Warning: This review contains spoilers for Vixen by Jillian Larkin.
Gloria Carmody and Jerome Johnson fled Chicago for New York to escape the mob and the police after Gloria killed a man. They thought that their love would be enough to get them through – but a white woman and a black man living together will need a lot more than that to get a happy ending. After witnessing another murder, Jerome's sister Vera knows that New York is about to get even more dangerous for the pair, but can she find them to warn them in time? Meanwhile Lorraine Dyer, formerly Gloria's best friend, is also trying to find them – but in her case she wants revenge on Gloria. As for Clara Knowles, former 'Queen Sheba of the flapper scene', she may be back in New York but she's not going back to the speakeasies and parties. She's happy with quiet, respectable Marcus Eastman. Until she gets an intriguing offer...
I was worried that the main characters all moving from Chicago to New York would feel forced and that Larkin might not be able to capture the atmosphere of the Big Apple as well as she did her previous location. Happily, the worries were misplaced – Larkin is absolutely wonderful at drawing the reader in and I could almost taste the illicit booze as I was reading this one. I mentioned when reviewing book one that if there was a tiny fault it was perhaps the length of time taken scene-setitng – this one is much faster moving, with a murder in the very first chapter. As previously, Larkin's writing style is gorgeous and draws you in to the action as well as the setting.
As well as the excellent descriptions of the time and place, Larkin is also great at creating strong characters. All four narrators here have distinctive voices and are easy to care about, while the various love interests, especially Jerome's friend Evan who helps Vera search for him, are attractive but realistically portrayed. I was especially impressed by the changing relationship between Gloria and Jerome, now past the first stages of love and having to work at being a couple despite the problems of racism and the danger they're in. It's also enjoyable to see real people from the time period, including Louis Armstrong and Al Capone, either appear or get a mention.
I'm absolutely desperate for the next in this wonderful series, which the epilogue sets up beautifully – but I'm also appreciative that there's more of a sense of resolution to this one than there was to Vixen. Larkin's ending managed to both give me a satisfying conclusion to this part of the trilogy while also leaving me eagerly waiting to see what happens next – the best of both worlds!
Really strong recommendation, fans of YA historical novels shouldn't miss this superb series.