Rose and Ivy Adams are heartbroken when their father dies in 1925. Shock follows grief when the young women learn that he was nearly broke, and left the management of his estate to a half-brother they never knew they had. If they don’t find him, the bank will seize the sisters’ home. One clue about Asher Adams is a photo of a brash working man with eyes just like Rose’s. He stands by a sign which reads “Empire House.” A small painting created by their father depicts a pretty woman with a baby in her arms. They stand by an imposing New York City brownstone with a plaque which also reads “Empire House.”
The Empire House is a boardinghouse for women, so the sisters obtain rooms there and begin their search. Ivy, the flamboyant younger sister, gets a job serving drinks in an illegal speakeasy. The more reserved Rose creates beautiful dresses to sell on consignment, and both women pursue clues from Greenwich Village to Coney Island. Along the way the bond between the sisters is stretched, strained, and ultimately strengthened as Rose and Ivy learn to trust each other, as well as the people who assist in their quest.
Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan have concocted an entertaining Roaring Twenties tale in Empire Girls. A colorful cast of characters keeps the pace fast, but intertwines enough that I wish I’d kept a list to sort them out. Nevertheless, give Empire Girls a try if you like a lively story.