This was an easy-paced novel written from the first point of view. I found it entertaining and interesting. While Jane tries to break a story, it’s fun to get into the head of a young, reckless teen who will stop at nothing to get the job done to keep custody of her sister. Her immaturity and struggle to trust others get her into a few twists and turns, but in the end, she learns the value of loyalty and the cost of using others. There are a few lose ends that will make you want to pick up book three rather than be disappointed. I hadn’t read book one and didn’t feel lost. I will say it has a lot of flashbacks that aren’t usually my cup of tea, but I think it worked here. The
flashbacks may have taken me out of the story a couple of times because I wasn’t expecting them, or maybe I was so focused on the current tale that I had to adjust to some of the flashbacks. All in all, I would pick up book 3. I rate it a 3.5
The author gave me an audiobook copy, but I was not required to provide positive feedback. These thoughts and my opinions are my own. I thought the narrator did a great job with the voices and portraying young curious Jane.
It’s 1939. Jane Benjamon’s got five days at sea to solve the murder of a Wimbledon champion’s coach and submit a gossip column that tells the truth. If not the facts.
On the brink of World War II, Jane wants to have it all. By day she hustles as a scruffy, tomboy cub reporter. By night she secretly struggles to raise her toddler sister, Elsie, and protect her from their mother.
But Jane’s got a plan: she’ll become the San Francisco Prospect’s first gossip columnist and make enough money to care for Elsie.
Jane finagles her way to the women’s championship at Wimbledon, starring her hometown’s tennis phenom and cover girl Tommie O’Rourke. Jane plans to write her first column there. But then she witnesses Edith “Coach” Carlson, Tommie’s closest companion, drop dead in the stands of apparent heart attack, and her plan is blown.
Sailing home on the RMS Queen Mary, Jane veers between competing instincts: Should she write a social bombshell column, personally damaging her new friend Tommie’s persona and career? Or should she work to uncover the truth of Coach’s death and its connection to a larger conspiracy involving US participation in the coming war?
Putting away her menswear and donning first-class ballgowns, Jane discovers what upper-class status hides, protects, and destroys. Ultimately—like nations around the globe in 1939—she must choose what she’ll give up in order to do what’s right.
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Meet the Narrator:
April Doty is a classically trained actress with a BFA from Syracuse University. She is a voice actor and the narrator of 26 books. Born in Virginia, educated in New York, seasoned in London and settled in Spain, April Doty brings the sound of a rich and varied life experience to her narration. The character of Jane came to life in her home studio on the Costa del Sol.
Meet the Author:
Shelley grew up in California’s Central Valley, the daughter of Dust Bowl immigrants who made good on their ambition to get out of the field. She recently retired from teaching writing at Sacramento State University and still consults with writers in the energy industry. She co-directs Stories on Stage Sacramento, where actors perform the stories of established and emerging authors, and serves on the advisory board of 916 Ink, an arts-based creative writing nonprofit for children, as well as on the board of the Gould Center for Humanistic Studies at Claremont McKenna College. Copy Boy is her first Jane Benjamin Novel. Tomboy is her second. The third, Working Girl, will come out in November 2023. Her writing has been a finalist in the Sarton Book Awards, IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards, Killer Nashville’s Silver Falchion Award, the American Fiction Awards, and the National Indie Excellence Awards. She and her husband live in Sacramento with many photos of their out-of-town sons and their wonderful partners.
Q: There are many books out there about amateur girl sleuths. What makes Jane Benjamin different?
A: Jane comes from a rough, farmworker background. There aren’t a lot of tomato-picking sleuths. Also, she feels most herself when wearing men’s clothes, freer to be assertive, less self-conscious than when she wears dresses and hose and heels. This cross-dressing is especially unique in historical mysteries. Also, Jane makes many regrettable decisions, testing our patience with her. This makes her unique among female sleuths, if not male ones. But she is also a decent person, who has to work hard to corral her own ambition and do the thing she knows is right. None of it comes easy to her. Jane may differ from other amateur girl sleuths because she can be difficult. But sticking with her is worth it because she tries to do right.
Q: What surprised you in the way your narrator read your audiobook?
A: April Doty is my dream narrator. Seriously. She completely gets the sound of Jane’s voice.
This is complex to get right when you consider not only that Jane has a Texas accent but that she tries to hide it, though it slips out in emotional situations. She has a terrible time banishing ain’t when she’s angry. I love the way April gets this quality of unsuccessful self-control.
I was also surprised at how thoughtfully April considered Jane’s relative age, how she lets her sound young and hopeful at nineteen, but also with an edge of cynicism, based on the experiences she’s already had. And since Jane is writing/narrating these stories from the future. April balanced the sound of her age really well.
Finally, I think I was surprised at how I could tell in April’s narration that she really cared for my protagonist. It meant a lot to me that she found places and ways to imbue this troublesome girl with grace.
Q: Does it affect the way you write to know the book will be an audiobook?
A: When I wrote Copy Boy, the first book in the trilogy, I wasn’t thinking at all about an audiobook. I definitely wrote it thinking of someone who reads with their eyes. But after the experience of working with my narrator, I became much more aware in the writing of Tomboy that this would be read aloud. I think it changed the length and shape of my sentences. I became more aware of editing out anything that was not strictly necessary. I came much closer to writing a screenplay, seeing scenes play out before my eyes, hearing them in my ears. I was even more conscious to read the draft aloud to myself as I went, which helped me check and refine the tone, revealed in sound.
Q: Would you ever narrate your own book?
A: People say that if your book is nonfiction it’s a good idea for the author to read it, while it’s best for a professional to read fiction. Even if that weren’t the rule of thumb, I’d probably feel that way. My own books have all kinds of sound-rules I can hear so clearly in my head: the sound of 1930s and 40s movies with snappy-commenting women and cynical male detectives, the sound of drunken partiers, the sound of a Texas accent, or a variety of British ones. The truth is, that though I can hear it all perfectly in my head, I’m terrible at performing such things. I even get nervous about doing my own readings at events. I want to let an accent come out, but I live in terror of being embarrassed if I don’t get it right. So, no. I’ll not be narrating my own audiobooks.
Q: As a reader, do you prefer stories as text, ebooks or audiobooks?
A: I love them all. Often, if book really intrigues me, I will buy two versions. If I just want to dive in right away and escape, I tend to begin with the ebook. I love having it with me on my phone, wherever I am, dentist office waiting room, short breaks between meetings, at my father’s house as he naps.
If I suspect a book is one I might want to study, to really understanding the author’s choices, I will get a paperback. I love to underline the interesting parts in pen and I always dog-ear the pages. When those books are research for something I’m writing, I will go back and type up a list of notable quotes so I can return to them efficiently on my laptop.
When I’m really loving a book, I often also order the audiobook. Because I have family out of town, I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few years driving to see them. I love when I’ve been reading a book and then can advance the audio to the last page read and listen to it en route to family. Because of my audiobooks, I no longer dread a long drive.
However, I do find it funny that when I listen to audiobooks (often mysteries or thrillers) while I walk along the American River Bike Trail, I’ll confront a frightening scene in the book and ever after feel afraid when I reach that bend in the trail.
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