City of Promise
City of Promise
A Novel of New York's Gilded Age
Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9781439136942, 432pp.
Publication Date: August 9, 2011
It is 1864. The South's surrender is inevitable, and Manhattan is at the heart of the recovering nation's surge to prosperity. On its bustling streets crowds hustle from place to place amid a maelstrom of carriages and horse-drawn trolleys. Vanderbilt's new Grand Central Depot and the glittering Ladies' Mile shine as beacons of the city's burgeoning wealth.
Joshua Turner returns home from the War with only one leg, but his ambition intact, and sees opportunity in the exponential growth of vital city workers--the managers and clerks who churn New York's economic life. This new middle class must live in dreary "family residences," where everyone eats in a shared dining room and no woman can have a key to her own front door. Manhattan, Joshua realizes, has limited land but unlimited air. He aspires to build the city's first apartment houses for everyman, a daring vision that will make him New York's first true real estate titan but will also attract the dangerous attention of a shadowy figure from Josh's days in a notorious Confederate prison.
Meanwhile, the irresistible and clever Mollie Brannigan, raised by her extraordinary Auntie Eileen in perhaps the toniest bordello in town, is resigned at age twenty-two to spinsterhood . . . till Joshua finds her at Macy's, the city's largest emporium, and takes her coaching in Central Park, while explaining why the millionaire mansions that line their route are not how he sees the future. In Joshua's love Mollie finds a world of possibilities she had not dared to dream, but it is her aunt's intervention that makes them real. How ironic, then, that a secret Eileen thought left behind in Ireland will force Mollie to employ all her wits to protect not just her chance at happiness but her life.
This is New York at a time of unyielding progress and technological wonder, a bustling metropolis coming into its own, as its skyline is transformed by the proliferation of ever-taller buildings and the Brooklyn Bridge slowly rises out of the East River. Vividly imagined and awash in period detail and the unforgettable characters that only Beverly Swerling can conjure, City of Promise delivers a historical adventure of suspense and intrigue, daring plot twists and bitter rivalries, and the captivating love story of two people struggling to forge their own destiny.
“Swerling nimbly weaves fact-based history and fast-paced fiction into a vivid tableau of 1870s Manhattan.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Riotously entertaining . . . Clearly, if Swerling had been my history teacher, I would have paid closer attention.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“Love, life, adventure, big business and the dazzling glamour and appalling squalor of the city that never sleeps. Even way back in the 1860s.” —Anne Bendheim, Asbury Park Press (New Jersey)
“With a fast-paced, complex plot showcasing opulent Fifth Avenue mansions, Wall Street pandemonium, deals both fair and underhand, and the rising influence of the ethnic gangs, Swerling expertly interlaces the stories of a Gilded Age couple and their magnificent city.” —Sarah Johnson, Booklist