Crop your hair, put on a shimmery dress, slip a flask into your garter, and descend into a Prohibition speakeasy with me .. The Flappers: Vixen is the first instalment in Jillian Larkin’s trilogy exploring the Great Experiment and its impact on the underground scene in Chicago. In Vixen, the heroine is Gloria Carmody, desirable and eligible heiress, engaged to Sebastian Grey III, champion of conservative Temperance values. But Gloria is rebelling against society’s (or maybe just her mother’s) expectations and exploring the dark nights of Chicago nightclubs.
On her first visit to a speakeasy, she is accompanied by her best friend Lorraine and her cousin Marcus, but before long she ends up alone at the bar until Carlito Macchiarelli, son of the local Mob boss, buys Gloria her first martini. From this point Gloria can choose to return to her upper-class life, or pursue what is rapidly becoming her dream – to become a jazz singer with Jerome Johnson, the young and fabulous pianist playing on stage. To complicate matters, Gloria’s cousin Clara is coming for an extended house stay ostensibly to help Gloria prepare for her wedding, but in reality she has been sent to stay as a punishment for a year of wild living in New York. Clara acts as the country cousin, chaperoning Gloria and trying to kill all the fun, but underneath she is more of a flapper than Gloria seems able to be.
As Gloria pushes the boundaries, learning to sing and to drink alcohol, not always at different times, she also finds herself pushing the boundaries of love, with an undeniable attraction to Jerome, which is unlikely to be approved as quite apart from the whole seedy jazz-and-alcohol scene, Jerome is undeniably black. Still, love will not be ignored and Gloria and Jerome find ways to connect through the music that they both love, although at the cost of Gloria and Lorraine’s friendship and at some danger to Gloria’s reputation with Sebastian.
The story is richly detailed and shows Jillian Larkin’s great knowledge and love of the flapper craze. The allure of the era, the dangers and glamour of the flappers and the people around them, are irresistible. I for one am glad this is the first book of a trilogy as we will get to see how Country Clara and Gloria’s best friend Lorraine pursue their own goals in an atmosphere of change, glamour, and excitement.
Available now: Random House RRP$17.95