LADY BE GOOD Race, Class and New Money in 1950s USA

Lady Be Good

Lady_be_Good coverA Novel
By Amber Brock
Read by: Julia Whelan
8 Hours and 13 Minutes
Penguin Random House Audio | Imprint: Imprint: Random House Audio
Category: Historical Fiction | Women’s Fiction | Literary Fiction

I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.


Set in the 1950s, Lady Be Good marks Amber Brock’s mesmerizing return, sweeping readers into the world of the mischievous, status-obsessed daughter of a hotel magnate and the electric nightlife of three iconic cities: New York, Miami, and Havana.

Kitty Tessler is the winsome and clever only child of self-made hotel and nightclub tycoon Nicolas Tessler. Kitty may not have the same pedigree as the tennis club set she admires, but she still sees herself as every inch the socialite–spending her days perfecting her “look” and her nights charming all the blue-blooded boys who frequent her father’s clubs. It seems like the fun will never end until Kitty’s father issues a terrible ultimatum: she may no longer date the idle rich. Instead, Kitty must marry Andre, her father’s second-in-command, and take her place as the First Lady of his hotel empire. Kitty is forced to come up with a wily and elaborate plan to protect her own lofty ideas for the future, as well as to save her best friend, Henrietta Bancroft, from a doomed engagement; Kitty will steal Henrietta’s fiancé, a fabulously wealthy but terribly unkind man from a powerful family–thereby delivering the one-two punch of securing her now-fragile place on the social ladder and keeping her friend from a miserable marriage.

Then Kitty meets Max, a member of a band visiting New York from her father’s Miami club, and her plans take a turn. Smitten, but still eager to convince her father of her commitment to Andre, Kitty and Hen follow Max, Andre, and the rest of the band back down to Miami–and later to Cuba. As Kitty spends more time with Max, she begins waking up to the beauty–and the injustice–of the world beyond her small, privileged corner of Manhattan. And when her well-intended yet manipulative efforts backfire, Kitty is forced to reconsider her choices and her future before she loses everyone she loves.


My Take Oblong Shaped

Brock is looking at a complex set of circumstances: Kitty is a stylish, young woman, a “good-time girl,” who is aimless but destined to inherit he father’s hospitality empire. Kitty wants to marry into the protection of old-money, “well-bred,” society that spurns her background of new money and they always will. Her father wants her to stop her dissipative lifestyle of nightclubs and new dresses before she inherits. But, he doesn’t want her to learn the business to take it over, he wants her to marry his right-hand man.

Kitty sets out on a path to get what she thinks she wants wants and thinks she is going to free her best friend from an unhappy match her father wants at the same time. She is a schemer; using people to achieve her goals, people she cares about. That never ends well for this kind of character. What is puzzling here is that she seeks the protective cocoon of old snotty cash that sneers at her. They would never welcome her, but they would snipe her whole life. What she is seeking protection from is discrimination. In meeting people who are discriminated against for their color, their nationality, or their religion without giving in to it, without assimilating, she really begins to grow up, to escape the slights of her past. When she does fall though, she owns it and that’s how she becomes an adult.

This was an interesting point in American history: after WWII America was high on victory but also terrified of Communism. People of color, of religions other than Christian, were still (are still) being treated poorly. Women could vote but still had a lot of societal pressure to tow the line their parents or husbands presented. McCarthy and Cuba were right around the corner. The economic machine of war was slowing,the rebuilding of Europe and Asia was long and expensive so there were definitely economic issues that belied the high of victory.

The confluence of these circumstances is insightful and relevant today. America is currently divided and disturbed. I liked how Brock used our past to throw current events into relief.

Whelan does a great job narrating books with several women of different classes and personalities; she does especially well with New Yorkers.  SHe does a good job with the male characters as well.

This is a great beach read, or the kids-went-back-to-school-so-I-have-a-coiuple-of-minutes, read.  I enjoyed the book!


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