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Parlor Games

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  1,814 ratings  ·  320 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
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 8th 2013 by Anchor (first published January 15th 2013)
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Average rating 3.47  · 
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 ·  1,814 ratings  ·  320 reviews

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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

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
Jan 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Where I got the book: purchased from Amazon. Maryka is a friend.

I jumped on this novel, friend or no friend, because of the cover—a gorgeous piece of design—and the era. Plus, the promise of naughty goings-on in Chicago parlor houses, which were the better brothels.

Alas, the blurb is massively deceptive on that point. This is, in fact, biographical fiction covering thirty years in the life of May Dugas, who was a real person. She starts out as a girl from a very ordinary family in Menominee, in
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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'
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Paul Pessolano
Feb 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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
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 whi
Oct 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Mar 02, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, first-reads
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
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Mary Fehrs
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Farah Ng
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feisty-females
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
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sarah Dickson
Jun 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Doubleday  Books
Dec 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Maryka Biaggio has written a spell-binding story in Parlor Games. Once I picked it up, I could not put it down. I caught myself saying OMG under my breath a lot and I thought my eyebrows were going to stay permanently lifted to the top of my forehead. After I finished it, I had to find out more about this femme fatale. What I discovered is that truth really is often stranger than fiction, and there’s a lot of truth in this novel. Like historical fiction based on real lives? Then snap this one up ...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
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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...
Francie Grice
Apr 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2014
Although touted as the most dangerous woman in the world, I couldn't help liking May Dugas. She was a fighter and had a lot of determination. Her adventures are memorable, and she manages to outwit the Pinkerton detective who always shows up at the worst possible times. Loved this story and highly recommend it to all.
Rae O'dell
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-lushes
I loved this of my favs! I would highly recommend this book. I loved every page.
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Richly evocative, smoothly non-judgemental, and historically fascinating, Maryka Biaggio’s Parlor Games introduces readers to a time and place of need and resolution, where the rich are different and imitation is the sincerest form of success. The story begins with the protagonist on trial, and her narration offers to let the reader judge, while she tells how things came to this.

Soon the past is unveiling itself in chapters that flow smoothly between the two timelines of life and legal tribulati
Jan 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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
Rosemary Duffy
Jan 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Alice Bola
Jul 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Parlor Games is a fictionalized account of Mary Dugas, a female con artist from a small Michigan town. The story is told in first person by "The Most Dangerous Woman in the World" as she tells her version of the events leading up to her conviction. I loved the way Mary was able to take charge of her life at a time when women had very little power. What is not to like about Parlor Games? Love, intrigue, betrayal, extortion, blackmail and adventure! Fun read.
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Alex Dunlop
Aug 12, 2014 rated it really liked it

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
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Maryka Biaggio, Ph.D., is a psychology professor turned novelist who specializes in historical fiction based on real people. She enjoys the challenge of starting with actual 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 a sense of their emotional world through dia ...more

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