City of Promise: Book summary and reviews of City of Promise by Beverly Swerling

City of Promise

A Novel of New York's Gilded Age

By Beverly Swerling

City of Promise
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2011,
    432 pages.

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Book Summary

Beverly Swerling’s critically acclaimed epic saga continues as New York emerges from the Civil War into the Gilded Age—a city marked by soaring expansion and teeming with unbridled ambition and dazzling glamour.

It is 1864. The South’s surrender is inevitable, and Manhattan is at the heart of the recovering nation’s surge to prosperity. On its bustling streets crowds hustle from place to place amid a maelstrom of carriages and horse-drawn trolleys. Vanderbilt’s new Grand Central Depot and the glittering Ladies’ Mile shine as beacons of the city’s burgeoning wealth.

Joshua Turner returns home from the War with only one leg, but his ambition intact, and sees opportunity in the exponential growth of vital city workers—the managers and clerks who churn New York’s economic life. This new middle class must live in dreary “family residences,” where everyone eats in a shared dining room and no woman can have a key to her own front door.  Manhattan, Joshua realizes, has limited land but unlimited air. He aspires to build the city’s first apartment houses for everyman, a daring vision that will make him New York's first true real estate titan but will also attract the dangerous attention of a shadowy figure from Josh’s days in a notorious Confederate prison.

Meanwhile, the irresistible and clever Mollie Brannigan, raised by her extraordinary Auntie Eileen in perhaps the toniest bordello in town, is resigned at age twenty-two to spinsterhood . . . till Joshua finds her at Macy’s, the city’s largest emporium, and takes her coaching in Central Park, while explaining why the millionaire mansions that line their route are not how he sees the future.  In Joshua’s love Mollie finds a world of possibilities she had not dared to dream, but it is her aunt’s intervention that makes them real. How ironic, then, that a secret Eileen thought left behind in Ireland will force Mollie to employ all her wits to protect not just her chance at happiness but her life.

This is New York at a time of unyielding progress and technological wonder, a bustling metropolis coming into its own, as its skyline is transformed by the proliferation of ever-taller buildings and the Brooklyn Bridge slowly rises out of the East River. Vividly imagined and awash in period detail and the unforgettable characters that only Beverly Swerling can conjure, City of Promise delivers a historical adventure of suspense and intrigue, daring plot twists and bitter rivalries, and the captivating love story of two people struggling to forge their own destiny.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"With a fast-paced, complex plot showcasing opulent Fifth Avenue mansions, Wall Street pandemonium, deals both fair and underhand, and the rising influence of the ethnic gangs, Swerling expertly interlaces the stories of a Gilded Age couple and their magnificent city. Compulsive reading that informs and entertains." - Booklist

"Although the pace often lags in this sprawling novel, Swerling vividly captures the greed, corruption, violence, and banking failures that accompanied vast new advances in transportation, communication, and lighting during this era." - Publishers Weekly

"Clearly, if Swerling had been my history teacher, I would have paid closer attention...These private and national escapades play out in a great swirl of plots and counter plots...riotously entertaining." - Ron Charles, The Washington Post

"The history of New York City, as told through the fiction of Beverly Swerling, just keeps getting better." - Terry Mapes, Mansfield News Journal (Ohio)

"Swerling doesn't promise more than she delivers, but this is still a rather ordinary novel. For a stronger thriller set in the same time and place, see Frederick Busch's The Night Inspector." - Kirkus

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Author Information

Beverly Swerling Author Biography

Photo: Sigrid Estrada

Beverly Swerling is a writer, a consultant, and an avid amateur historian. She lives in New York City with her husband.

Link to Beverly Swerling's Website

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