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Reviews of The Davenports by Krystal Marquis

The Davenports

by Krystal Marquis

The Davenports by Krystal Marquis X
The Davenports by Krystal Marquis
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2023, 384 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 2024, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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About this Book

Book Summary

The first in a breathless YA series set in 1910 Chicago, The Davenports offers a glimpse into a period of African American history often overlooked, while delivering a totally escapist, swoon-worthy read

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.

Inspired by the real-life story of C.R. Patterson and his family, The Davenports is the tale of four determined and passionate young Black women discovering the courage to steer their own path in life—and love.

Chapter 1
Olivia

Olivia Elise Davenport pulled a bolt of vibrant yellow silk from the display and held it to her dark complexion. She was drawn to the bright fabric nearly hidden behind the muted pastels, a shock of sunshine peeking through the clouds, and wondered if it was too bright for so early in the season. In her free hand, she held a sample of beaded lace and tried to imagine the sound it would make whispering around her ankles while she danced. There will be a lot of dancing, she thought.

Anticipation bubbled in her chest. The season of ball gowns and champagne had arrived at the conclusion of the Easter celebrations. Now that Olivia was out in society, it was time for her to find a husband. It was her second season, and she was ready. Ready to do her duty and make her parents proud, as she'd always done.

The only problem? It was difficult to find eligible gentlemen—born into the right family, educated, and set to inherit a large fortune—who were also Black.

Olivia ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Davenports is full of beautiful gowns, high society gossip, fabulous balls and more than a little scandal. But given the time period and the identities of the characters (Mr. Davenport, for example, was formerly enslaved and has yet to be reunited with his brother), Marquis's debut also carries historic heft. In the process of growing her political awareness, Olivia learns about race riots in nearby Springfield just two years earlier, during which the city's Black residents were attacked by a white mob who killed eight people, permanently harmed Black-owned businesses and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of property damage. There's a good chance readers of this novel will be hearing about this ugly episode in American history for the first time, too. The frothy romances and shifting friendships play out in a moment and place where the Black characters feel relatively free of racism and oppression, though as Olivia comes to learn, that freedom is both hard-won and fragile...continued

Full Review (769 words)

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(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Media Reviews

BCCB
The distinct and satisfying emotional journeys of the four protagonists are wonderful [and] the book ends on a cliffhanger for the Davenport siblings, giving fans of historical fiction, and particularly those looking for Black representation without trauma, something to look forward to.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
This deftly written series opener examines the lives of Black elites following Reconstruction with a focus on the constraints of women. The strong characterization, developed through alternating third-person perspectives, and descriptive setting lure readers in. A dazzling debut.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
This stunningly wrought historical fiction debut follows a group of Black teens navigating classism, familial expectations, gender norms, and racism in 1910 Chicago... Employing expert characterization and complex dynamics, the author presents a cast of take-charge women, undeterred by their struggles and pursuing their passions regardless of expectations.

School Library Journal
Marquis weaves the characters' stories in such a way that leaves readers anticipating the next chapter each time [and] the author's skilled descriptions give readers a real connection to the characters. This is a well-written novel, sure to please fans of historical fiction, romance, and Chicago history. Young adults and adults alike will learn from and enjoy this. Recommended.

Author Blurb Ayana Gray, New York Times bestselling author of the Beasts of Prey trilogy
With dazzling prose and whip-smart pacing, Krystal Marquis's gorgeous debut spirits readers into a world of polished glamor, but also a world shadowed by painful reckonings. Through trial, defeat, defiance, and triumph, its characters offer heart and perspective. The Davenports is a fresh, utterly enchanting read, and a much-needed addition to the contemporary canon of Black literature.

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Beyond the Book

The C.R. Patterson & Sons Company

Black-and-white photo of the open frame of the first Patterson-Greenfield automobile, with engine visible Krystal Marquis mentions in a brief author's note that her debut novel The Davenports was "inspired by the story of the C.R. Patterson & Sons carriage company, founded by a proud patriarch who escaped enslavement to become a wealthy and respected entrepreneur."

Charles Richard Patterson was born into slavery on a plantation in Virginia in 1833. Like many enslaved people, his life was not well documented, and sources vary about whether his family bought their freedom or whether he alone escaped. Either way, the historical record finds him settling in the small abolitionist town of Greenfield, Ohio, between the 1840s and 1860s, where he worked as a blacksmith (a trade he may have learned while enslaved) and later went into business ...

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Read-Alikes

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