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The year is 1911 when twenty-year-old heiress Peggy Batternberg is invited to spend the summer in America’s Playground.

The invitation to the luxurious Oriental Hotel a mile from Coney Island is unwelcome. Despite hailing from one of America’s richest families, Peggy would much rather spend the summer working at the Moonrise Bookstore than keeping up appearances with New York City socialites and her snobbish, controlling family.

But soon it transpires that the hedonism of nearby Coney Island affords Peggy the freedom she has been yearning for, and it’s not long before she finds herself in love with a troubled pier-side artist of humble means, whom the Batternberg patriarchs would surely disapprove of.

Disapprove they may, but hidden behind their pomposity lurks a web of deceit, betrayal and deadly secrets. And as bodies begin to mount up amidst the sweltering clamour of Coney Island, it seems the powerful Batternbergs can get away with anything…even murder.

Extravagant, intoxicating and thumping with suspense, bestselling Nancy Bilyeau’s magnificent Dreamland is a story of corruption, class and dangerous obsession.

386 pages, Paperback

First published January 16, 2020

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About the author

Nancy Bilyeau

12 books880 followers
If you tell Nancy Bilyeau that reading one of her historical novels of suspense is like strapping yourself into a time machine, you'll make her a happy woman. She loves crafting immersive historical stories, whether it's Jazz Age New York City in "The Orchid Hour," the 18th-century European porcelain workshops and art galleries in "The Blue" or "The Fugitive Colours," or Henry VIII's tumultuous England in "The Crown," "The Chalice," and "The Tapestry."

A magazine editor who has worked on the staffs of "Rolling Stone" and "Entertainment Weekly," Nancy drew on her journalism experience to research "The Orchid Hour," which includes real-life figures such as Lucky Luciano, Arnold Rothstein, and Lous Buchalter. While working as deputy editor of the nonprofit Center on Media, Crime and Justice in New York City, Nancy covered organized crime as well as cybercrime and terrorism.

For her Genevieve Planche novels--"The Blue" and "The Fugitive Colours"--she drew on her own heritage to create her Huguenot heroine. Nancy is a descendant of Pierre Billiou, a French Huguenot who immigrated to what was then New Amsterdam (later New York City) in 1661. Pierre's stone house still stands and is the third oldest house in New York State.

Nancy's mind is usually in past centuries, but she lives with her family in upstate New York.

Visit Nancy's website at www.nancybilyeau.com

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 476 reviews
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
April 17, 2021

...there is one thing I do know. Women of my family, and all others like us, cannot behave the same as men do.
Set in 1911, Peggy Batternberg (yes, she's one of those Batternbergs) is ready to spend the summer playing bookshop keeper far away from her rich, snobbish family.

But soon, she is whisked away. Her sister, Lydia, is (possibly) going to marry to the rich and gorgeous Henry Taul, but he's made a odious condition upon the whole family.

Namely Peggy and the rest of the Batternbergs must spend the summer in the luxurious Oriental Hotel, barely a mile away from Coney Island.

It should be a dream...but Peggy remembers. She remembers exactly what caused her own relationship with Henry to end.
"Who is it?" I shouted. What do you want?"
There was no sound from the other side; the doorknob did not turn.
Despite her intuition, Peggy finds herself swept off to the summering hotel and into Dreamland.

And with that...Peggy's life changes forever.
"I love you, I do. Stefan, I've never...felt like this."
And in the midst of the highest of highs, comes...murder.

Someone is killing young women and despite everything, Peggy thinks she knows what happened...

So, this one started strong, meandered in the middle and ended with a bang.

I loved the initial storyline - with Peggy at the Moonrise Bookstore - a rich girl spending the summer surrounded by books.

But quickly that is swept off the table for insta-love, tedious conversations and stretching, stretching, stretchinnnnnng of minute details.

I wish more happened in this book.

I mean a lot did happen but it was a lot of little things rather than big or interesting ones. The little details just didn't hold my interest and after the first few pages, it got a bit monotonous for me.

I really liked the idea of Peggy and Stefan (a rich little girl who stumbles upon a poor Serbian artist).

I think their love had a lot of potential, and I shipped them just about instantly.
Once again, I felt the vast gulf between my life and Stefan's.
But the love was so insta that my initial excitement at the thought of watching them fall in love quickly went away...because...well...they were already IN love.

The ending came really quickly and was more of a "oh. that's it?" rather than "OHMYGOSH THAT'S IT???"

Also, this might just be a minor thing but the longer the book went on, the more it bugged me. The author constantly introduced the characters - Lydia, my sister. My cousin Ben. etc. - after page 20, I knew who everyone was and didn't need a (yet another) reminder at pg 200.

Ultimately, this one was not for me.

I think this is the type of book you really need to be in the mood for in order to enjoy it.

Because, I could definitely see myself enjoying it if I had read it at a different time. There are definitely times where I absolutely love those slow-paced, intricate stories, but it just wasn't working for me today.

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

All quotes are from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication

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Profile Image for Maureen .
1,443 reviews7,063 followers
November 6, 2019
Peggy Batternberg is a member of one of the wealthiest families in America, but she doesn’t behave in the manner expected of her position in life - this is 1911, a time when privileged and wealthy young women had to maintain an air of respectability, and were told what they could and couldn’t do, especially by their menfolk.

When Peggy is invited/ordered to spend the summer with the rest of the Batternberg family at the luxurious Oriental Hotel near Coney Island she’s not at all impressed. She’s been forced by them to give up her job in a bookstore - a place where she’s found happiness and normality, and she dreads the snobbery and formality awaiting her.

