* Thank you to Endeavour Quill for sending me a gifted copy of this book in return for an honest review.
Author: Nancy Bilyeau
Publication date: 16th January 2020
My rating: ★★★☆☆
Goodreads rating: 3.9
Genre: Fiction, historical
The year is 1911 when twenty-year-old heiress Peggy Batternberg is invited to spend the summer in America’s Playground.
The invitation to the luxurious Oriental Hotel a mile from Coney Island is unwelcome. Despite hailing from one of America’s richest families, Peggy would much rather spend the summer working at the Moonrise Bookstore than keeping up appearances with New York City socialites and her snobbish, controlling family.
But soon it transpires that the hedonism of nearby Coney Island affords Peggy the freedom she has been yearning for, and it’s not long before she finds herself in love with a troubled pier-side artist of humble means, whom the Batternberg patriarchs would surely disapprove of.
Disapprove they may, but hidden behind their pomposity lurks a web of deceit, betrayal and deadly secrets. And as bodies begin to mount up amidst the sweltering clamour of Coney Island, it seems the powerful Batternbergs can get away with anything…even murder.
Extravagant, intoxicating and thumping with suspense, bestselling Nancy Bilyeau’s magnificent Dreamland is a story of corruption, class and dangerous obsession.
Overall opinion of the book:
I went into this book full of hope and expectation. I’d not read much about New York (and particularly Coney Island) during the time period and was excited to discover it for myself. I would be fibbing though if I said I didn’t find the setting a little bit lacking. There were glimpses of ‘America’s Playground’ but for me, it didn’t feature has heavily as I had hoped. I wanted more…
Having said that, there were many aspects of the books that I really enjoyed. Dreamland features themes that are just as relevant today as they were back in 1911: family, the secrets they hold and the pressure the can put on you, coming of age, the struggles that women face during this critical time in their lives, and the societal expectations they have forced upon them. There is clear prejudice towards immigrants, which, let’s be honest, happens just as much today as it did back in the early 1900s.
As someone that isn’t a romance fan, I was also pleasantly surprised that Dreamland wasn’t romance heavy – I think I was have enjoyed it far less if that had been the case. However, I did really enjoy the dynamic between Peggy and Stefan – with them having come from very different backgrounds.
My favourite aspect in the whole book was the mystery. Darker than I expected at times, and thrilling in just the way I like. Now, while the mystery was my favourite aspect in the book, the solving of the mystery was also my least favourite. This is what really knocked the rating down for me. The ending was rushed, when the murderer is revealed, I thought it must have been a false flag because it had been so obvious. I kept waiting for the ‘real’ culprit to be revealed – and of course that never came. Having read so many mystery/thrillers, I thought it might just have been me that thought that way, so I had a like look at some reviews. Turns out many had the same opinion, so just keep that in mind if you’re planning on picking this book up.
Definitely not a bad book overall. Well written at times and atmospheric. A nice exploration of what it mean to be a woman with aspirations in the early 1900s when you come from a wealthy family and realistic character’s that you’ll definitely like.