These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo secretly dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly.
Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort accidentally shot himself while cleaning his revolver. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun.
The more Jo uncovers about her father’s death, the more her suspicions grow. There are too many secrets. And they all seem to be buried in plain sight. Then she meets Eddie—a young, brash, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. Only now it might be too late to stop.
The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and the truth is the dirtiest part of all.
Josephine Montfort stared at the newly mounded grave in front of her and at the wooden cross marking it.
How did this happen? How did I get here? Jo asked herself. She didn’t want to do this. She wanted to be home. Safe inside her Gramercy Square town house.
“Wait by the vault. Go back,” Eddie said. Not unkindly.
Jo laughed. Go back? How? There was no going back. Not to her old life of drawing rooms and dances. Not to Miss Sparkwell’s School. Not to her friends, or to Bram. It had all gone too far.
I love historical romances. The best ones aren’t solely focused on romance, but instead, have an underlying storyline. Something extra for the reader that keeps the book from being pure brain candy. This book is an YA version of HR, but it has so much more depth. It’s like, a Lisa Kleypas YA, if you will, and if you understand my reference to that wonderful and legendary romance author.
This was a really enjoyable read. It really hit all the right notes. There’s a wonderful amount of female friendship, a strong, believable heroine. The plot involves a possible murder, and that is the central element…and rightly so, cause I ain’t here for your romance-novel-disguised-as-a-mystery.
Set in the late 19th century, this is quite a feminist book. A young lady of the main character’s wealth and social stature was bred to be a wife, a mother. Someone who stays behind in the shadows and becomes the vaunted Victorian “Angel of the home.” They’re not supposed to worry their pretty little heads over anything more complicated than what to wear. They’re not supposed to be socially conscious. They’re not supposed to worry (or even know) about class issues and working conditions for the poor.
“They suffer, those mill girls,” she said, her voice quieter, but her heart still full of emotion. “They are so terribly unfortunate.”
Trudy took her hand. “My darling Jo, there is no one more unfortunate than we ourselves,” she said. “We are not engaged yet, you and I. We’re spinsters. Pathetic nobodies. We can go nowhere on our own. We must not be too forward in speech, dress, or emotion lest we put off a potential suitor. We are allowed no funds of our own, and most of all”—she squeezed Jo’s hand for emphasis—“no opinions.”.
Jo’s sheltered world crumbles when her father dies – of suicide – or is it?! It’s never that simple, of course. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be reading these books. With that momentous event, Jo’s life changes tremendously, and not necessarily for the worse. Jo sets out to do everything she’s NOT supposed to do. Clandestine trips into dark alleys and encounters with mysterious men are intertwined with dresses and balls. I loved every moment.