Henrietta Von Harmon works as a “26 girl” at a corner bar on Chicago’s northwest side. It’s 1935, but things still aren’t looking up since the big crash and her father’s subsequent suicide, leaving Henrietta to care for her antagonistic mother and younger siblings. Henrietta is eventually persuaded to take a job as a taxi dancer at a local dance hall―and just when she’s beginning to enjoy herself, the floor matron turns up dead.
When aloof Inspector Clive Howard appears on the scene, Henrietta agrees to go undercover for him―and is plunged into Chicago’s grittier underworld. Meanwhile, she’s still busy playing mother hen to her younger siblings, as well as to pesky neighborhood boy Stanley, who believes himself in love with her and keeps popping up in the most unlikely places, determined to keep Henrietta safe―even from the Inspector, if need be.
Despite his efforts, however, and his penchant for messing up the Inspector’s investigation, the lovely Henrietta and the impenetrable Inspector find themselves drawn to each other in most unsuitable ways.
I’m usually not a fan of historical fiction, but the cover of this book drew me in enough to start reading the book. A Girl Like You takes place in January of 1935. Henrietta Von Harmon lives at home with her widowed mother, along with her seven younger siblings. Her father has committed suicide, leaving her mother with eight mouths to feed so Henrietta works at Poor Pete’s as a 26 Girl. Pete looks out for her, kind of like a surrogate father.
Then Henrietta’s friend, Polly, convinces her to work as a taxi dancer at the Promenade. She doesn’t tell her mother, of course, and comes up with a story about working the night shift. While Henrietta took the taxi dancer job to earn money, she realizes pretty quickly that she actually enjoys dancing with men for money and that it isn’t that hard at all. She earns ten cents with each man she dances with at the dance hall.
One night the dance supervisor turns up dead and when the murder is committed, Henrietta realizes one of the men she danced with is a police inspector, Clive Howard. Once Inspector Howard questions both Polly and Henrietta, Polly turns up missing. Henrietta begins to wonder if Polly’s disappearance has anything to do with the fact that her sister went missing while working at a mob-connected burlesque club. She wants to learn more and offers to go undercover with the inspector. She tries out for a position as an usherette and begins to do her best to discover what happened to Polly while at the same time making some money for her family. Henrietta is quickly drawn into the Chicago world of crime, drugs and prostitution – not failing to mention the murder.
The characters were well written and I was definitely pulled right into this story from the get-go. The author was very vivid with the details and I felt connected to the 1930’s in Chicago and the plot of the story. I thought Michelle Cox did a great job with this book, and I do look forward to seeing what she writes next!
Michelle Cox has a B.A. in English literature from Mundelein College, Chicago. She is a writer of historical fiction but has also been known to dash off a mystery or two. While her heart might lie in the eighteenth century with Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy or in the crooked streets of Little Dorrit’s London, she tends to write of a slightly more recent age, a time closer to the World Wars, when all was not yet lost and the last roses of summer were first coming into bloom.
Ms. Cox lives with her husband and three children in the Chicago suburbs.
Thanks to BookSparks for the advance reader’s digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review as part of their April Showers Blog Tour -#itsrainingbooks!