~ Book Review: The Davenports (The Davenports #1) ~

Published: January 31, 2023

Author: Krystal Marquis

In 1910, 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 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.

The first book in a breathless new series, The Davenports offers a glimpse into a period of African American history often overlooked, while delivering a totally escapist, swoon-worthy read. Inspired by the real-life story of C.R. Patterson and his family, it’s the tale of four determined and passionate young Black women discovering the courage to steer their own path in life—and love.

The Davenports is the first novel in a series of the same name and the debut novel for Krystal Marquis. The story is told from four perspectives in 1910 Chicago: Olivia, the elder Davenport daughter, Helen, another Davenport daughter, Amy-Rose, the Davenport maid and family friend, and Ruby, Olivia’s best friend. Their stories all connect as they interact, and each has their own romantic issue where they want one that is “not right” for them. Helen is interested in her sister’s suitor, Amy-Rose wants Olivia and Helen’s brother, John, Olivia wants civil rights leader, Washington DeWight, and Ruby is also interested in John. Some of their love interests stay and others change, but their stories all revolve around their love lives in some way. There are other elements that each woman goes through, which did help balance the story.

As this is the first novel in the series, there is a lot of set up of each character for the reader. Their general backgrounds, interests, and motivations are all laid out and then their struggles are introduced. There is a cliffhanger ending so each of their stories is not complete by the end, but the reader does have an idea of where each is going. While all four main characters are interesting, their stories seemed to follow the same pattern, which made it feel repetitive. It’s an interesting concept to attempt the four women at the same time rather than spread them out to one novel each, but, at the same time, it might have worked better to give each storyline more exploration. Since each woman is in a different situation at the start, I did enjoy following the expectations from society that each was expected to follow. Given their class, each has rules set for them and they need to try and navigate a balance between their happiness and pleasing society.

The time period of the story was well thought out as the tales of the wealthy Black families is not told a lot. Racism plays a role in the story, but it seemed toned down a bit to keep the focus on the romances. As this was inspired by a real family, the history itself is not followed as an exact match. There are some timelines that do not add up as some characters are aged down from their inspirations. While the writing does seem to become more accessible to a larger audience, I can see it become frustrating for those who expect more historical accuracy. Each character has their own experiences throughout their journey not only with society, but their main romances. I do not mind having the four POVs at once, but I think the story then needed to expand a lot in order to explore more of each character. Since the POVs must switch between four of them, some elements are kept surface level as there is not time before the novel switches to another character. Overall, this story has a lot of potential and was a great debut. I think as the series moves forward, it will all come together, so I look forward to trying it in the future.

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