story to tell and that this may be her last chance to tell it.

What the blurb can't possibly convey to you: the great writing, character work, and overall atmosphere of the novel. Really, I felt like I was in Chicago in 1925 living the life of a showgirl. It just flowed so seamlessly for me and I was interested in every character in here. The way they all intertwined and became a part of each other's stories (for better or for worse) made my character development-loving heart so freaking happy.

How would I pitch this? Hmmm. Evelyn Hugo meets This is Us meets Dick Tracy. That about sums it up.

Ugh. I'm so bummed this is over. I raced to get to the end because I had to see what happened and now I know what happens and I'm feeling slumpy sadness that it's done. I will definitely read more from this author in the future. Give me more.

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Denny Bryce has done a marvelous job bringing the Black belt, Jazz age Chicago to life! The debut novel is one of the best historical fiction written in current times, which weaves two timelines which are 100 years apart beautifully!!

Honoree Dalcour an ambitious chorus dancer from Chicago in 1925 wants to make her mark in the show biz industry. Sawyer, a film student in 2015 who just lost his sister to an accident has to finish his thesis on Oscar Micheaux! He interviews now 110 year old Honoree as part of his research and unearths so many hidden truths and unsolved mysteries!!

I really enjoyed Bryce’s penmanship in bringing the glitzy Jazz era filled with music, racketeering, mob and murder in the colored neighborhood of Chicago! I was in awe of the immense love and understanding between Honoree and Ezekiel playing subtly in the backdrop! Every fan of historical fiction and entertainment lover should definitely read this captivating tale of love, loss and forgiveness!

Thank you NetGalley and Kensington books for this gifted galley in exchange of my honest review!

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The story takes place in two timelines switching between 1925 and 2015 depending on the chapter. Sawyer is a young filmmaker who after suffering from the loss of his sister is trying to finish a film project. After finding an old film reel he believes to be a lost work by the legendary Oscar Micheaux, he decides to visit 110 year old Honoree Dalcour who he believes starred in the film. The story then dips back in Honoree's life in 1925 when she was a chorus girl with big dreams dancing at a run down speakeasy in Chicago.

As Honoree often notes after something good happens the bad is soon to follow. And this woman experiences a lot of bad. Just when it seems she's able to escape the harsh club owner who thinks he has ownership over her and get a better dancing gig and a chance at glamor and luxury, she's sucked into the world of mobsters and violence. She witnesses a murder, gets caught up with an old lover, and is helping a new friend survive. There's a lot of twists and that moment when things started to make sense and the past and present intertwine was well plotted.

It took a few chapters to get going but this ended up being a riveting tale. The bouncing between the past and the presence somewhat reminded me of The Girl with the Hazel Eyes by Callie Browning which I read last year.

I like that Bryce includes references to her research in her author's note in case you want to do your own dive into history. There's also discussion questions in case you want to make this a book club or group read.

I received an arc from Kensington Books in exchange for an honest review.

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I received a free electronic ARC of this excellent historical novel from Netgalley, Denny S. Bryce, and Kensington Books. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me. I have read this novel of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work. Denny S. Bryce is an author I am thrilled to have found - thank you, Netgalley! and will follow - her work is exciting and compelling, information shared with a sense of joy and a song in the heart. Her next, a story that spans 1928 LA to the summer of 1968, can't get here soon enough. A bright new addition to my historical reads.

Chicago in the jazz age - we see it first from 1925 through the 1930s - is an era I would have loved, I think. Life was changing so FAST - everything riding on the edge of discovery. Transportation - horse and carriage and trains to cars to planes in just a couple of decades. Harnessing electricity and natural gas for cooking and heat - those jobs that previously kept someone endlessly cleaning a sooty mess from windows and walls and someone else busy hauling and chopping wood. Jazz and the Blues moved from the deep south to ChiTown and found a nest to call home. We are there, with Denny S. Bryce as she brings that life, that world to our attention. Thank you.

