Cover Image: Wild Women and the Blues

Wild Women and the Blues

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Member Reviews

I enjoyed this quick-paced historical novel set in 1920s Chicago among nightclubs and dancers and musicians, as well as organized crime figures and thugs. I'd like the framework to have been more robust and realistic: we don't get a lot of information on Micheaux or exactly what the grad student protagonist is doing with is dissertation/documentary, and having that background and info would have helped make the story much more solid. There were some other glaring gaps in the making sense department, mostly in terms of character behavior, that suggest to me that the book could use one more careful edit before going to press. Overall, though, it will appeal to a wide range of readers.

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I was drawn to this book by the awesome title and the gorgeous cover and was not disappointed. WIld Women and the Blues focuses on Honoree Delacour, a currently 110 year old woman being interviewed by Sawyer, an aspiring filmmaker on the trail of a lost Oscar Micheaux film and the dancers featured in the footage he's found along with some documents from his grandmother. This novel switches between 1925 Chicago and 2015. Sawyer is trying to get Honoree to retell the events of 1925 but Honoree insists on giving tit for tat and Sawyer has to open up about the tragedies in his own life before Honoree will open up about hers. Bryce's book really shines in the telling of 1925 Chicago and the lives of young black women trying to live their lives on their own terms. You really get the exhaustion and exhilaration that a dancer's life can be as well as the danger of Prohibition era Chicago was. Sawyer's story in the present has less of an impact but he is also given a complete story line. There were some interesting twists in the story line, some that I didn't see coming. I look forward to reading more of Bryce's works in the future.

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What initially interested me was the framing device, it reminded me of Evelyn Hugo, a favorite. But the unique cinematic energy that Bryce brings to this story moves so much faster. It's immediate, it's excellent.

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I felt breathless when I closed Wild women and the blues. i just went from one surprise to another. The craftmanship of the story appears in every page. the setting, the plot the characters, all is perfect. I learnt a lot too, the end of the 1920s in Chicago were real tough times, beyond the imagination. I will recommend ( I already did) this book and will bear in mind I think foerever all I learnt about the dfficult lives of people of that period.
All opinions are mine, I received a copy from NteGalley.

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I enjoyed the segments of the book set in the past more than the sections in the present. Overall the writing and characters were interesting but nothing that really stood out for me personally.

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There is always that certain something that separates a good book from a truly great one. Certainly it is the writing that is part of the equation, and a good story helps as well. Now, "Wild Women and the Blues", can definitely be considered a good book. The story is compelling, the characters are interesting, and the intermingling of characters with historical figures is a nice touch. But somehow, though the story did hold my interest, I found something missing. Perhaps it was that some of the central characters weren't fleshed out enough.. Perhaps the action parts just fell flat. Maybe it was the dialog that just didn't ring true. And so, while I do think this is a good book, I think it might have been even better. But then again, it's just my opinion.

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Wild Women and the Blues is a dual track story of Honoree, an African American performer in the Al Capone’s Chicago, and her grandson in 2015 who is trying to learn her story in pursuit of a graduate degree in filmmaking. The story resonates on both levels. Who doesn’t wonder about the history of our predecessors?
As I was reading Wild Women and the Blues, I realized that it fits nicely with other books I've read this year, including Rules of Civility, The Secrets We Kept and Last Train to Key West. Each of them highlights the stories of women in earlier ages. It struck me that this was the first of those stories that focused on the stories of African American women.
Wild Women and the Blues can be read as simply a fun story, set in the time of Al Capone, jazz and booze. Or it can be read as a reflection of state of systemic racism at that time, and as such it can deepen one's understanding of the systems that continue into today.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Kensington and #Netgalley. #WildWomenandtheBlues

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I thoroughly enjoyed Wild Women and the Blues! This story highlights such an overlooked place and time - Chicago, specifically the city's Black Belt, in the 1920s. Far from the glitz and glam of Gatsby's roaring '20s, life in the Stroll doused in racism, unequal opportunity, and misogyny, all under the loom of Al Capone's controlling mob. We meet Honoree, a Louisiana sharecropper's daughter, chasing her dream of becoming a famous dancer. While her journey to the top of the blues and jazz world puts her in the inner circles of Louis Armstrong and Oscar Micheaux, there's a dark underbelly to Chicago that can't be avoided. As Honoree says - there's always good luck and bad luck, and it seems one can't happen without the other.

Some 90 years later, it's 2015, and a graduate student named Sawyer looks to a 110-year-old Honoree to answer questions and clear the muddy waters of history - while also unknowingly unearthing some of his own.

