Book Review: The Davenports by Krystal Marquis
The Davenports delivers a totally escapist, swoon-worthy romance while offering a glimpse into a period of African American history often overlooked.
“A fresh, utterly enchanting read.” —Ayana Gray, New York Times bestselling author of the Beasts of Prey trilogy
The Davenports are one of the few Black families of immense wealth and status in a changing United States, their fortune made through the entrepreneurship of William Davenport, a formerly enslaved man who founded the Davenport Carriage Company years ago. Now it’s 1910, and the Davenports live surrounded by servants, crystal chandeliers, and endless parties, finding their way and finding love—even where they’re not supposed to.
There is Olivia, the beautiful elder Davenport daughter, ready to do her duty by getting married . . . until she meets the charismatic civil rights leader Washington DeWight and sparks fly. The younger daughter, Helen, is more interested in fixing cars than falling in love—unless it’s with her sister’s suitor. Amy-Rose, the childhood friend turned maid to the Davenport sisters, dreams of opening her own business—and marrying the one man she could never be with, Olivia and Helen’s brother, John. But Olivia’s best friend, Ruby, also has her sights set on John Davenport, though she can’t seem to keep his interest . . . until family pressure has her scheming to win his heart, just as someone else wins hers.
Inspired by the real-life story of the Patterson family, The Davenports is the tale of four determined and passionate young Black women discovering the courage to steer their own path in life—and love.
Here’s why I’m irritated: at some point, I read the back of this book, then filed it away to be read eventually. I know I did. So at some point, I KNEW that this book was the start of a series. So I’m reading along, loving it, and am about 50 pages from the end. This can’t all wrap up in what’s left, I think. So I look at the back cover and see that, sure enough, this is the start of a series. It can’t wrap up! I’m going to have to wait! So there I am, irritated with myself for not remembering this and thus having wrong expectations as I read, and I’m irritated with how incredibly impatient I am, because now all I want in life is the rest of this series, and I’m irritated with time itself, because why not, I need to blame SOMETHING for having to wait to see what comes of life for Helen, Olivia, Amy-Rose, and Ruby.
Do you get the impression that I loved this book? Because I did. I told myself that if I could read 100 pages a day, in between all of the other life things, I could finish it in four days. But I read it in two. How could I not? It’s great!
Set in Chicago in 1910, this book (and series starter—sigh) focuses on the lives of the Davenports, a rich and successful Black family, and those in their orbit. We follow sisters Olivia and Helen Davenport, their friend Ruby Tremaine, and one of their maids, Amy-Rose. Olivia and Ruby are to be thinking of marriage, and both of their families have expectations that they will get engagements from particular men who would be assets to their families. Helen is dreading when it’s her turn for all this nonsense—she’d much rather be fixing carriages and automobiles, working with her brother at the family business. And Amy-Rose has dreams of opening a hair salon, ready for something more to happen in her life than just working for the Davenports. BUT. But. Olivia starts to become more socially conscious and involved in activism, falling for a young lawyer in town rather than her parents’ intended beau. And Ruby, whose father is running for mayor, finds herself spending time with an intriguing new man, one who is definitely NOT John Davenport, the man her parents hope she will marry. And Amy-Rose, who is not looking for a relationship but instead focused on her future employment, begins a clandestine relationship with someone she’s known forever, but for very complicated reasons, likely can’t be with. It’s all SO GOOD. And yes, it’s a lot about romance, which is great, but it’s also about so much more. I haven’t read a lot about wealthy Black families in the early 1900s and seeing their stories, as they navigate spaces not necessarily welcoming to them, while building their own businesses, communities, and networks, was so interesting. The characters are all well-developed, leading rich, complicated lives that go well beyond just dating or pursuing an engagement. If this whole series existed right now, I’d tear through it to the exclusion of everything else in my life. An excellent debut about challenging expectations and finding your own path.
Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 01/31/2023
Age Range: 12 – 17 Years
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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