Despite her concerns, Peggy finds more freedom than she expected, and begins to feel liberated, especially after meeting Stefan, an artist working in Dreamland on Coney Island. Things soon start to go pear shaped though, when two young women are found murdered close to the Oriental Hotel and Peggy begins to see a connection between them and herself!

I loved both the setting and the time period for Dreamland, and it was so well written - what a joy it was to experience how wealthy families spent their leisure as well as seeing what allure Dreamland held for the workers spending what little time and money they had there. I also loved Peggy ( loosely based on Peggy Guggenheim). She shook off the family restraints imposed on her, when she met Serbian artist Stefan, and quickly fell in love with him. Her determination to defy convention had me rooting for her all the way, but as the body count increases, things will get pretty scary for Peggy and Stefan until the identity of the murderer is revealed. A rich and entertaining read with a good solid mystery at its heart!

* My thanks to Hannah Groves at Endeavour Quill for my print copy of Dreamland. I have given an honest unbiased review in exchange *
Profile Image for Debra .
2,415 reviews35.2k followers
November 9, 2019
Coney Island - America's playground. It's 1911 and American Heiress, Peggy Battenberg has been requested (told/your better come or else) to spend the summer at the Oriental Hotel with the rest of her family. She would rather continue working at the Moonrise bookstore, but appearances are everything and she (and her family) must keep up appearances.

There she meets and falls for Stefan, a pier side artist in Dreamland Amusement Park who her family would never approve of. With him she feels a sense of freedom, a liberation and can be herself. But women's bodies begin turning up and Peggy begins to feel/see a connection to herself and begins to be in danger and.......(read the book for the rest!)

This was a wonderful work of historical fiction that looked at Coney Island and the division between the social classes over a century ago. Themes then are still reverent today: family secrets, young love, crimes against women, family expectations, etc. Besides the impressive research that went into this wonderfully written book, it is also engaging, and the plot flowed seamlessly. Although, Peggy had to do what her family wanted, she still found a way to find freedom, have courage, and do what she felt was right even when it went against her families wishes. Peggy is a likable character with spunk.

As she attempts to learn the identity of the murderer, I was on the case with her, coming up with theories and motives. Who is the killer? What is the connection to Peggy? Could she be the next victim?

The Author shares on her blog, the inspiration behind dreamland: http://nancybilyeau.blogspot.com/2019...

Thank you to Hannah Groves form Endeavor Media who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Beata.
755 reviews1,157 followers
January 22, 2020
I cannot say liked this novel although some moments were interesting. To begin with, I found the presentation of the famous Coney Island in its golden days truly interesting, its entertainment and the people who provided it. At times I liked Peggy Batternberg for her independence and inquisitiveness. However, I found her too naive on the one hand and too intelligent on the other hand, which makes Peggy a character I can't trust.
The descriptions of the lifestyle really wealthy families had in America one hundred years ago are well-presented, including the rituals and the places where they stayed and lived.
On the whole, the target reader is definitely YA, which is not me, so I guess they may rave about 'Dreamland', for me it was just an OK read, and I enjoyed it mainly for the period details.
*Many thanks to Nancy Bilyeau, Endevour Media and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.*
Profile Image for Paige.
152 reviews299 followers
January 14, 2020
Restrictions on women and the treatment of foreigners are spotlighted throughout the story. It focuses on the social structure and the formation of society on Coney Island during 1911 more so than the police procedural. The lush atmosphere was a character in itself and played a dominant role in the movement of the story.

"Everything is real on Coney Island - and nothing is real."

Peggy Battenberg is requested to stay with her family on Coney Island. She reluctantly accepts. Peggy feels trapped within her family, their name, their riches, and she wants to shape her own identity. Shortly after arriving to the Oriental Hotel on Coney Island, prejudices are unearthed and a prevalent divide of social classes greet her while making her way to Dreamland. But, women begin to show up dead. Who can she trust and why is she being followed?

"On Coney Island, you can always find someone to do anything."

Technical Stuff:
It starts with a woman being murdered in the Epilogue, but the murder is not revisited until the main character, Peggy, begins her extended stay at Coney Island which is sometime during chapter 5. (There are a total of 37 chapters.) However, the story deviates from the murder mystery for quite sometime after this chapter; instead it focuses on the main character's struggle for independence within her rich family and her new found romantic interest. Because of this, the murder mystery fell to a quiet whisper until chapter 28 (or 78% into the story on a Kindle) when Peggy decides to look for the killer who has been murdering women on the island. That only leaves an eventful 22% left for the reader. I was wanting more suspense throughout the entirety. I think this also made the story move slow at some parts, but it was still a good read.

3.5 stars
Thank you to Hannah Groves from Endeavor Media for providing me with an advanced copy. Opinions are my own.

More on this:
The Oriental Hotel
Above is the Oriental Hotel during the 1890's. This is the hotel that Peggy's family stayed at in the story. Read more about Coney Island Historic Luxury Hotels.

Above is Hellgate, a popular boat ride in Dreamland. Peggy rides this in the story and a major scene takes place there.

Watch a video in photographs of Dreamland here.
Read about the Dreamland fire of 1911.
Profile Image for Shruti.
106 reviews91 followers
April 12, 2020
The cover of Dreamland is beautiful. It reminded me of Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus which I really liked and I requested for this one without reading the summary. It's a completely different genre—Dreamland being a historical mystery and The Night Circus being fantasy. I don't know if it's just me but the cover seemed to promise magic and it was a slight disappointment when I read the summary and realized there would be none.

