City of Betrayal (A Counterfeit Lady Novel)

Written by Victoria Thompson
Review by Marlie Wasserman

Nashville, 1920. Suffragists and anti-suffragists gather in Tennessee’s state capitol to lobby legislators who must choose whether to ratify the 19th Amendment. The stakes are high, because if Tennessee becomes the thirty-sixth state to ratify the amendment, women throughout the U.S. will be able to vote, but if the state fails to ratify the amendment, a long time will pass before another opportunity arises. Elizabeth Bates enters the fray, along with her husband Gideon and her mother-in-law. The three Bateses and a swarm of their suffragist friends employ various methods—mostly ethical—to persuade state representatives and senators to vote for ratification. Meanwhile, the anti-suffragists employ different methods, including blackmail, intimidation, threats of violence, and offers of abundant alcohol and prostitutes. As the plot advances, legislators who pledged to support ratification ignore their commitments and go over to the enemy side. Elizabeth must do everything she can to convince those men to do the right thing. In the background, Elizabeth’s father, a conman, shows up in Nashville to entice wealthy men to invest in distilleries that get around Prohibition by filling doctors’ prescriptions. Elizabeth considers whether there is a way to maneuver her father’s con to the suffragists’ benefit.

Alternating points of view between Elizabeth and Gideon, Thompson evokes the feel of a crowded city where tensions run high. Even readers who do not expect to enjoy tales of legislative shenanigans will find themselves caught up in the triumphs and defeats of Elizabeth and her allies. Thompson skillfully interweaves the complex details of politics with the activities and passions of her characters. In City of Betrayal, volume seven in the Counterfeit Lady series, Thompson informs while she entertains.