This book combined love and passion with murders, speakeasies, and mobs set to the music of Louis Armstrong at the height of the Jazz Age. I love how Denny S. Bryce taught me a little history through Wild Women and the Blues and brought this place and time to life! Now excuse me while I linger with Honoree a little longer and put some Armstrong on the radio.

Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the advanced reader's copy! (Shared socially on Instagram - @paigeisreading)

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In 1920s, the Stroll, section of State St in Chicago, is the place for Black Chicagoans to socialize, filled with jazz clubs, brimming with life and blazing with lights. Jazz-age Chicago comes alive in this story.

Chicago, 2015. Sawyer “is a graduate student chasing a doctorate in media studies.” His documentary thesis focuses on the legendary Black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. His research takes him to Chicago and to an over one-hundred year old woman named Honoree Dalcour. His research brings unexpected twist.

1925. Honoree auditions as a dancer at the Dreamland Café. The most famous place on the Stroll. She is climbing the ladder to success. But that comes with some unexpected events. One evening something happens. Something she shouldn’t have witnessed.

The Stroll is a place filled with the best entertainment: the best piano player, the best trumpet player, and the best band in all Chicago including the best chorus girls. But it is also a time of Prohibition when bootlegging whiskey and illegal gambling take place inside the clubs. It is also a thriving hub for gangsters who control the streets.

Honoree is “a sharecropper’s daughter, accustomed to hard work and hard times.” She is of strong will. She makes no apologies for her independent mind. She is ambitious. She wants to be one of those proud Black people, “not just getting by but living their lives.” I was riveted by this strong heroine, a sharply painted character. Her climb up and her implications kept me engaged.

I loved the prose, the word choice, and all the beef and beeswax (not in literally meaning) that humored me.

The story is atmospheric and authentic in its depiction of the time period, place and people.

Strong heroine. Engrossing story. Superbly written.

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I really enjoyed this book. It was interesting, witty and it had a thicker plot than I anticipated when I started reading it. It takes place in the 1920s as we follow a 19-year-old dancer called Honoree as she makes her way through night life in Chicago, where there was a huge jazz scene at the time. There are also some chapters that take place in 2015, where a film student interviews Honoree (who is now 100+ years old) about her achievements in the 20s.

This book captures the craziness and the breeziness of 20s nightlife but it also shines a light on very important topics such as being a black person and being a woman (and being both) during these times that we often think about as fun and bubbly but that were also filled with racism and misogyny. So, if you are in the mood for flawed characters who are also fierce and determined to succeed in the crazy world of the club scene in the 20s Chicago, this book is definitely for you – it has adventure, romance, black power, girl power and a touch of crime/mystery.

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Chicago now and then....dual timelines 2015 and 1925. Chicago in the Jazz Age brought about great music along with the element of gangsters, romance, that this author was able to bring alive on the pages of this novel. Yes throw in a bit of a mystery and you have a book that is entertaining and enjoyable. My thanks to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Thanks to Netgalley and Kensington books for the ARC of this novel. This historical fiction transports us to Chicago's Jazz Age. There's romance, intrigue, strong women, racketeers and good men. An element of mystery forms the crux of this debut novel which keeps reading this book riveting.
I would have loved this novel to be a little faster paced and hence I am rounding up my review to 3.5 stars.

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“Wild Women and the Blues” is a novel set in Chicago in two time frames: the 1920s and 2015. The 1920s portion focuses on Honoree, an African American showgirl who performed in Chicago speakeasies, her roommate, Bessie, and Honoree’s love interest, Ezekiel. In 2015, Sawyer, a graduate student researching his thesis on 1920s filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, is interviewing Honoree in her senior living facility because Sawyer believes that Honoree was featured in a lost film made by Micheaux. For some reason unknown to Sawyer, his grandmother, Maggie, has been paying for Honoree’s stay in the senior living facility since 1985, adding to the unanswered questions surrounding Honoree.

I had a hard time reviewing this book. Objectively, it had all the ingredients to make it an interesting read: the 1920s jazz scene in Chicago’s version of Harlem, speakeasies, gangsters, cameos by greats such as Louie Armstrong and Alberta Hunter, and a mystery. Also, the book was clearly well researched. Unfortunately, despite this promising premise, I found it difficult to enjoy this book for several reasons.

First, I found the writing style difficult to read as it consisted of short, casual sentences that had a choppy rhythm. (This may have been a deliberate attempt to capture Honoree’s personality but the prose style didn’t work for me). Second, the scant descriptions failed to capture the feel of 1920s Chicago so that I never felt immersed in the novel. That being said, these reservations may be my own personal preference for more flowery prose and other readers may enjoy this novel for its take on 1920s Chicago.

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Thank you so much to Netgalley and Kensington for the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

Trigger warnings: Car crash, abuse, death of a parent, death of a sibling, emetophobia ( ch 13), cancer mention (brief; ch 15), brief mention of suicide attempt (ch 15), assault (ch 33), rape (ch 43)

I was incredibly excited at the opportunity to read and review Wild Women and the Blues — a book that was described as Ordinary People meets Chicago the Musical (I haven't read Ordinary People, but you could pretty much get me to read/watch anything by comparing it to a musical), and a synopsis that reminded me of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo meets The Electric Hotel.

Wild Women and the Blues opens with Sawyer, a graduate student obtaining a doctorate in media studies, at a senior living facility, trying to get the courage to speak with Honoree Dalcour — a 110 year old lady, who he's hoping will offer some answers, help him complete his thesis, and fix his life. Which is a lot to pin on a 110 year old, not to mention, anyone. At the senior living facility, Sawyer is greeted by overprotective nurse assistant, Lula Kent. After explaining that he’s only there to ask Honoree some questions about some photographs - photographs, along with a film reel, that he found in the attic of his grandmother’s house - from 1925, he’s begrudgingly let in.. But as is the case with all things, everything comes at a price. Honoree is determined that Sawyer shares his secrets too -- after all, 'What happened in 1925 and why it happened is my business.” While Sawyer’s still intrigued by the photographs, and the people in them, his curiosity soon expands to wanting to know more about Honoree herself.

Wild Women and the Blues is a thriller in itself, with more and more mysteries unraveling along the way. Why did Sawyer take a year off? Who is Honoree? Why is she so reluctant to speak about the past? What happened in 1925? Who is Sawyer’s grandmother, Maggie, and why does Honoree speak so poorly of her? How did she get the photographs? Where do Sawyer and Honoree’s stories intersect?

Wild Women and the Blues is told in different points-of-view, one following Sawyer in 2015, and the other following Honoree in 1925. While I was curious about Sawyer and Honoree’s relationship, I found myself more interested in what was happening in 1925 Chicago. Just like Sawyer, I was entranced by Honoree, and the cast of characters. Her love story with Ezekiel, her friendship with Bessie, her tragic past, her drive to be more, made her an incredibly interesting and dynamic character. Reading about Honoree felt like I was reading an incredibly well-written memoir about a 1920s chorus girl, about lost history that we were so lucky to find out more about years later. And lucky we are. Wild Women and the Blues, and Honoree’s story, is a gift. Bryce’s writing truly made me feel like I was in Chicago. As Honoree’s best friend, Bessie was a character that intrigued me and I felt like she was underused -- until the twist, that is. Wild Women and the Blues is a rollercoaster in the best way, with more twists and turns than I could ever imagine.

"I'm better at telling other people's stories than I am at telling my own. It's why I make films."

Unfortunately, I felt really disconnected from Sawyer. I’m not sure if I just simply couldn’t connect to Sawyer, or if Honoree’s life and her story was simply so much more interesting. Even though I wasn’t as invested in Sawyer, I still felt compelled and encouraged to finish the book just to see if the questions we’d been asking alongside him were solved. I wanted to know who was in the photographs, and how they were obtained. I wanted to know more about how their stories tied in together, why Honoree was so enraged at any mention of Maggie, I wanted to know everything. I loved the way this book ended, with all loose-ends tying up nicely. While reading it, I kept asking myself “How is this going to be wrapped up? I’ve got 90% left and there’s no way this will be resolved.” But it was, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

I was incredibly impressed with Bryce’s ability to weave together these two stories so seamlessly, and all the topics that were covered. After reading it, and even now, as I’m writing this post and remembering how it made me feel, I had chills. I felt unsettled, but in the best way. Wild Women and the Blues is a book that will surely stick with me for days to come.

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Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce is an excellent dual timeline historical fiction novel that weaves together ther present day (2015) Sawyer Hayes, a film student dealing with his own turmoil and struggles, and 1925 Honoree Dalcour in her prime smack dab in the middle of the stunning Chicago Jazz scene. Sawyer goes to the feisty and elderly Honoree in hopes of completing research and to answer questions, both personal and professional, so that he can turn a point in his life. Through discussions and flashbacks to the past, Honoree takes us on a wild, glorious, evocative, and turbulent ride that was 1920s Chicago. Through these revelations, many answers, both to questions asked and those not even considered, are brought to the surface.

I was beyond impressed with the author’s ability to weave together two fabulous tales into one sensational story. I loved being right in the middle of the nightclub scene: there was music, drama, love, grit, loss, and I was enthralled from the get-go. I also loved how the story wrapped up.

I loved this novel, and highly recommend.

5/5 stars

Thank you NetGalley and Kensington for this ARC and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon and B&N accounts upon publication.

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