Dreamland takes place in 1911—Peggy Battenberg, a twenty year old girl belonging to one of the richest families in America is forced to spend the summer with her family in Coney Island. Living at the luxurious Oriental Hotel, Peggy only occasionally gets the chance to slip away from the scrutiny she is under and one such time she wanders into Dreamland, an amusement park, where she meets and falls in love with a Serbian artist, Stefan. During her stay, two women are murdered in Coney Island. Between the police investigating the case and Peggy's own disagreements with her family members, Dreamland is a story of mystery, love and courage.

What I really enjoyed about this book was that the women in the story are smart and strong-willed. Set during the suffragette movement, when women weren't even allowed to vote, Nancy Bilyeau articulately describes the discrimination faced by women and immigrants as well as the orthodox mindset of the older women and men in the story who believe a woman's place is in the kitchen. A mindset that the main character, Peggy, has no patience for!

The focus on the mystery was much lesser than I'd expected which was disappointing. Most of the story focuses on Peggy's family and just a bit at the start and a bit at the end truly focuses on the murders (the reveal wasn't surprising at all). Having said that, I did enjoy the family drama and I feel the character development was commendable.

The book didn't have any 'Wow' moments but overall, it was a fun read. So if you're looking for a book that you can read at a leisurely pace and be able to put down whenever you need to because it isn't very gripping, this one will work well.

[I'd like to thank NetGalley, Endeavor Quill and Nancy Bilyeau for this ARC.]
Profile Image for Nursebookie.
2,189 reviews338 followers
February 15, 2020
Dreamland is an amazing Historical Fiction novel set in New York. Peggy is a twenty-year-old heiress from one of the richest families in America – the Batternbergs. It is the summer of 1911 and Peggy was ordered by her family to vacation in the luxurious beach front Oriental Hotel for a few weeks to accompany her mother and sister. Peggy would much rather work at the Moonrise Bookstore, but as an heiress, a woman of her stature would not even think of working for a living. That was quickly put to end by her controlling family to keep up with appearances among the city’s socialites. Peggy finds more than what she bargained for and gets mixed up with a young migrant, family secrets, and murders.

I loved Bilyeau’s well researched historical fiction writing that transported me right to that amazing time and place. I find it so fascinating on how people vacationed in those days where a hotel stay lasted for a few weeks or the entire summer. I loved how the details of that time were highlighted along with the race, social and class divides, discrimination, and power. This was a delight to read with wonderful characters that I loved and loved to hate. The suspenseful murder mystery component made this read a real page turner for me.
Profile Image for Lilith Black Bee.
178 reviews357 followers
March 11, 2020
Actual rating: 3.5 ⭐

E-ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own and are not affected in any way.

• Night Circus vibes.
Even if this is a mystery book and Night Circus is a fantasy one, and they don't have anything in common, the first chapters, plus some other parts, reminded me of precisely that one book. After finishing reading Dreamland, I have read some other reviews to see if anyone had this feeling, and it turns out I am the single one that felt this way. I don't know exactly what was the trigger for this, but I am inclined to think that the setting and the atmosphere had something to do with it. Or, it's possible that my memory to play some tricks on me because, you know, there are years and years from when I have read The Night Circus.
• Glimpse in the past.
Since I don't read that much historical fiction, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how life was for people about 100 years ago, and mostly how it was for women back then.
• The pacing.
I have to admit that at some points I felt it is a little slow-paced, but it wasn't the book's fault. After some time I have realized that the not too slow not too fast pace of it, it was perfect for this kind of book, and it gave me time to sink in all the information and feelings.

• Rushed/short ending.
All that came after the reveal, it felt rushed. Like, you put the gift in the box, but you don't take the time and the necessary supplies to give a nice look to your gift. You just put it in the box, throw the address label on it and off you go. It was like the way of writing it was done by someone else. It didn't correspond with the rest of the book. And when I am saying this, I am referring specifically to the execution, not to the way it finished.

• This wasn't at all a bad book. Neither was a very good one. It delivered what it promised, had a great way to do so, and had plenty of awesome characters, but unfortunately, it didn't bring something new to me. Or what it was new, it wasn't that big of a wow in order for me to rate it with more than 3.5 ⭐.

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Profile Image for sarah.
404 reviews267 followers
December 19, 2019
“Everything is real on Coney Island- and nothing is real”

Peggy Battenberg is the black sheep daughter of one of the wealthiest and most affluent families in the early 20th century America. However, she is not your typical heiress. She is a ’New Woman’, working in a bookshop and trying her best to distance herself from her family. However, when she is told she must accompany them to New York, she cannot refuse to her chagrin. They stay in an opulent hotel next to the famous theme park ‘Dreamland’

Peggy is told not to mix herself with the common folk of Coney Island, but never one to conform to her family’s expectations, she sneaks into the darkness to Dreamland.
While on her adventures around the theme park, she meets a Serbian artist named Stefan. Their secret romance ignites under the veil of night on a beach, however everything gets entangled when bodies of young girl’s bodies start to appear, ensnaring Peggy into a web of murder, corruption and mystery.

