August 10, 2014

Empire Girls - Suzanne Hayes & Loretta Nyhan

Empire Girls book cover
Empire Girls by Suzanne Hayes & Loretta Nyhan
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Source/Format: Netgalley (Thanks Harlequin!) || e-galley
[I received this book for review from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]

Ivy and Rose Adams may be sisters, but they're nothing alike. Rose, the eldest, is the responsible one, while Ivy is spirited and brazen. After the unexpected death of their father, the women are left to reconcile the estate, when they make a shocking discovery: not only has their father left them in financial ruin, but he has also bequeathed their beloved family house to a brother they never knew existed. With only a photograph to guide the way, Ivy and Rose embark to New York City, determined to find this mysterious man and reclaim what is rightfully theirs.

Once in New York, temptations abound at every turn, and soon the sisters are drawn into the glitzy underbelly of Manhattan, where they must overcome their differences and learn to trust each other if they're going to survive in the big city and find their brother. (from Goodreads)

When Empire Girls appeared on my radar, I instantly requested it. Why? It’s a story about (1) sisters (2) in New York City (3) in the 1920s. All three of these things have a permanent place on my personal preferences list, so wanting to read it was a no-brainer. 

Rose and Ivy are the two sisters in Empire Girls, and these girls are as different as night and day. Rose is the older sibling, practical, level-headed and content with her small corner of the world. Ivy is the younger one, flighty, dreamy and prone to more romantic notions and adventures. Stereotypical characters? A bit, but that didn’t wind up particularly bothering me.

It is the differences in their personalities that make each of their individual journeys during their New York adventure that much more interesting. Watching each of them transform (really, it’s growing up) is pretty fun, though I generally just preferred Rose’s experience over Ivy’s. Seeing New York through each of their eyes is fun, though not without heartbreaking experiences in the mix.

Their relationship also felt pretty realistic. Rose, as the older sibling, took responsibility for the household and her family. She’s almost like a mother to Ivy, and so, tries hard to be prim, proper and make her sister the same way. Ivy’s free spirit definitely causes them to have clashes a time or two! It’s interesting how the authors made it a point to focus on how these two learn to adapt and understand one another better as Empire Girls progressed, and in a way that felt realistic.

It is funny how I’ve written so much already and not yet touched on the real reason the girls are in New York: the search for their half-brother. While I’m not averse to the fact that it focused primarily on the girls themselves and their own experiences, I did feel a bit disappointed that the brother element only really kicked in towards the latter third (though it was mentioned at random points, just to remind the reader it was still important, I guess).

One of the other things I really liked about this novel is the portrayal of New York. There were perfectly written turns of phrase that described this city in a way that I found relatable. I love that these lines felt timeless when it comes to this city! There were also some great 1920s details, like the speakeasies, but I do wish there had been just a touch more to really ground the reader in this era.

My main reservation about Empire Girls is the story’s pacing. I couldn’t figure out the timeline easily, and every transition felt jumpy. It’s very jarring, and will definitely affect a reader’s perception of this story. Plus, the romantic plotlines just felt a little too rushed for me (particularly for Rose).

Overall, I did think Empire Girls was worth a read. I do feel like it could have used a little something more, though I’m not sure whether that’s in terms of plot or characterization or pacing. Did I like it? Yes, I did. But I do think there’s definitely room for improvement too.

(Oh, one more thing – I loved the literary references in it! The mention of quite a few of my favorite characters and stories was also fun to discover.)


  1. This is a book I feel anyone can enjoy. Palacio captures the feelings of
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  2. I keep hearing how wonderful Julie Anne Long's books are - especially What I Did for a Duke. I need to make time for them straight away. Glad to hear you loved this one! Also, I'm loving the historical romance novel reviews lately!

  3. I haven't read any of her books yet but I just picked up the ebook of Sinner. Werewolves have been done too often in novels but I much prefer them to vampires! Lol!

  4. Racquel is forever recommending this series to me; playing catch up just sounds so daunting! But I hope to get to it eventually. I like the sound of a vicar + courtesan romance; it's definitely intriguing! (Hopefully the vicar has some, um, buried passion :P) Great review, Alexa!

  5. The ending wrapped up fairly
    quickly and it was still “time driven” in the sense of a 6 week YouTube
    show timeline, but I still felt like it was extremely character driven
    and I love love loved it.

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