by Sophfronia Scott
Paperback: 528 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (September 26, 2017)
A People Magazine October pick!
“A dazzlingly dark and engaging tale full of heartbreak, treachery, and surprise.” – Kirkus
In this vivid reimagining of the French classic Les Liaisons Dangereuses, it’s the summer when Jackie Robinson breaks Major League Baseball’s color barrier and a sweltering stretch has Harlem’s elite fleeing the city for Westchester County’s breezier climes, two predators stalk amidst the manicured gardens and fine old homes.
Heiress Mae Malveaux rules society with an angel’s smile and a heart of stone. She made up her mind long ago that nobody would decide her fate. To have the pleasure she craves, control is paramount, especially control of the men Mae attracts like moths to a flame.
Valiant Jackson always gets what he wants—and he’s wanted Mae for years. The door finally opens for him when Mae strikes a bargain: seduce her virginal young cousin, Cecily, who is engaged to Frank Washington. Frank values her innocence above all else. If successful, Val’s reward will be a night with Mae.
But Val secretly seeks another prize. Elizabeth Townsend is fiercely loyal to her church and her civil rights attorney husband. Certain there is something redeemable in Mr. Jackson. Little does she know that her worst mistake will be Val’s greatest triumph.
Mae was vigilant about her expressions. She learned long ago the faces she wore would always be more essential than any dress she put on…
The gals around here look at me cross-eyed like you’re doing now, but I say get you a second husband if you can manage it. You mark my words! You don’t know what I’m talking about now but you’ll see when you’ve got that first one and you’re done with him.
Cecily felt like she had entered a different time frame where, no matter how hard she tried to catch up, she seemed to be always five seconds behind. She was still processing Aunt Pearl’s words but Aunt Pearl was already on the porch steps.
Cecily didn’t like the dark and this dark outside her window was beyond what she thought possible. It was black like the darkness of a hole that wasn’t satisfied with just being a hole so it had to suck you in and make you part of the darkness.
There are people in this world who can never get other people to love them the way they want to be loved. It’s like they spend their whole lives on their knees in the dirt in the woods trying to light a wet match. Can’t spark nothing. The more they can’t, the more they want to burn the whole forest to the ground.
Despite the superb quality of the writing, I struggled some with this intriguing story as it was intense and so very, very long – 528 pages long. I can happily say it was well worth the effort and I will now crow with knowledge and awareness of the tale. Sophfronia Scott’s writing was brilliant and held me captive in the corners of rooms with her compelling characters – I was like a voyeur – sometimes cringing, flinching, gasping, or biting my cheek. Ms. Scott nimbly captured the confusing transitions and personal shifts in awareness of the tumultuous period of coming of age with great sensitivity and her cunning insights were expertly tailored to each character. Her writing was fluid and agile, even when depicting the cruel machinations and underpinnings of the stealthy Mae or the heartbreaking results of her vicious maneuvering. Ms. Scott’s scenes and characters were vibrant and vividly detailed, yet the main players were despicable and loathsome creatures – they were contemptible, vile, and manipulative schemers. While captivated and repulsed, I was also remained fully engaged, totally invested, and compelled to see it through to the conclusion while holding my breath that karma would balance out. I was provided with a review copy of this fascinating book by HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.
Sophfronia Scott hails from Lorain, Ohio. She was a writer and editor at Time and People magazines before publishing her first novel, All I Need to Get By. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a bachelor’s degree in English from Harvard. Her short stories and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and son.