Set with the backdrop of the glamorous yet corrupt 1911 New York, the atmosphere is where Nancy Bileyeau excels. The descriptions of the hotel, the beach, the sweltering heat allowed a clear image of a this place that I have never been to. The descriptions of the aristocratic, extravagant yet reputation obsessed Battenberg family was sone so well I felt as if I were one of the wealthy, both the most free and the most trapped as Peggy discovers. When in Dreamland, I could taste the hot dogs, see the fireworks, smell the popcorn and hear the raucous crowds.
This is at its core, a mystery book and the unsettling nature of it added suspense and a tinge of darkness to the story.

Peggy’s world she once thought gilded was corrupting from the inside out.

This book explores privilege, and how it can be difficult to recognise when it is not yourself affected. Peggy had thought herself a ’new woman’, working and living a largely ordinary life, however her family name gets her many advantages she was unaware of, being sheltered from the ‘less desirable folk’ her whole life. Meeting Stefan and others around Dreamland allows her prejudices and assumptions to be slowly fracture. She learns of the disparity between classes, and realises that while she is still disadvantaged from being a woman in that time- she is one of the lucky ones.

Bigotry and racism toward immigrants is a particular focus of this novel. Peggy is disgusted at how they are instantly blamed, used as scapegoats. Generalised as ‘Anarchists’, the residents of Coney Island turn their noses up at anyone not born in their country. Unfortunately, while set more than a hundred years ago, the issue is still at the forefront political discourse, not only in the US, but the entire world.

The characters were for the most part very well developed. At the beginning, I struggled to grasp how their large family was connected, however I soon got the gist of it.
Lydia was my favourite! I think I would have preferred to read from her perspective as she was such an interesting and complex character, with the most growth.
Closely followed by Ben. I’m not sure what drew me to him, because he is immoral and mean and manipulative, but that just made his character more intriguing to me.


Why does every good story just need to be ruined with Insta-love? Whyyyyy?
That may be a bit dramatic, but so was this romance. Saying I love you after meeting for like the second time? No thanks.

That being said, my thoughts on the romance may be tinged by me thinking the love interest was like 60 for about 50 pages. I’m not sure how that happened, but it was a REAL shock when they kissed. Even once I figured out he was NOT an elderly man, my brain still pictured him as a grandpa every time he was on the page. That sort of killed the romance for me.

I shipped Peggy with someone else, even though I absolutely HATE myself for it. If you’ve read this you probably know and if not… just know I hate my brain and I need to stop reading messed up new adult romances.

The Ending
I’m not going to give anything away, but I didn’t like the ending. I had a bunch of theories and all of them would been more shocking and intense than the one we were given (that isn’t even a brag, my theories are always super convoluted- but that just shows how bad this ending was)
It was not only VERY rushed, but didn’t really make that much sense. When they told us the murderer I thought it must have been a red herring, because it was so obvious that it was surprising. I don’t understand this character’s motivations for what they did. It was almost suggested they had some form of mental illness, which I did not appreciate.

Well written and atmospheric, Dreamland was an interesting look at life in turn of the century New York, without glamourising it completely. Don’t go into this for the romance or murder mystery because you will probably be disappointed. This novel’s true strength lies in its descriptions and characters. I would recommend this loosely for fans of the Night Circus (take that with a whole jar of salt because I have never read it, but for some reason it gives me those vibes. I could be very off though) While slow paced at times, this book felt very realistic and as if I was in the midst of this world.
Profile Image for Linda.
1,285 reviews1,329 followers
December 8, 2019
"If Paris is France, then Coney Island, between June and September, is the world." (George C. Tilyou, 1886)

Nancy Bilyeau presents a rip roarin' stroll on the boardwalk on Coney Island in 1911. She adds lustre tinged with darkness as Brooklyn becomes a showcase for in-your-face class distinction, jutting prime real estate, upscale grand hotels overlooking the highjinks of people at play, the paralyzing fear of European anarchists, and America perched on the brink of war.

Peggy Batternberg views life from an almost aerial perspective. Born into one of the richest families in America, Peggy can't seem to get away fast enough from the clutches of the rich and famous. She's taken a job at the Moonrise Bookstore in New York City posing as a plain, run of the mill shop girl. Peggy just wants an every day life without a personal maid drawing her bath each evening. But those simple days come to an abrupt hault as she is whisked away from the store by her Uncle David, the judge and jury of the Batternberg family.

It seems that Peggy must meet the demands of her family now that her sister, Lydia, is marrying one of the richest men in New York. Her presence is required at the Oriental Hotel in Brooklyn overlooking Coney Island for the summer months. Peggy feels obligated after she receives the parental look from her widowed mother. But our gal Peggy has a bit of a past connection with Lydia's fiance in which she's trying to keep under wraps.

Not to be shackled to her hotel bed, Peggy sneaks away one evening to enjoy the raucous crowds of a Coney Island night. It's here that she meets a talented Serbian artist. Peggy purchases two of his paintings and they develop a relationship. The handsome artist, Stefan, is irresistable and charming. But like a dark shadow in the moonlight, young women are turning up dead near Dreamland. Peggy and Stefan may have witnessed something at one of their rendezvous meetings. And the police may just suspect Peggy and Stefan in return.

Nancy Bilyeau does a fine job surrounding this storyline with all things Coney Island. The setting provides just the right amount of who done it and why. She's done her research and her atmospheric descriptors are spot-on. Her character of Peggy reflects women of the time period who ached for something more in life while being plagued with social mores and limits. This one is a winner with no prized Kewpie Doll necessary.....just a very satisfying read.

