Review: Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio

Description (from publisher):

‘A sweeping historical novel about a beautiful con artist whose turn-of-the-century escapades take her around the world as she’s doggedly pursued by a Pinkerton Agency detective.

The novel opens in 1917 with our cunning protagonist, May Dugas, standing trial for extortion. As the trial unfolds, May tells her version of events.

In 1887, at the tender age of eighteen, May ventures to Chicago in hopes of earning enough money to support her family. Circumstances force her to take up residence at the city’s most infamous bordello, but May soon learns to employ her considerable feminine wiles to extract not only sidelong looks but also large sums of money from the men she encounters. Insinuating herself into Chicago’s high society, May lands a well-to-do fiance–until, that is, a Pinkerton Agency detective named Reed Dougherty intervenes and summarily foils the engagement.

Unflappable, May quickly rebounds, elevating seduction and social climbing to an art form as she travels the world, eventually marrying a wealthy Dutch Baron. Unfortunately, Reed Dougherty is never far behind and continues to track May in a delicious cat-and-mouse game as the newly minted Baroness’s misadventures take her from San Francisco to Shanghai to London, and points in between.

The Pinkerton Agency really did dub May the ‘most dangerous woman,’ branding her a crafty blackmailer and ruthless seductress. To many, though, she was the most glamorous woman to grace high society. Was the real May Dugas a coldhearted swindler or simply a resourceful provider for her poor family?

As the narrative bounces back and forth between the trial taking place in 1917 and May’s devious but undeniably entertaining path to the courtroom–hoodwinking and waltzing her way through the gilded age and into the twentieth century–we’re left to ponder her guilt as we move closer to finding out what fate ultimately has in store for our irresistible adventuress.’

My thoughts:

I think that there should be an award for writing the best book blurb and whoever wrote that one listed above is purely a genius. When I first read this right before reading this book, I got really excited. I mean who could resist such a blurb? I know I couldn’t and I quickly set to reading this book. May Dugas apparently was a real person, a person who I didn’t even know existed. She is cunning, ruthless and intelligent and lets nothing get in her way of achieving what she wishes for. She doesn’t exactly have the best morals, but as the reader reads her story, you can’t help but cheer her on even though you might not necessarily agree with the means used. She is definitely a character and it was entertaining to read about her exploits and adventures. May Dugas may be a person historically skimmed over, but in this tale, she is a fierce character and I found it hard not to relate to her even though we have nothing in common.

May Dugas is a con-woman. She desires the lifestyle of the rich and uses any means she has to make sure that she lives this life. She suffers heartbreak and worry about money at every turn, but she doesn’t let these setbacks ruin her plans. A Pinkerton Agency detective isn’t even able to keep up with her, but he does provide a lot of frustration for May and her not so moral plans. It was interesting to read about the predicaments May got herself into and to see how she extracted herself from these problems. May takes us through the glitz and glamor of the high society and also shows us how she started from nothing and made herself into a person considered one of the best con-women of all times.

This was a fabulous tale to read. I really enjoyed it because I got to learn about someone new and someone that hasn’t been written about a thousand times over. May is a fresh character and her exploits and adventures were very entertaining and interesting to read about. I want to learn more about her because she is truly a remarkable person. The ending leaves the reader wondering about what is going to happen next to May and I almost want to do some research and find out what did happen to her. I love historical fiction that leaves you with a taste of wanting to do further research because that is what a historical fiction author aims to achieve. This is Maryka Biaggio’s first novel and it is splendid. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next and I will be anxiously awaiting her next novel. A great read for historical fiction lovers who love characters outside the norm and love to be entertained by interesting historical people.

Overall Rating: 4.5

Title:  Parlor Games
Author:  Maryka Biaggio
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  Doubleday
Publication Date:  January 15, 2013
Pages:  352
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for my honest review. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

11 thoughts on “Review: Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio

  1. Kimberlee, I only just came across your review of Parlor Games. Thanks so much for reading and reviewing. Parlor Games just came out in paperback, with a gorgeous new cover, so May is hoping to induce even more readers to listen to her tale!


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