Parlor Games
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
read excerpt* *Different edition

Parlor Games

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  1,012 ratings  ·  224 reviews
A sweeping historical novel based on the true story of a beautiful con artist whose turn-of-the-century escapades take her around the world as she's doggedly pursued by a Pinkerton Agency detective

The novel opens in 1917 with our cunning protagonist, May Dugas, standing trial for extortion. As the trial unfolds, May tells her version of events.

In 1887, at the tender age of...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 8th 2013 by Anchor (first published January 15th 2013)
more details... edit details

Win a Copy of This Book

  • Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio
    Parlor Games
    Release date: Jan 01, 2014
    Need a rollicking fall read to warm your evenings? Do you enjoy jaunty tales of canny women? Look no further than PARLOR GAMES, the novel Kate Alcott…more
    Giveaway dates: Sep 08 - Oct 01, 2014
    8 copies available, 416 people requesting
    Countries available: US and CA
    read on goodreads
  • Friend Reviews

    To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

    Reader Q&A

    To ask other readers questions about Parlor Games, please sign up.

    Be the first to ask a question about Parlor Games

    Community Reviews

    (showing 1-30 of 3,000)
    filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
    Audra (Unabridged Chick)
    I just loved this book. Loved, loved, loved. It was flippant and fun, total escapism, with a minxy heroine I adored from the first page, a long list of exotic locales to divert, and piles of dramatic intrigue to keep me engaged.

    Set in the late 1880s through 1910s, the story follows May Dugas, a small town Michigan girl with a foxy figure, clever mind, and an impatience with ordinary life. Told in first person, May's 'voice' is sophisticated, wily, artificially innocent, glib.

    The novel opens in...more

    3.5 stars

    In 1917 May Dugas was placed on trial for extortion. She was considered at the time as one of the most dangerous women in the world by the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Born in a small village north-west of Chicago in 1869 into an ordinary family, she charmed her way into high society in America and Europe.

    Beautiful, resourceful, cunning, May used all her wiles to seduce men and gain an advantage in life. Narrated by May Parlor Games opens in 1917 with May on trial, with flashbacks in al...more
    If you're a reader who must absolutely without question LOVE the main character, this is not the book for you.

    History doesn't have a good picture of May Dugas, considering that she never provided her own version of her life. The only account is a series of newspaper articles from the 1940s as told by one of the detectives involved in chasing her around the world. History is always written by the winners, isn't it?

    Fictionalized biographies like this are ripe for whitewashing a character or presen...more
    Tara Chevrestt
    This is extremely well-written and engaging. The narrative is first person, but you never feel as though you are missing out on anything. In a lot of cases, in first person narrative, the view is too restricted. Not so in this.

    It goes from a trial (and we are left very much in suspense over what exactly is going on btw Frank and her and this trial) and the heroine's past misdeeds.

    I lost interest halfway through, however, when I realized the woman is well, to put it bluntly, another whore. I don'...more
    I'm not a fan of prostitution, con games, lying, Michigan or books that use the phrase "dear Reader,". This novel features all of that, yet our flawed heroine is so engaging, and so honest, despite her obvious manipulation, that I really enjoyed this book. It's a novelized version of a real life con artist May Dugas.

    I don't want to give too much away, but it follows the journey of May, who moves to Chicago to have the child of her first boyfriend from Michigan and plans to give it up for adopti...more
    Paul Pessolano
    “Parlor Games” by Maryka Biaggio, published by Doubleday.

    Category – Fiction/Literature

    The reader may take this as fiction/literature surrounded by a true story, or a true story surrounded by fiction literature, regardless it is a fascinating book.

    This is the story of May Dugasv, in the book May Dugas, a wily woman belonging to the 1900’s. Although little is know of May Dugasv, Maryka Biaggio takes what is known and weaves a tale of a con artist extraordinaire.

    The story is told with the exploits...more
    The settings in Parlor Games were amazing. London, New York, Shanghai, etc., but the same Pinkerton Agency detective keeps tracking May down in these cities. How? It didn't seem reasonable to me. Maybe I can't imagine finding people in the years before the internet? May changed her name and moved frequently but Detective Doherty kept showing up at inopportune times. (Just in time to foil her plans!)

    I wasn't able to connect with May. I would have liked to have understood her better, to hear her t...more
    You have to love a book where a woman (in 1887) is hunted down all over the world by a Pinkerton detective.

    It's based on a true story of turn-of-the-century con artist May Dugas, once dubbed America's "Most Dangerous Woman.”

    It’s 1887, and eighteen-year-old May Dugas has ventured to Chicago in hopes of earning enough money to support her family. Yet when circumstances force her to take up residence at the city’s most infamous bordello, she chooses to use her feminine wiles to extract not only s...more
    I was amazed at how much I enjoyed this book!

    I got a message asking me if I would be interested in this book to review, as I also loved American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin (review here).

    At 352 pages, I honestly thought that it would be a pretty quick read for me. However, the book was quite detailed, and I found myself completely pulled into the story of May, and all her little adventures - so it took me longer than expected, but it was worth every second!

