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Birdie and Jay

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From the famed halls of the American Museum of Natural History to the opulent parties of Manhattan’s Gilded Age elite to a muddy dig site that may be hiding a groundbreaking discovery, Birdie & Jay is a captivating historical fiction novel based on true events that will take listeners on an unforgettable journey.

Birdie, a young woman born into wealth, has a deep passion for art and science which leads her to a position painting landscape habitats at the new Museum of Natural History. Her mother—who sees this pursuit as a distraction from her daughter’s obligatory society functions—tries to forbid her from the museum. But Birdie’s dedication only grows once she meets Jay, an intelligent Irishman who’s yanked himself up by his dusty bootstraps to join the museum’s elite team of researchers.

Captivated by each other despite their class differences, Birdie and Jay steal away to Central Park each day, where they discuss the work of Darwin and other forces shaping their changing world. When the two are pulled apart for the summer—Jay to an expedition in England that could make or break his career, and Birdie to the mansions of Newport toward more acceptable suitors—both of them will have to fight for what’s right, and for a chance to be together.

A rich blend of the past, passion, and scientific truth-seeking adventure, Birdie & Jay is a powerful story that will transport listeners to an era of both extraordinary risk and glittering opportunity.

Audible Audio

First published March 19, 2020

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About the author

Ella Joy Olsen

3 books186 followers
Ella Joy Olsen lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, a charming town tucked at the base of the massive Wasatch Mountains. She is the mom of three (young adult) kids, the mama of two dogs, and the wife of one patient husband.

Her novels include: the Audible Original BIRDIE & JAY, the Historical Novel Society Editors’ Choice ROOT, PETAL,THORN, and the 15 Bytes Finalist WHERE THE SWEET BIRD SINGS.

She teaches creative writing through Lifelong Learning at the University of Utah and she is part-owner of Salty City Writing Workshops, where she mentors writers and facilitates writing retreats. Ella is represented by Rachel Ekstrom at Folio Literary Management.

Connect with her at www.ellajoyolsen.com or Instagram @ellajoyolsen

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Community Reviews

5 stars
31 (16%)
4 stars
70 (36%)
3 stars
70 (36%)
2 stars
16 (8%)
1 star
6 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews
332 reviews6 followers
April 22, 2020
A heroine who has no backbone whatsoever, no pluck, and could not be more annoyingly submissive. Ugh. What a slog.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
2,575 reviews125 followers
April 29, 2020
Set in New York City during the Gilded Age, Birdie and Jay are from two totally different worlds but that doesn't stop an instant connection from forming between them. Even though Birdie was born into wealth and Jay is an immigrant struggling to find his way, they have many common interests. Will they be able to overcome their upbringings (and Birdie's parents) so they can enjoy a future together?

This was a light, romantic respite during these troubled times, and I'd recommend it for fans of historical fiction, especially if you have toured and loved the American Museum of Natural History.

Lastly, I would highly recommend this author's two previous books, Root, Petal, Thorn (4 stars) and Where the Sweet Bird Sings (3.5 stars).

Location: NYC

I received an advance copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Profile Image for Nita.
468 reviews47 followers
April 22, 2020
Birdie and Jay by Ella Olsen is Ella's best yet! An Audible Original that is a 5🌟 performance and the story is a beautiful love romance tucked into the suspense and history of the Gilded Age and trying to find the missing link!
16 reviews
April 24, 2020
Very disappointing book. The plot, setting, & dilemmas promised an interesting & moving story, but
ignorance and, worse, dismissal of the socio-cultural realities of that day made this a shallow read. Example: The maid loses her job because of the main character’s selfish behavior, but no problem, Daddy finds her a new job, so everything is hunky dory. The gritty reality of employment for servants in that setting is ignored, yet servants are central figures in the book. Shallow characters & lacking in depth.

