Published by: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Published on: January 15, 201
Page Count: 352
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Reading Format: eGalley provided to me by the publisher for consideration
Available Formats: Hardcover and eBook
May Dugas just sees herself as a woman in pursuit of her life’s purpose and calling. Using her cunning she escapes her rural Michigan upbringing in 1917 for the big city and prospects of Chicago. She finds that her early attempts at entering high society weren’t as successful as she thought they would be, she opts for a less than upstanding way to earn a living. In the process, she catches the attention of Reed Doherty, a Pinkerton Agency detective. Doherty, perhaps moreso than any other person, sees May for who she really is. He turns up in May’s life during the most inconvenient times, but he keeps May on her toes. Eventually, the law catches up with her and she finds herself on trial for extortion along with her brothers. May must turn on the charm, use all of her cunning, and find a way to get her story in front of the jury in order to come out ahead.
I sometimes enjoy main characters with a checkered past. So long as they are entertaining, a little pinch of malfeasance adds an excellent spice to the story. May Dugas is no exception. The early 1900s did not offer woman the greatest of opportunities to make a life for themselves. With May’s father gone and her mother struggling to raise her three children, it is not surprising that May felt claustrophobic. Taking after her father, she wasn’t cut out for a life of soberly taking care of responsibilities. She loved her family and saw to it that she sent money home to them. She just didn’t have scruples when it came to how she earned it. She saw the money making opportunities available to her as opportunities, regardless of how unsavory they might be. Men all around her were able to take what they wanted and she intended to do the same. As the men she became involved with often as predatory and hungry as she was, I didn’t feel the need to judge her too harshly. In fact, I enjoyed many of her escapades and her hurried escapes from Doherty.
Maryka Biaggio does not tell May Dugas’ story in chronological order. The story begins with the trial and as events unfold May sheds light on herself and her circumstances. I enjoyed this structure and found it quite appropriate for the story. As much as I enjoyed reading about her exploits, it seemed fitting that she would be called to account for her life and her actions. As an former friend fights to regain a portion of the inheritance she claims that May extorted from her, May will be judged by the people of her hometown hearing more than what she’s like to have told. She is used to painting her own pictures, so the trial puts her to the test in more ways than one. Perhaps the only thing everyone in the court room can agree upon is that May Dugas is a woman who has made some interesting and adventurous choices.
I very much enjoyed reading Parlor Games. It brought to life an interesting period of time. My attention was grabbed by the early mentions of places I know in Michigan and I felt a twisted sense of pride that Michigan produced such an unconventional and unrepentant woman. If I had one complaint, it was in regard to May’s romance with her one true love. While I have no doubt that she enjoyed his company, I’m not sure that her attachment to him was entirely genuine. This did not take away from the novel, however, because her melodramatic reaction to those events was very much in May’s character. One of the joys of being a reader is exploring all that life has to offer from the safety of one’s reading space. Parlor Games is a perfect example. I got swept up in adventures with May I’d never have the moral flexibility to embark upon on my own. I left the novel hoping that Maryka Biaggio was working on her next novel.