Hunh, this had better not be the last book in the Counterfeit Lady series, as seemed to be hinted at in the afterword. I understand how this seventh volume would be a thematically appropriate story to finish on, but it absolutely lacked the larger part of why so many readers, myself included, have adored these adventures for years.
Some background: the Counterfeit Lady in question is Elizabeth Bates nee Miles, a one-time grifter who’s mostly been on the straight and narrow since marrying her beloved Gideon and settling into New York City’s upper upper middle class. The tale of how she met Gideon, however, is quite unconventional. While running for her life in Washington DC, she joined a group of women suffragists in order to evade detection, and wound up getting thrown in prison anyway for being “part” of the protest. During this ordeal, she met and struck up a friendship with Gideon’s mother, and soon found herself falling in love with upright, honest Gideon himself.
While she’s tried to distance herself from her criminal past, she’s found that there are circumstances where utilizing her uncommon skillset is necessary for protecting the vulnerable and ensuring that justice is served. Most of the books in the series have been about the cons she runs for exactly that purpose, often with the help of both the Bates and Miles families. This novel is a departure, tho shady dealings certainly abound as Elizabeth, Gideon and Mother Banks head down to Nashville to help lobby politicians to ratify the 19th Amendment, the law that will finally give American women the right to vote.
There’s no elaborate con in this book, tho Elizabeth’s father does put in an appearance as he bilks shady politicians out of their money. Instead, the book is given over to the actual history and political process of this important time in American history, as the Suffragists and the Antis, men and women alike, did everything in their power to influence the vote. The Antis are, ofc, the bad guys here as they seek to bribe, intimidate and blackmail delegates into opposing ratification. Most of the betrayal of the title occurs as politicians who pledged themselves to the Suffs’ cause renege on their promises. The Bates must use every trick at their disposal to help keep the wavering from slipping over to the other side, and to remind those who might have changed their minds of the reasons they believed in universal suffrage in the first place.
As historical fiction, this is a fun, entertaining read, with engaging characters and Victoria Thompson’s trademark ability to infuse life into bygone eras. As crime fiction, it’s a total non-starter. The shenanigans are political and morally questionable, but the actually illegal stuff gets dealt with quickly and mostly off-screen. This would actually be a good book to give to anyone who wants to know more about dirty politics, and what happened during that long week or so when Tennessee teetered on the verge of being the state where ratification would finally allow American women to vote in political elections. It’s got some great stuff for our beloved characters, but I’m very much hoping that the next book allows them to return to form and actually get their crime on for the greater good.
City Of Betrayal by Victoria Thompson was published December 5 2023 by Berkley Books and is available from all good booksellers, including