Profile Image for Deborah.
203 reviews1 follower
July 4, 2020
Disappointed! I chose this book from Audible because of an email I received from Audible.com claiming it got rave reviews. Not. It was all I could do to get through it. I would not recommend.
Profile Image for Orly Konig.
Author 2 books190 followers
June 9, 2020
I’ve loved all of Ella Joy Olsen’s books and was eagerly anticipating this one, especially as a lover of the Museum of Natural History. Olsen, once again, delivers a perfectly crafted story with beautiful prose and details that bring the reader (listener in this case) deep into the world of Birdie and Jay. I may have even developed a slight crush on Jay.
Profile Image for Jan.
512 reviews68 followers
January 2, 2022
This is a historical romance with likable characters and a fun plot, although not without a few holes. I was a little disappointed in the ending, but it was sufficient. Eva Kaminsky and Gerard Doyle share the narration of the audiobook and did a great job. No sex, no foul language, no violence.
34 reviews1 follower
March 26, 2020
Super sweet- I love the topic, and story. Writing is really good and the characters are all a delight.
Profile Image for J. Else.
Author 7 books89 followers
September 17, 2020
Early 1900s, New York. What’s bigger news than the Titanic’s sinking? Finding Darwin’s missing link. Birdie’s family plans to finance the expedition for the Museum of Natural History, with Jay as the museum’s representative. For Birdie, she’s more excited by an invitation to help paint the museum’s bird habitats. Birdie’s mother, though, refuses to have her daughter seen as a working girl and forbids it, so Birdie creates opportunities to sneak away. Despite their different social classes, Birdie and Jay are drawn together like magnets. Keeping their relationship secret, Birdie plans to get through her season without becoming engaged. But when a persistent Austrian count begins courting her and Jay is sent overseas on to the dig site, their new-found love will be put to the test.

Readers are welcomed into the extravagant lifestyles of New York’s wealthiest citizens while also digging for bones in Piltdown, East Sussex, searching for Darwin’s missing link. Opulent homes and outdoor landscapes are well described. The narration switches between Birdie and Jay with two different Audible narrators. Gerard Doyle’s Irish accent brings out Jay’s personality as well as his cultural roots. Eva Kaminsky has a wonderful ability to create distinct voices for both males and females.

While pursuing their passions in the museum, Birdie and Jay are engaging characters. Jay’s work and his investigation into suspect activities surrounding the Piltdown dig are immensely intriguing. However, as Birdie pines over Jay and reluctantly spends the summer with her family, she becomes a listless narrator. The story lacks a counterbalance of levity as situations get more serious for our main characters, slowing the plot’s momentum. While I greatly enjoyed the natural history aspects, the romance feels slightly rushed and the characters lack depth when they aren’t in the museum.