And we see in this story told in the time frame of 2015 music and a way of life that grew in that warm enveloping nest by leaps and bounds in technology, cost, and availability of the tools of the trade. instruments and sheet music, venues, and recording abilities all became more accessible to the young and poor as the years went by. We are there, with Denny S. Bryce as she brings that life, that world to our attention. Thank you.

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Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce is a 2021 Kensington publication.

I love the jazz age!

This debut novel, set in 1925 Chicago, is centered around Honoree Dalcour and the Dreamland Café- a high-end black and tan club- and Sawyer Hayes, circa 2015- a film student- haunted by the loss of his sister.

Sawyer finds some photographs belonging to his grandmother, which sends him on a quest to find Honoree Dalcour, a woman now in her 110th year of life.

As Sawyer slowly coaxes Honoree's memories to the surface, an amazing story unfolds revealing a 1920s saga full of crime drama, heartbreak, and romance. While Sawyer feels there is a connection there somewhere with his family, the truth is far more shocking than he bargained for.

I loved this book! The author has created complex characters, as well as an authentic atmosphere to create a well -rounded historical mystery and drama, which spotlights black filmmakers and stars of the era. Naturally, with the book set in the twenties, there was plenty of crime drama involving the mob and illegal substances… and murder.

As usual, for me, the historical segments are what truly made the story sparkle. The contemporary storyline is a means to an end, for the most part, but there are some compelling emotional pulls to Sawyer’s side of the story, for a more well-rounded tale. Several characters taking part in the story, were actual filmmakers, movie stars, and performers of the day, making the story even more interesting.

This is an exceptional view of the Chicago Jazz age, from the position of black people, juxtaposing the glamour of the decade against the powerful criminal elements that held a tight gripe on the era.

The story also highlights the power of friendships and love, while the mystery is tense and suspenseful!

Overall, I truly enjoyed this book! It is a compelling story set in one of my favorite historical time periods, but is written from a fresh perspective. There were several historical elements I was unfamiliar with, which sent me on a Googling frenzy on a quest to find out more about the real- life characters featured in this book. I’d also like to mention the fabulous cover on this book- I love twenties fashions!

An impressive debut novel for Bryce- hope to hear more from her in the future!

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I really enjoyed Wild Women and the Blues. There were times when I wished the present-day storyline was either a bit stronger or was more in the background--sometimes it felt like a distraction instead of a equal half of the book, but the language and the imagery of the 1920s and jazz clubs were phenomenal. I haven't found many books that highlight this particular part of history, highlighting black characters in this time period. The plot twist was interesting, but did leave me wanting more at the end, it felt a bit unfinished. Overall, I liked this book a lot and would definitely recommend it.

My thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for an advance reader's copy.

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Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC. Honoree (Honor-ray) is a dancer in 1920's Chicago. She would love to dance at the Dreamland Care where Louis Armstrong and his wife Lil play every night. This book has Capone, mobsters, bootlegging, racketeering and more! I really enjoyed it! #wildwomenandblues #dennysbryce #march2021

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This is a very atmospheric read with a strong female lead and skillfully executed dual timelines.

Set in Chicago in 1925 and 2015, I found the language in both timelines was spot on. I especially enjoyed reading old phrases like “let’s blouse” (let’s blow this popsicle stand!) and “the bees knees.” The narrative was done so well that I lost myself in it completely. I easily pictured the old speakeasy filled with sawdust, drunkards, and women in flapper dresses shaking their hips.

There was also a an intensity to this story that made every moment feel significant, asking me to pay extra close attention. Which I did! And just when I thought I had a full understanding of the story, the author dropped an impressively concealed twist.

This book didn’t end with a tidy neat bow, but everything I wondered about was given an explanation, which I appreciated. This is a great book for anyone who enjoys the jazz-age or historical fiction.

Release Date: March 30, 2021

Thank you Kensington Books and NetGalley for the ARC!

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