    The part I really enjoyed, was that while...more
    Kelli Klein
    I won Parlor Games, a book by Maryka Biaggio, in a Goodreads giveaway. I started reading it as soon as I received it. The only reason it took me so long to finish it was because of life and how busy it can be. The book was very entertaining. Very good plot, very good writing and very good suspense. The book and its twists and turns kept me turning from one page to another eagerly waiting to see what would happen next. I also loved how so many details were given to the background and history of t...more
    Oct 10, 2012 Kimberly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
    Recommended to Kimberly by: Doubleday
    I received this ARC courtesy of Doubleday.

    Parlor Games is the story of May Dugas told as if May was writing the story herself. I will admit, going into the book I didn't realize May was a real person.

    The book centers around a trial and the life of May is told as the trial unfolds. It's written as a first person narrative, but it isn't annoying or self indulging. I felt like I was sitting down listening to the story and dying to know what happens. It did start off somewhat slow just because the...more
    Farah Ng
    Review from

    Thank you to Doubleday for sending me an advanced reading copy of Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio in exchange for an honest review.

    What can I say about Maryka Biaggio’s Parlor Games? It’s fun, carefree and most importantly, it’s utterly scandalous. Parlor Games is a whirlwind memoir of May Dugas’ adventures around the world. Based on a true story, May Dugas is part con artist, part whore and mostly genius.

    She befriends aristocratic men in exchange for money, diamonds...more
    Mary Fehrs
    Parlor Games, written in the first person voice of May Dugas, gives away the game with a neat device in the opening paragraph. May starts by trying to sweet-talk the reader. We know her "inner" character immediately--she's a con-artist. May moves through this book with her eye always on the main-chance; if she's smart enough to survive, why shouldn't she prosper at the same time. May is developed in terms of actions and I can't think of a better way to explore a sociopathic personality. The driv...more
    May Dugas is a woman trying to get by in a man's world by using the only asset she has, her sex appeal. She starts out as prostitute but moves up to the station of wife of a European Barron. Always one step away is Pinkerton detective Reed Dougherty waiting in the wings to mess up her plans. As May travels the world through the years she embarks upon adventure after adventure and always with new man (or woman) who can provide the wealth she desires. May is what we would call a grifter but since...more
    I’m always interesting in how women navigated the world during times when they had no apparent power. When I saw Parlor Games, a debut novel by Maryka Biaggio, I was intrigued. Here was a woman on trial in 1917 for being a con woman. Was she or was there a double standard in place? I had to find out. If you like historical fiction or stories about women determined to not only survive but thrive when the odds are stacked against them then this one might be just what you’re looking for. Read the r...more
    The real May Dugas will go down in history as a notorious con artist. But I think the fictional May Dugas in Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio will go down as a very misunderstood woman. She didn't steal from men, they liked giving her nice things. She didn't run from the law, she was just securing a higher status for herself in society. The Pinkerton detective chasing her has it all wrong!!

    Read the rest of my review at http://www.asiturnthepages.blogspot.c...
    Alex Dunlop

    Parlour Games is the gently-written story of a woman whose dedication to achieving what she wanted saw her either dance around or plough straight through any obstacle. The lilting language helped capture the era and Mary’s geographical and emotional travels were beautifully illustrated, enjoyable and compelling.

    I was thoroughly immersed in Mary’s story as she travelled through the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. She created a path that promised either serious trouble or s...more
    I had seen this book floating around the internet. Yet, I never got around to checking it out. My sister actually got me this book. So I finally had a chance to check this book out. I have never heard of May Dugas. Yet I am drawn to these types of stories of strong women and this time period. When you mix these two elements with a really good writer, you get a lovely book like Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio.

    I did not feel like May was ever a victim. In fact, I kind of thought of her as a cool h...more
    I received this book after I was contacted by Doubleday Publishing asking me if I would be interested in reading this book before it was fully published a year ago and I just got round to reading it.

    It's a very well written book and I did enjoy reading it. I am only giving it a four star rating though as before reading the book, I read the synopsis on the back and she was portrayed as dangerous con artist so I thought it was going to be a really juicy read but I was quite disappointed that it wa...more
    Rae O'dell
    I loved this of my favs! I would highly recommend this book. I loved every page.
    Read more of my reviews on my blog:

    Based on a true story, “Parlor Games” stole me heart from the very first page. The first person perspective provided an intimate view of the heroine at the center of “Parlor Games.” Whether calling herself May, Pauline, the Baroness, or any other name, May’s conniving character was completely engaging! The writing evoked an elegant quality which served to lure me into believing May was a refined woman of the early 1900′s rath...more
    Alice Bola
    When I think of the most dangerous woman in America, the last person I think about is a wannabe socialite from Menominee, Michigan. But that is exactly what the Pinkerton Detective Agency dubbed our protagonist May Dugas.

