The glittering RMS Queen Mary. A nightclub singer on the run. An aristocratic family with secrets worth killing for.
London, 1936. Lena Aldridge wonders if life has passed her by. The dazzling theatre career she hoped for hasn’t worked out. Instead, she’s stuck singing in a sticky-floored basement club in Soho, and her married lover has just left her. But Lena has always had a complicated life, one shrouded in mystery as a mixed-race girl passing for white in a city unforgiving of her true racial heritage.
She’s feeling utterly hopeless until a stranger offers her the chance of a lifetime: a starring role on Broadway and a first-class ticket on the Queen Mary bound for New York. After a murder at the club, the timing couldn’t be better, and Lena jumps at the chance to escape England. But death follows her onboard when an obscenely wealthy family draws her into their fold just as one among them is killed in a chillingly familiar way. As Lena navigates the Abernathy’s increasingly bizarre family dynamic, she realizes that her greatest performance won’t be for an audience, but for her life.
My thoughts: This Lovely City was a great debut, but Miss Aldridge Regrets is even better. Such a great book, I was hooked from the get go. With its mix of Soho grime and first class ocean bound glamour, murder, music and family secrets, this is an assured classic in the making.
Lena is a bit naive, and clearly a sucker for a story, happy to jump on a ship with a virtual stranger to a supposed starring role in a show that doesn’t even have a title or a script. She’s also on the run, even though she’s not really done anything wrong, and caught up in something she doesn’t understand, trapped in all the luxury and glamour of an ocean liner.
Lena’s also battling with concepts of race and class, light skinned enough to pass among the Abernathy family as one of their own, but meeting musician Will (who reminds her of her father) brings her back down to reality – she has to pick a side. If they realise she’s not “one of them”, then she won’t be so welcome at the table. She can’t be both, not in America.
The Abernathy/Parker family and their attendants have a lot of secrets, bitterness, feuds, lies and a serious collective alcohol problem. Lena is thrown into their world and has no idea about any of them. She’s not at home in their world, despite being able to switch up her accent from East End to Mayfair, she is an actress after all. It’s only with Will, in the “pub” the crew hang out in that she’s able to be herself. Which should tell her something.
As things go from bad to worse onboard, she doesn’t know who to trust or what to do. Maybe she should have stayed in London after all. She has secrets too, and they’re at risk of spilling out the longer she’s mixing with first class and slipping below decks at night. Will she even make it to New York?
There’s suspense, terrible crimes at sea, but there’s also jazz under the moon and a little romance too. I want a sequel – a What Miss Aldridge Did Next.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own