With her mother in Europe, Deanna is staying with the Ballard family, who agree to chaperone her through the summer season and guide her toward an advantageous marriage proposal—or so her mother hopes. Relishing her new freedom, Deanna is more interested in buying one of the fashionable new bathing costumes, joining a ladies’ bicycling club, and befriending an actress named Amabelle Deeks, all of which would scandalize her mother.
Far more scandalous is the discovery of a young man bludgeoned to death on the conservatory floor at Bonheur, the Ballards’ sumptuous “cottage.” Deanna recognizes him as an actor who performed at the birthday fete for a prominent judge the night before. But why was he at Bonheur? And where is Amabelle?
Concerned her new friend may be in danger—or worse—Deanna enlists the help of her intrepid maid, Elspeth, and her former beau, Joe Ballard, to find Amabelle before the villain of this drama demands an encore.
The Gilded Age in Newport seems like an American equivalent to the Regency Era in England. The wealth of those in 'high society', the summer and winter homes, the 'seasons' each young woman had to endure in hops of 'catching' the right man for a husband, the manners.
I had the good fortune to read Ms. Freydont's previous book in the "The Newport Gilded Age Mysteries", A Gilded Grave. In that book, we learned that Joe had rejected Deanna as a potential fiancee, which cause no little scandal for the young lady. Joe is still on my "maybe if he shapes up" Christmas Card List for that one.
In "A Golden Cage", Deanna and Joe are still sparring, but with more rancor than in the previous installment. If someone had embarrassed me in public and in front of my family, I'd at least return the favor! (It's only polite, right?) Bwahahaha. Joe and Deanna seem to profess ill feelings for each other and then seem to act in a *ahem* different manner.
The cage referred to in the title is from a play presented as part of a celebration for the birthday of a judge who lived in one of Newport's 'cottages'. If I understood correctly, during the celebration there were colorful birds displayed in the golden cages. At the *ahem* gentlemen's after party, the gilded cages were full of chorus girls in very skimpy costumes. It seems the more vocal characters we saw in the book were on a moral high horse, the less they saw of their own hipocrisy. They were all too ready to project their own lack of morality onto the lower social classes and to set themselves up as judge, jury and executioner of the same. Ugh.
I know I rage sometimes about the fact that more money, more education, etc etc does not necessarily make for better, more worthy people. So, would I consider staying a week in a cottage such as the ones providing the setting for parts of this book, all expenses paid? Heck yeah, I would! But I would treat the housekeeping and restaurant staff well and with respect.
Ms. Freydont does such an amazing job at describing the sumptuousness (bordering on decadence) of the haunts of the ultra rich in the 'Gilded Age' in Newport. I enjoyed the inclusion of women's rights issues (Joe's mother is a staunch feminist). She and her mother give Deanna far more free reign than Dee's own mother would. They also set a pattern for Deanna to see that a woman need not simply conform to society's expectations for them, but that they can also forge a life of their own making and liking.
All my tangents off into the land of gender and socioeconomic issues should not take away from the fact that A Golden Cage is an adventurous and highly entertaining story. At the end of "A Gilded Grave", Deanna and Joe seemed to be far apart and getting more distant. Here they seem to come into each other's sphere a little too often to be coincidental. *wink, wink, nudge, nudge* If they ever take the next step in their relationship (which in their 'set' would mean only marriage), that would be the event of the season, to be sure.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Shelley loves puzzles of all kinds and when not writing or reading mysteries, she’s most likely working on a jigsaw, Sudoku, or crossword.
As Shelley Noble, she’s the author of the women’s fiction novels, Beach Colors, Stargazey Point, and Breakwater Bay as well as several novellas.
She lives at New Jersey Shore and loves to hear from readers.
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(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links.)