The Address by Fiona Davis

The Address by Fiona Davis
Publisher: Dutton
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (368 pgs)
Heat: Sensual
Rated 4 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility–no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her -cousin- Melinda–Camden’s biological great-granddaughter–will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages–for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City–and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich–and often tragic–as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden–and the woman who killed him–on its head.

With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives –and lies–of the beating hearts within.

Seizing opportunities, pursuing life, and daring to reach further than she herself quite believes possible, Sara Smythe is a heroine we find ourselves hoping and cheering for. Her involvement (shall we start by saying her professional involvement) with Architect Camden offers the chance of a complete change in her life…..

And a hundred years later, Bailey Camden, not quite a descendant of this architect, also hopes his greatest creation will carry her own life forward as well.

The Address is the rather tamely-named historic novel, centered on life in the city (or rather 2 cities) 100 years apart.

These two women live much different lives, though there are many similarities. Their characters will enthrall readers, nearly as much as the background location. The one vital connection between the two is the hotel, The Dakota, in New York City. The city itself is so featured to be a draw to readers. I have to admit I found the backdrop, the city, the history, and the architectural points, as unique and interesting as the story-line.

In general, I don’t often care for stories where great leaps in time take place, and here, I could have happily remained with Sara in the more distant past. However, I must admit this time ‘leap’ was well-done, so no complaints. I did not find the character of Bailey to be particularly wonderful, so the more contemporary piece was less engaging for that reason, as well.

The Address is cleverly and engagingly written. Events are entirely unpredictable; some characters are riveting. Its definitely one to add to your reading list.

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