Jazz, Love, Intrigue

By Beacon Staff

I just finished reading “The Secret Life of Violet Grant” by Beatriz Williams, and I want more. It perfectly fulfilled my taste for dishy historical fiction with a dash of romance and intrigue, complete with a brash and ambitious young woman.

Another such novel is “Rules of Civility” by Amor Towles. These two books have so many great comparisons that I’ll sketch them out for you.

Changing times. Vivian Schuyler, the sassy heroine in “The Secret Life,” and clever Katey Kontent of “Rules” both live in New York City. In the late 1930s, Katey is part of the recovery from the Depression. Vivian, in the mid-1960s, is caught between the boom-and-bustle 1950s and the freedom of the 1970s.

Roommates. A wild and crazy roommate is a must. Vivian lives with Sally, who always seems to be out partying, when she isn’t lounging around in a red silk robe and nursing a hangover. Katey’s roommate, Eve, is blonde, energetic and the life of the party.

Love interests. Whether doctor or banker, the young man is charming, attentive and easy on the eyes. A bit of drama goes without saying.

Cigarettes and booze. Everyone smokes – from the jazz clubs of the 1930s to the offices of the 1960s. And everyone drinks: gin for Katey and her friends, and whisky for Vivian’s crowd.

One Goodreads reviewer describes “Rules of Civility” with the nicely alliterative phrase, “It’s a love letter, a limerick, a lollipop, a literary longing.” The same could be said about either novel, and it would still be true.

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