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Endeavor Media and Nancy Blyeau for the opportunity.
Profile Image for Nancy Bilyeau.
Author 12 books880 followers
November 19, 2021
In researching and writing this novel, I deeply immersed myself in a dazzling New York City of over a century ago and created characters that months later I can't seem to get out of my head. :) I hope my readers enjoy this novel of suspense. Here is my post for my author blog on how I got the idea for the book: http://nancybilyeau.blogspot.com/2019...
Profile Image for Crumb.
189 reviews539 followers
December 16, 2019
Beautifully told and Moving.

Review to Follow
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,181 reviews30.5k followers
January 2, 2020
Have you been to America’s Playground? Coney Island? I’ve always wanted to visit. Dreamland has Coney Island as a backdrop, and it’s 1911.

Peggy Battenberg is a young heiress who has been invited to the Oriental Hotel not far from Coney Island. You’d think she’d want to go, right?

No. Peggy has been working at the Moonrise Bookstore, and she dislikes nothing more than rubbing elbows with fellow socialites.

Nevertheless, she heads off to the hotel, as is expected of her, and she quickly finds a freedom in this carefree place. She also finds love with an artist.

But that’s not all that happens that summer. The fancy Batternbergs may just get away with murder.

Oh my, this was so much more than I imagined it would be. It was filled with temptation, lies, deception, and a touch of darkness. The tension abounds, and I was hooked into Peggy’s story from the start.

The setting and the time period come to vivid life, and what a backdrop Dreamland provided. Peggy is a main character to champion. A strong woman before her time, determined to be her own person and choose the love she wanted. Of course, the murder mystery kept me guessing and on the edge of my seat.

Overall, Dreamland is a suspenseful historical mystery set in an intriguing time and place with lovable, strong characters. I loved it!

I received a complimentary copy.

Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com
Profile Image for Brooke — brooklynnnnereads.
1,031 reviews247 followers
January 22, 2020
I have to be honest, this story turned out to be totally different than what I thought it would be. From the summary and the cover, I thought this novel's setting would have a huge impact on the story. I expected the novel to have an atmosphere that would be fantastical and magical, set in a historic Coney Island. I thought the setting would be something similar or akin to "Water for Elephants" or "Caraval" where it made the whole story feel somewhat whimsical and fascinating.

However, this novel didn't truly need to be set in Coney Island because I didn't feel like it truly was featured. Aside from mentions of the beach and various hotels, it didn't really have much importance to the story and because of that, I think the cover is kind of misleading.

For a historical young adult murder mystery, it was okay. I will admit that I found the story boring but it also wasn't the story that I expected to read. If others are going into this novel expecting the setting to be a huge factor in the story, they may be disappointed as well.

***Thank you to the publisher for supplying me with an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review***
Profile Image for MicheleReader.
745 reviews130 followers
January 22, 2020
Dreamland, is an absorbing historical mystery with some romance set in 1911, New York City. Peggy Batternberg, a young heiress, is anxious to escape the shackles of her restrictive family which is all consumed by appearance and status. She is allowed to work in a bohemian bookstore and live in Greenwich Village but her life is disrupted when she is commanded to spend the summer at the Oriental Hotel in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, next to Coney Island, which was then home to three amusement parks including Dreamland. The setting is a perfect one for family drama, a forbidden romance and a murder mystery. Ms. Bilyeau does an excellent job in putting the reader in early twentieth century New York where a handful of wealthy robber barons ruled like royalty and the poor immigrants were met with fear and loathing. I was raised in Sheepshead Bay in the shadow of the former racetrack and swam at the beaches where the three luxury hotels stood long ago. My love of Coney Island has been lifelong. So much so that I have a large collection of memorabilia from this period. So when Bilyeau places Peggy and the others in Dreamland, I can attest to the accuracy of her descriptions of the surroundings. (I forgive the author for the small time discrepancy as the fire that ultimately destroyed Dreamland took place before the start of the 1911 summer season.) This enjoyable book was a nice find and a quick read. It comes out on January 16, 2020. Many thanks to NetGalley, Endeavour Media and Ms. Bilyeau for the ARC.
Rating: 4.25.
Review posted on my blog MicheleReader.com
Profile Image for Moonkiszt.
2,160 reviews210 followers
December 7, 2019

Glued to my screen!!! I was lured in with a girl working at a bookstore: Moonrise Bookstore (who could resist that name?). I followed the breadcrumbs willingly. . . .and even when the plot seemed to turn a corner, and I spoke the murderer’s name out loud so I would have the smug satisfaction of saying I’d called it before halfway through, there was no loosening my grip on that kindle. I stayed to the very, very end. Breathless and all.

This was a roller coaster read. The characters fit their parts and the setting in Coney Island’s Dreamland with all the actual events of 1911 woven in as they were could have felt very contrived. They didn’t – it felt exactly right, deftly woven in with the action and decorated with exquisite side characters. And was I right about whodunit? Nope. Not even close. It’s even better when the author bests me – I don’t mind, a bit!

I’m looking for more from Nancy Bilyeau. . .her book “The Blue” was an earlier read from this year – look for it, too.

A 4.5 stars recommendation from me for Dreamland!