    This novel is deliciously entertaining. I really loved the cat and mouse game between May and Reed Doherty, the Pinkerton detective. Just when I had forgotten about him, he would pop up to foil May’s plan once again. I also loved reading May’s adventures. She was quite the world...more
    Rosemary Duffy
    Parlor Games is a completely enjoyable read. I love historical fiction, and in this impressive first novel, Biaggio has clearly done her research and woven it into a fast-paced and spellbinding tale. The exquisite descriptions about the surroundings and fashions of the turn of the last century placed me squarely in that era.

    I'd never heard of the main character, May Dugas, before reading this book. Apparently she was the subject of a Pinkerton investigation and a well-publicized trial. Biaggio t...more
    Rosina Lippi
    With Parlor Games Biaggio has followed in Daniel Defoe's footprints by giving us her own version of Moll Flanders. Her May Dugas, however, also comes with a liberal dose of Thackeray's Becky Sharp.

    May leaves her small hometown to travel to Chicago. Supposedly to help support her family, but May is the epitome of an unreliable narrator. She really goes to Chicago to find the bright lights, big city glamor and adoration she craves. And the money. And jewels. Sex seems to be unimportant to her, a...more
    Bev Hankins
    Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio is a sweeping piece of historical fiction based on real-life adventuress, May Dugas aka the Baroness May de Vries (and various aliases). The story opens with May settling in for a trial accusing her of extortion--bilking her friend Miss Frank Gray Shaver out of her inheritance. Sandwiched in between scenes from the courtroom drama, May tells us the story of her life--all the adventures that led up to her appearance in court in January 1917.

    May's father dies fairly...more
    Sarah Dickson
    This is not my usual genre. I usually lean toward magic filled quests, princesses, dragons, etc, so I picked this book on a whim. With that being said, I really like it! at first i couldn't tell if i liked May Dugas very much but as it progressed I fell in love with her and all her conniving adventures (and misadventures). Just as I would find myself getting bored of the lack of one main quest (as I am used to) I would be sucked back in by some new turn of events!

    My only note is that the ending...more
    The story of a globe-trotting, beautiful bisexual fin de siècle con artist... what could go wrong? Surprisingly little, considering that the writing's awfully clunky. But the story is a lot of fun. And actually for all the lack of sophistication in the actual writing, the psychological portrait of the (anti)heroine is a good one; the author holds back from painting her with too broad a brush. She's a psychologist (the author, that is), which may have helped—that's really what kept me reading. An...more
    Nancy Carbajal
    Fictional based account on the life of May Dugasv and a famous trial in 1917 where she was sued by a female friend for extortion. May is born in Menominee, Michigian and thats the only time her life is not lived in a world of cons and affairs. The Pinkertons actually dubbed her "The Worlds Dangerous Woman." But May will tell you her story about how she was a woman in a mans world and had to make her own way thru it because she had a family who needed her help. I finished this read in one day, it...more
    Twisty J
    Based on a true story, this book kept be thoroughly entertained. The leading lady is equal parts grit and glamour, and her voice is entertaining throughout. Following her journey to the courtroom where she stands trial for extortion, as well as the trial itself, her motives and truths become evident as the story progresses.

    I love that this is based on a true story, as well as being set in Chicago. It was a witty and entertaining read from the perspective of the main character, and it really cou...more
    Initially I really did enjoy this book. I found May Dugas to be an interested character and was intrigued by the way she worked her way up in society and swindled men. After a while, though, I tired of her story. I'm not sure if it was apart of May's story or the author's decision but I got bored of May making the same mistakes over and over again and having to save herself. I did like the set up of the book--switching between her past and the current trial--but I thought the ending was a bit ru...more
    « previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
    topics  posts  views  last activity   
    Kent District Lib...: Free signed paperbacks of Parlor Games! 1 13 Mar 15, 2014 10:20AM  
    GIVEAWAY of PARLOR GAMES! 1 20 Mar 17, 2013 08:42AM  
    Book Giveaways: Win a copy of Parlor Games! 1 30 Jan 16, 2013 10:15AM  
    • The Typewriter Girl
    • Ashenden
    • Summerset Abbey (Summerset Abbey, #1)
    • Dollface: A Novel of the Roaring Twenties
    • A Murder at Rosamund's Gate  (Lucy Campion Mysteries, #1)
    • The Ambassador's Daughter (Prequel to ''The Kommandant's Girl'')
    • The Impersonator (Roaring Twenties Mystery, #1)
    • Godiva
    • A Spear of Summer Grass
    • Belle Cora
    • Mistress of Mourning
    • Rutherford Park
    • Mistress of My Fate (The Confessions of Henrietta Lightfoot, #1)
    • The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora
    • The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress
    • The Gilded Lily
    • Daughter of the Sky
    • Shadow on the Crown
    PARLOR GAMES is my first published novel. I specialize in writing historical fiction about real people. I love the challenge of starting with actual historical figures and dramatizing their lives—figuring out what motivated them to behave as they did, studying how the cultural and historical context may have influenced them, and recreating some sense of their emotional world through dialogue and a...more
    More about Maryka Biaggio...
    Issues in the Psychology of Women Effective Brief Therapies: A Clinician's Guide Issues in the Psychology of Women

    Share This Book

    No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »