City of Ash

Written by Megan Chance
Review by Susan Zabolotny

The latest novel from seasoned writer Megan Chance is a story of two women at opposite ends of the social spectrum. Geneva “Ginny” Stratford is the willful daughter of a nouveau riche mining tycoon in 1880s Chicago. She has thrown off the moral constraints of Victorian society for a somewhat bohemian lifestyle. Nathan Langley, a man smart enough to run Stratford Mining and handsome enough to win her heart, pursues her, and they marry. She devotes herself to him, but his ardor fades, and she longs for the past when she was free to hold salons and promote her artistic and literary friends. Posing nude in an effort to secure a divorce fails miserably, and she’s offered a choice: Seattle or the asylum. After a few days in the cultural black hole of Seattle, she begins to wonder about her decision.

Enter Beatrice Wilkes, an actress with a local theatre company, who begins an affair with Nathan in the hope that his patronage will bring her financial security and the leading role in a new play. When Nathan also gives Ginny permission to take to the stage and buys the lead role for her instead of Beatrice, the sparks fly. As the two women lock horns, the city begins to burn, and they must help each other survive.

A shocking revelation about Nathan forces Ginny to ask for Bea’s help in beating him at his own game and saving her from a terrible fate. But Bea’s incessant victimization by Nathan grows as tiresome as her excuses for accepting it, while Ginny makes one bad decision after another. I found this book to be implausible and contrived. I didn’t like any of the characters save one, and at times, I found myself rooting for the fire.