A sincere thanks to Nancy Bilyeu, Endeavour Quill/Endeavor Media Ltd and NetGalley for providing me an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Martie Nees Record.
689 reviews145 followers
December 17, 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction Murder Thriller
Publisher: Endeavour Media
Pub. Date: January 16, 2020


I had some disappointment with this novel. I thought it would be a shoo-in for me since I was reading about my childhood backyard. The novel is set in 1911 in Coney Island, Brooklyn NY. Back then, the amusement park truly earned its nickname of “America’s Playground.” For more than 100 years Coney Island has been synonymous with summer. I am a summer person. I couldn’t wait to dive into the story. The author does a good job of capturing the park’s energy and the feel of the times. There is also a decent murder mystery. My issue is with how the protagonistic—a 20-year-old who is from one of the wealthiest families in America—is not a believable character. She flip-flops from wanting to be a suffragette to acting like a prim and proper young woman from old money. Even though I was disappointed, overall I enjoyed the tale.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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Profile Image for Cathy.
1,216 reviews229 followers
January 4, 2020
I really enjoyed Nancy Bilyeau’s previous book, The Blue, with its combination of convincing period detail, engaging heroine and intriguing mystery. The author achieves the same feat in Dreamland. The backdrop of an intense heatwave reflects the passionate undercurrents of the story and its more melodramatic moments.

The setting of Coney Island, brilliantly brought to life by the author, in many ways reflects the gulf between rich and poor. The rich and privileged of society, such as the Batternberg family, live the high life in luxurious seafront hotels waited upon hand and foot and seek escapism in the entertainment offered in Dreamland. Meanwhile the less fortunate toil there in the heat or are presented as objects of freakish fascination and novelty.

For Peggy, Dreamland seems to represent an escape from the constraints of family and social expectations but she soon becomes aware of a darker side, and one much closer to home, as she is drawn into the investigation of suspicious deaths.

There are some distinctly unlikable male characters in the book including senior members of the Batternberg family who indulge in immoral behaviour whilst insisting on high standards of propriety from their own wives and daughters. Initially I found Peggy’s sister Lydia rather a wet blanket although I did feel sorry for the position in which she finds herself, promised in marriage to the rich and arrogant Henry as ‘the human glue between two families” rather as if she was a business asset the subject of a merger or acquisition. Later I warmed to her as Lydia proves her mettle in other ways.

Dreamland is a suspenseful and atmospheric story of obsession and desire.
Profile Image for Thebooktrail.
1,629 reviews295 followers
January 13, 2020
Dreamland set in Coney island

Visit the locations in the novel Dreamland

there’s a kind of novel I get very excited about is when I get to travel back in time to a place I would have loved to have visited for real. Dreamland is set firmly in America’s golden age and at the heart of Coney Island. A ticket back in time to 1911 you say? I’m there!

Dreamland was one of three theme parks which became known as America’s playground. The hedonism, the parties, the promises! It sadly burned down in 1911 but the author has brought it back to sizzling life! You can tell she’s been there and I half suspect she has a time machine and that she went in a crinolene dress such is the attention to detail that this novel immerses you inside.

Imagine being on the cusp of your new life at a time that America was changing. Peggy in the novel is an heiress so think of the Vanderbilts and all that jazz and it’s a whirlwind ride. It’s a time of changing morals, women’s freedoms, how women were supposed to act and how rich heiresses were supposed to act in particular. Family dynamics are interesting!

And that’s not all this novel is. There are some really juicy themes such as the place and role of foreigners in America, settling in to a new country and place, class barriers etc. The characters, issues and backdrop all combine to a magically captivating effect and I was totally captivated.

Can I just say that the day she went against her family and got a job in a bookstore I cheered! Just one of many little details and nuances that makes this book shine.
Profile Image for Sara.
440 reviews64 followers
November 17, 2019
Okay, yes, I have to be honest. I requested this ARC because it was love at first sight. This cover made my cursor stop in its track and after reading the synopsis, I clicked on the button 'Request'.

Wow. This was a fun ride full of suspense. And I loved it.
Frankly, I loved Peggy the most. She was such an interesting character—strong, independent with a fierce and loyal heart. I enjoyed reading about her rebellious nature—an heiress who rejects social norms in order to live her life to the fullest. Peggy is someone I'd like to have as a friend, someone that takes your word for granted, and fights for what's right. What I really admired about her was her strong will. How she didn't crumble everytime she was called a black sheep or ignored by her family for being a New woman, who, you know, actually works. And I really applauded her in the scene where she was mocked by the lower-class for wanting to help Stefan. She radiated amazing self-confidence and didn't rise to the bait of her being just a pampered princess who has no idea what's really happening in the world.
Peggy was someone who didn't really fit in her world of glamour, money and comfort. She was also rejected by the outside world, being labelled as a naive heiress who didn't have to work a minute for a life of privilege. But what Peggy did was put on her designer clothes, used her expensive earrings and showed the world what it means to take a stand against everyone, and win.

So, Peggy was my favourite of the lot. But I think that Lydia was the one that had undergone through a major transformation as a character. She came a long way, from being a meek, pliable girl, engaged to a prosperous partner, to a reliable sister to Peggy and a bold woman, ready to take a stand against injustice. Still, this book wouldn't have been as great if it were told from Lydia's perspective. In my opinion, Peggy made all the difference between making this book a delight to read and a total bore.

Now, Stefan. I didn't ship him and Peggy. Honestly, I had another prospect in mind for Peggy and was hoping for the interest to blossom until the very end, but alas, nothing happened there. Nevertheless, Stefan was an interesting character. The sneers and unkindness he received for being a Serb immigrant only made this story all the more accurate. The time that we're living in right now is a strange time where there are a lot of immigrants crossing Europe. And the media portrayals only make us more judgmental. We see them as a threat instead of regular people in search of a better future. And of course, the public is more than ready to point fingers at them when something bad happens. Like with Stefan. Also, it was quite refreshing reading about Dalmatia and Serbia given the fact that I'm Slovene and my parents were living in the Ex-Yugoslavia.