Review originally posted via the Historical Novel Society at https://historicalnovelsociety.org/re...
Profile Image for Joanie.
476 reviews6 followers
September 25, 2020
Oh, I really wanted/needed to love this novel. After reading to many books about "real" troubles in today's world, I have been longing for a bit of historical fiction combined with a bit of romance to carry me away for a few hours. This novel had potential. The historical parts of the book were terribly interesting to me. The romance between Birdie and Jay also had potential, but I fear the author chose to spent too much time on creating a twisty plot with an evil Count and a social-climing mother while failing to really develop the character of Birdie. Not only did Birdie get cheated by being born a female during the Gilded Age, but she got cheated by the author who created her. Heck, even the lovers' letters were rarely shared with the reader. Was I the only one left wondering what exactly fueled their passion? Good looks? Absence? Forbidden fruit?
105 reviews
October 20, 2021
I really enjoyed the archeology part of the book, which was based on the real search for the "missing link" and the fraudulent discovery of the Piltdown Man. The controversy over evolution's challenge to religion was very interesting. This science served as the backdrop for the unlikely romance between Birdie, a daughter of privilege during the Gilded Age, and Jay, an Irish immigrant trying to be accepted as a scientist. Issues of classism and racism were also addressed as integral parts of the story.
Profile Image for Michele.
110 reviews3 followers
June 9, 2020
Diving into the world of Birdie & Jay will have you exploring the age of scientific discovery and exploration during the early 20th century in New York and England and introduce you to the controversial discovery of the Piltdown Man of 1912. Set against this fascinating historical backdrop is the love story of Beatrice and Jay. This Audible original is such a fun read (listen?) and had me finding longer loops to walk the dogs on just to extend my listening time.
40 reviews3 followers
July 21, 2020
The historical side of this book was interesting. But the author, in her desire to show the reader how it felt to be a woman in the upper echelons of NY society does such a good job, that I felt a sense of dread when Birdie's character took center stage. Other than the two title characters, all the others are 2-dimentional and uninteresting....their main purposes seem to be oppressive or just annoying. And the ending was completely implausible and rushed.
Profile Image for Patti Irwin.
384 reviews2 followers
August 9, 2020
Is it really “reading” when I listen to it only? It doesn’t really feel like it. In fact I think I would have liked this book much more...the history of it, the social commentary, the story if I had been reading it instead. As it was I “skimmed” through the second half to get the gist. I don’t feel like I missed anything and I wasn’t surprised by anything except maybe a happier ending than was likely.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
20 reviews
July 22, 2021
We really didn't learn anything about Jay's family. His siblings are referred to but they don't have names, his parents are complete stereotypes, his father is a hard working immigrant and his mother bakes soda bread. We don't even know if they write to each other but we get all the correspondence between Birdie and Jay. I felt like Jay could be more fleshed out because we hear everyting about Birdie's family and friends. Oh, that reminds me Jay has no friends! He only exists at work and her house.
80 reviews1 follower
August 4, 2020
Had difficulty getting into the story. Found it more or less formulaic even tho based on actual happenings. Very difficult to believe women actually were so submissive in the early years. In spite of all, we have come a long, long way.
I actually listened to this book on Audible. Not sure I could have stuck with it if I had been reading the book.
Profile Image for Karin.
242 reviews
May 10, 2020
I liked it. Piltdown man and birds. What is not to like? It was a good story and I think I need to read more by this author. I will sprinkle them in with my murder mysteries that are sometimes a bit dark.
Profile Image for Marianne.
210 reviews
May 30, 2020
This is a gem of a story, and I highly recommend it if you love romance. I could not stop listening and am sorry that I finished it. I am aleady missing Birdie and Jay. One of the best audios I have heard this year.
Profile Image for Kathy.
75 reviews
July 2, 2020
I enjoy the Victorian era type reads. It always strikes me how snobbish and confining the rich/nobles were. It would be so oppressive for us romantics to live during that time - that marriage was all about bloodline and money instead of love.
4 reviews
August 16, 2020
I was looking for a light, easy read as a short distraction, and this definitely was light and easy! I love sappy romance, so I enjoyed it. Definitely don't read it if you are looking for a masterpiece, but it is cute and light and sappy.
Profile Image for Christie Sitterly.
259 reviews11 followers
August 25, 2020
Such a great listen/read about the forbidden romance between an archaeologist and a debutante. The feelings between the main characters were so raw and palpable that I couldn't help rooting for them. I truly enjoyed this one.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
813 reviews5 followers
December 8, 2020
Historical romance, I think more focused towards the YA crowd. I expected a bit more, I like my heroines a little more independent, and I thought the romance was a little rushed and some problems resolved too easily.
Profile Image for Angela.
257 reviews1 follower
April 8, 2021
I really enjoyed this story and characters, and the audio performances were fantastic. The American Museum of Natural History is already one of my favorite places on the planet, but this book makes me want to visit it again pronto.
Profile Image for Tiff.
59 reviews1 follower
May 13, 2020
Loved this book, love this author. Well and thoughtfully researched historical fiction about the search for (love and) the missing link in the Gilded Age. Thouroughly enjoyed!
Profile Image for Muff.
757 reviews2 followers
September 18, 2020
The readers are really good, Doyle in particular. While the story itself was slight, the glimpse into life at the cusp of WWI was interesting.
66 reviews1 follower
December 13, 2020
Inane garbage. Research was planted so un-subtly that it was cringey. Writing felt like middle grade chapter book to me. Ick.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews

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