Williams’ follow-up to The Wicked City (2017) continues the Prohibition-era adventures of a young woman torn between two brothers.
We last saw titular redhead Geneva “Ginger” Kelly on the lam with her new boyfriend, Prohibition agent Oliver Anson, after a violent altercation with Appalachian bootleggers, including Ginger’s villainous stepfather, Duke Kelly, who died in the melee. Another casualty of that violence, Oliver’s younger brother, Billy, jaw shattered by Duke’s brass knuckles, is now under the care of the brothers’ mother, the imperious blueblood Mrs. Marshall. This novel opens as Oliver and Ginger have taken refuge in Cocoa Beach, Florida, with the Fitzwilliams, whom readers will recall from another Williams series (Cocoa Beach, 2017, etc.). In a continuing storyline from the first installment, Ella Gilbert, in 1998, is trying to sort out her love life with soul mate Hector, particularly now that she’s learned she’s pregnant by her soon-to-be-ex hubby, Patrick. Ella’s story is still tangential to Ginger’s tale despite stronger hints of linkages between the two women. Since nothing much is going on in Florida except an ominous, too-brief introduction to the armada of rum-running vessels lurking just outside coastal waters, the action (such as it is) shifts to the Marshalls’ Manhattan and Southampton manses. Mrs. Marshall, aware that Ginger and Billy were once lovers, has summoned Ginger to help with Billy’s recovery—by pretending to be his pregnant fiancee. Unhelpfully, Ginger's soul mate, Oliver, has gone back undercover and is oddly cold toward her. Ginger’s first-person voice, that of a feisty hillbilly–turned–Manhattan flapper, is authentic enough, if a bit stilted, as if too much research had gone into imagining her argot. And Ginger’s mental observations are recounted with a degree of detail that, while fulfilling its intended effect of re-creating the period and social milieu, does little to advance the story. There really is no throughline here—this novel is largely an extended anticlimax to Volume 1. After 400-plus pages, many loose ends remain, perhaps auguring a third book.
A seemingly superfluous sequel.