And here comes the star. Benny Boy. Well, Ben, but I enjoyed his character way too much I started calling him that every time he blessed me with his presence. I don't know what that makes me conceding that he was as twisted and cruel as the other Batternberg family members but he was something else entirely. He was not quite like his father, David Batternberg, but neither was he as honest as Peggy. For me, Peggy and Ben made quite a duo.

I was really taken by surprise how much I enjoyed this book. I suspected who the real murderer was for a while but that didn't make the story lacking in any way. I really appreciated the way the author portrayed the social standings—how being born in money didn't make you an evil person but also how much lower-classes had to work to make ends meet. This being at the beginning of the 20th century, there was a lot of discrimination—discrimination against immigrants, people of colour, and women.

ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thank you to the author!
Profile Image for Rose.
271 reviews118 followers
January 15, 2020
I have just finished reading Dreamland By Nancy Bilyeau.

The story is a historical fiction/mystery that takes place in 1911 in Coney Island, with the main character being an American Heiress, Peggy Battenberg

This to me was both very interesting and enjoyable. the era and place make for a great read. The clothing, decor, and intrigue set up for a book that kept me interested from start to finish!

Thank you to NeGalley, Nancy Bilyeau, and Endeavour Media
Profile Image for Emma.
2,507 reviews855 followers
March 25, 2020
Set in the golden age of Coney Island in 1911; this book immerses you in the sights and sounds of Dreamland and the other amusement parks, while women are beginning to clamber for the vote, where Serbia is a hotbed of anarchism, where union labour laws were being challenged, and yet the rich are living their privileged entitled lives, immune to the poverty around them. The story contains a murder mystery and a romance and was highly enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Amy Bruno.
364 reviews485 followers
December 30, 2019
Well, 2019 has come full circle! I kicked off the year by reading Nancy Bilyeau's novel, The Blue, and now I'm closing the year out with her newest novel, Dreamland! I could not think of a better book to be my last read of the year - it was fabulously entertaining!

Peggy is an heiress of the Batternberg family, a wealthy and powerful family along the likes of the Rockefellers. Despite the fact that she is the granddaughter of one of the richest men in America, she prefers her job as a shop girl at a local bookstore in NYC. She feels more at home with writers and artists then her family.

One day her uncle shows up and tells her she must join the family for the summer at the Oriental Hotel near Coney Island. Her sister is engaged to a wealthy man and the marriage is important as their father squandered their money away and they need the money that their marriage will bring. While out one evening at Dreamland at Coney Island Peggy meets an artist, Stefan, and she soon falls for him. He opens her eyes to the world outside her little bubble.

When two women are found murdered on the beach, Peggy becomes interested in the cases. When Stefan is implicated in the murders she must clear his name.

Dreamland checked every box for me. There was romance, mystery, and tough topics like immigrant rights and prejudice, the difference in social classes, bullying and gaslighting (lookin' at you, Henry), but what shines through is the author's love for the city of New York. I went there once on my honeymoon and loved it and Nancy makes me want to go back so badly!

A huge thanks to Endeavour Media for the chance to read this incredible book. I inhaled it in one sitting and cannot wait for more from Nancy Bilyeau!
Profile Image for Susan Peterson.
1,631 reviews278 followers
December 28, 2020
Dreamland takes place in 1911 at Coney Island, a hot scorching summer. It was during a time when the world was struggling with women's rights, workers' rights, and bigotry towards immigrants. It was also a time of great disparity between the rich and the poor, and Coney Island itself was a place where the rich could live sheltered in the grand hotels, but not far from the amusements, the thrills, and the depravity offered by Coney Island's Dreamland. I was completely immersed in the time and the place, come to life in the gifted author's words, characters, and story.
The main character, Peggy Batternberg, daughter of one of the wealthiest families in the country, is spending the summer with her family on Coney Island--much to her chagrin. She'd much prefer working in a book store to keeping up appearances with her ostentatious family. Peggy is a remarkable character--strong, independent, passionate--but her ways and beliefs conflict with her family's, culminating when she is caught up in the murders of three women.
This book is fascinating on so many levels. It is full of suspense and intrigue following the murders, and my heart raced with dread and excitement as Peggy seeks justice and truth. Dreamland is also a stirring story of the disparity of the classes, a dangerous obsession, and a world that is evolving.
2 reviews1 follower
August 17, 2019
I love all of Nancy Bilyeau’s books, and yet, this is my favorite! She captures 1911 Coney Island and Dreamland so vividly that I could taste the hotdogs and the cotton candy and feel like I’m right in the middle of the action in this lively, crazy amusement park. When Peggy, the rebellious 20 year old protagonist from a wealthy Manhattan family reminiscent of the real life Guggenheims, is forced into spending the summer with her family in a luxurious hotel near Coney Island, she escapes to the forbidden Dreamland one day, and a whole new world opens to her of romance, murder, and family drama. She has to fight off police and go underground to deal with the most interesting characters she would never have met on Fifth Avenue, Manhattan in an effort to find the real murderer of young women in Dreamland. I just loved this book, and couldn’t put it down.
Profile Image for Vonda.
318 reviews114 followers
January 19, 2020
What an incredible read. It gives you an insight into being an heiress in one of the richest families in America circa 1911. A summer on Coney Island, unsolved murders, an illicit affair between an heiress and an imigrant, drugs...what did this book not have? It would have been so much better with more description of hotels, coney island et. al. Otherwise very well done and look for more from this author!
Profile Image for The Lit Bitch.
1,252 reviews391 followers
February 12, 2020
This author has written a variety of historical fiction novels that I have enjoyed over the years. And when I say variety, I mean variety. She’s written books about Tudor era mysteries with nuns and eighteenth century porcelain collectors and now here we are moving across the pond to Coney Island in the early 1900s.

