A NovelBook - 2013
The novel opens in 1917 with our cunning protagonist, May Dugas, standing trial for extortion. As the trial unfolds, May tells her version of events.
In 1887, at the tender age of eighteen, May ventures to Chicago in hopes of earning enough money to support her family. Circumstances force her to take up residence at the city's most infamous bordello, but May soon learns to employ her considerable feminine wiles to extract not only sidelong looks but also large sums of money from the men she encounters. Insinuating herself into Chicago's high society, May lands a well-to-do fiancé--until, that is, a Pinkerton Agency detective named Reed Doherty intervenes and summarily foils the engagement.
Unflappable May quickly rebounds, elevating seduction and social climbing to an art form as she travels the world, eventually marrying a wealthy Dutch Baron. Unfortunately, Reed Doherty is never far behind and continues to track May in a delicious cat-and-mouse game as the newly-minted Baroness's misadventures take her from San Francisco to Shanghai to London and points in between.
The Pinkerton Agency really did dub May the "Most Dangerous Woman," branding her a crafty blackmailer and ruthless seductress. To many, though, she was the most glamorous woman to grace high society. Was the real May Dugas a cold-hearted swindler or simply a resourceful provider for her poor family?
As the narrative bounces back and forth between the trial taking place in 1917 and May's devious but undeniably entertaining path to the courtroom--hoodwinking and waltzing her way through the gilded age and into the twentieth century--we're left to ponder her guilt as we move closer to finding out what fate ultimately has in store for our irresistible adventuress.
From the critics
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“Parlor Games is a captivating tale narrated by the irresistible and deliciously unreliable con-woman May Dugas. Her escapades, which span the Gilded Age right through the turn of the century, immediately transport the reader to a bygone era. It’s a wildly entertaining and constantly surprising ride.” Daisy Goodwin, New York Times bestselling author of American Heiress
“Come meet May Dugas, a con artist of the highest order. . . . This jaunty tale through the life of a woman who keeps one step ahead of a dogged Pinkerton agent of the law is a true pleasure . . . . Curl up, settle in for a lovely read.” Kate Alcott, New York Times bestselling author of The Dressmaker