Wendy's Reviews > City of Ash

City of Ash by Megan Chance
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Jun 04, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction
Read from September 23 to 25, 2011

City of Ash tells the story of two women in 1880s Seattle, alternating between the viewpoint of Geneva Langley and Bea Wilkes. Geneva, or Ginny, is a wealthy socialite who flaunts convention by associating with artists, actors and writers. She has a talent for discovering and popularizing artists, launching many careers until she unwisely decides to pose for a nude sculpture in an attempt to force her gold digging husband to leave her. Her plan backfires when her husband, Nathan, offers her the choice between moving to unsophisticated and frontier-like Seattle or being committed to an asylum. She chooses Seattle. There, she attempts to behave and fit in, but her reputation precedes her and polite society won't receive her.

Bea Wilkes is an actress in a local theater who catches Nathan's eye. Bea thinks that she's found a wealthy patron who will at last give her the edge she needs to land the leading role in her theater group. What she doesn't know is that Nathan has other plans for her as he schemes for a way to get rid of his wife but keep her money.

Bea and Ginny become acquainted as part of Nathan's manipulations and the two are bitter rivals. Ginny discovers his plan just before the great Seattle fire. After the fire, she sees an opportunity to escape and is forced to try to convert her enemy, Bea, into her ally to overthrow Nathan and give both women what they want: freedom.

This was a real page turner for me. The author keep the plot moving at a quick pace while layering in the schemes and dreams of each of the main characters, drawing them all closer until they are bound together. The setting is rendered very realistically, conveying a sense of time and place, and the characters, major and minor, all come alive. My only criticism is the fact that this story runs a very strong parallel to her previous book, An Inconvenient Wife, which I also enjoyed. It's fine to go back to the well as long as you don't draw the same bucket of water each time.
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