That’s a pretty impressive spread! All of her books have been well researched and incredibly detailed so I was more than happy to check this one out as well.

There aren’t many books set in Coney Island and for me, it conjures romantic, carefree, and quirky images of by gone days so I was absolutely on board with reading this book!

This book was fantastic! I can’t even begin to tell you how pleased I have been lately with all of my new historical fiction releases! I had been hearing great things about this book but when I went to pick it up, I was just not in the mood for anymore historical fiction, but as soon as I cracked it open, I could hardly put it down!

I adored Peggy and thought she was so likable and I really felt all of her struggles when it came to class and expectations from her family as well as her other social constraints during that time. The author made her come alive and I acutely felt her struggles which for me is a hallmark of a great characters and story.

The only thing that I struggled with in this book was the murder mystery. The story starts to kind of get derailed from the murder mystery pretty early on, but then the murder mystery returns in later chapters so I kind of started to wonder if this book could maybe have done without the murder mystery all together? In the summary I felt like the murder mystery was going to be the focus but when I actually got into the book it wasn’t as focused on as I had expected so that said if you are going into this thinking it’s going to be a murder mystery, you might be disappointed.

As a historical fiction novel though, I thought it was wonderful and really enjoyed reading it. This is a seasoned historical fiction writer who continues to showcase her historical knowledge and writing skills!

See my full review here
Profile Image for gwendalyn _books_.
947 reviews36 followers
January 7, 2020
Have you been to America’s Playground? Coney Island?

I’ve always wanted to visit.

Dreamland has Coney Island as a backdrop, and it’s 1911.

This book was received from the Author, and Publisher, in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own

Dreamland is a suspenseful historical fiction of obsession and desire.

This fascinating portrait of the end of the Gilded Age was a fabulous start to 2020. Set in New York 1911, the Battenberg family are one of the richest in America, with the Vanderbilts and Rockerfellas,

Peggy Battenberg is a young heiress who struggles against the bonds of societal restrictions placed on women of her class. Peggy, against her families wishes takes a job at the Moonrise Bookstore, and lives with her ex teacher. When her family intervenes, and she is told that she is required to take a summer vacation at the Oriental Hotel, a once-grand oceanfront resort on Coney Island. For the sake of her sister Lydia, who is engaged to the rich Henry Taul, Peggy succumbs to her family’s wishes.

Nancy Bilyeau’s writing catapults you into this vibrant outstanding thriller set in end of Gilded Age. Dreamland is a splendid, intoxicating book, with plenty of multi layered suspense.

Nancy Bilyeau delivers an extremely entertaining storyline, with captivating underlying tension. This gripping, perfectly paced and well-written read here that I absolutely loved how seamlessly and cleverly written this story was, and thought the author did a fabulous job with the delivery. I was totally invested all the way through to the satisfying end.

Dreamland and the rest of Coney Island is an intoxicating, hedonistic and full of life. Peggy gets to experience life from a completely different perspective than she has ever before. Mixing with artists, dancers, the inhabitants of Lilliput, along with food vendors. There is also a sinister side to this plot line, that adds an intriguing twist to the book that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Scandal and intrigue along with family drama makes for an extraordinary thought-provoking novel. A fabulous mystery/thriller that I was immediately drawn into and devoured quickly.
Profile Image for Abbie | ab_reads.
603 reviews447 followers
December 16, 2019
3.5 stars

Thank you to @endeavour_media for sending me a copy of Dreamland to review! This historical mystery set in 1911 in Coney Island is one to read if you enjoy being whisked away to a different time period! Bilyeau excels at writing atmosphere and setting, and for much of this novel I really felt like I was wandering around Dreamland, one of Coney Island’s amusement parks, seeing the bright lights, hearing the pitches of the people working the booths, smelling popcorn, hotdogs and fried onions - loved that!
The actual mystery itself was also intriguing. Our protagonist, millionaire heiress Peggy Batternberg, is invited to spend her summer at America’s Playground to spend it with some of America’s richest families, as her family attempt to set up her younger sister with a mega rich playboy. But when local women begin turning up dead, the web of deceit and betrayal grows ever more tangled and Peggy begins to suspect her own family...
It sounds like all the characters would be detestable, and while many are, I liked Peggy and Lydia, and enjoyed hating the others! Peggy wants to make her own name for herself and loves books, with a fierce independent streak. And we can’t forget about Stefan, a humble Serbian artist her family hugely disapproves of - for fans of forbidden love!
But there was a slightly off-putting tendency to reiterate something’s meaning after it occurred - as if the reader wasn’t clever enough to figure it out or keep up on their own. Also, at 250 pages in I don’t think it’s necessary to refer to Lydia as ‘my sister Lydia’ or Ben as ‘my cousin Ben’, pretty certain I know who they are at this point.
Overall it was a compelling mystery story, with some interesting comments on class and prejudice in the early 20th century.
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