This time, the setting is 1925 New York City. I've discovered a budding interest in the 1920's; I think it's due to my Dad. He was born in 1928, and I've only seen a few photos of him as a small child. But in those photos are some fantastic cars and my father as a little boy who looks amazingly like his great-grandson. My Dad died in 2004, so I can't ask him about life during those turbulent times, but I can imagine what it was like thanks to books like Empire Girls.
Ivy and Rose are two sisters living in upstate New York with their father. He suddenly dies, and they find out the house they've always lived in is about to be claimed by the bank for back taxes. They also find out their father had another child; their older brother Asher. A picture their father kept shows Asher in front of a place called Empire House. He looks just like Rose; and to top it off, their father left Asher the house. If they don't find him, they will lose the house.
Off to New York City Ivy and Rose go, determined to find Asher and have him sign the house back to them. Ivy is a singer and wanna-be actress; Rose is the homebody who writes, cooks, and sews. They are like oil and water together. They find Empire House, which is run be Nell. She's tough as steel and rents the attic out to the sisters. With little money, they have to get jobs to live in New York City and save to pay the taxes on their home. But what about Asher?
Ivy and Rose keep running into dead ends. No one is willing to even admit they knew Asher. Why all the secrets? How will Ivy and Rose find him?
There's a lot in this novel to talk about. World War I is not far in the past; two sisters who have never been close and must work together; and two young women who are discovering who they are in the most wonderful, vibrant place around: New York City. You'll be surprised at how Ivy and Rose change and their struggle to decide how each feel about Asher; is he a welcome part of their family of two? And most of all, you'll fall in love with 1925 New York City.
This is a fun, quick read. I have decided I need to try an orange blossom drink very soon. Here's a link to the recipe: prohibition cocktail. You'll see what I mean when you read the novel. There are reading group questions in the back of the book, as well as an interview with Suzanne and Loretta.
Rating: 7/10 for a vibrant portrait of a bygone era; two main characters who you grow to love, and secondary characters who round out a perfect summer read.
Available as a paperback and e-book.