It's 1907 Los Angeles. Mischievous socialite Anna Blanc is the kind of young woman who devours purloined crime novels, but must disguise them behind covers of more domestically-appropriate reading. She could match wits with Sherlock Holmes, but in her world women are not allowed to hunt criminals. Determined to break free of the era's rigid social roles, Anna buys off the chaperone assigned by her domineering father and, using an alias, takes a job as a police matron with the Los Angeles Police Department. There she discovers a string of brothel murders, which the cops are unwilling to investigate. Seizing her one chance to solve a crime, she takes on the investigation herself. If the police find out, she'll get fired; if her father finds out, he'll disown her; and if her fiancé finds out, he'll cancel the wedding. Midway into her investigation, the police chief's son, Joe Singer, learns her true identity, and shortly thereafter she learns about blackmail. Anna must choose - either hunt the villain and risk losing her father, fiancé, and wealth, or abandon her dream and leave the killer on the loose.
©2015 Jennifer Kincheloe (P)2016 Jennifer Kincheloe
Set in 1907 Los Angeles, Anna Blanc is at the top of the social ladder. She has pretty French clothes, a handsome fiance, in vogue friends, and fancy makeup. Yet she longs for more. She secretly reads detective novels and desperately wants to have at least one murder mystery adventure before her life is sealed with a wedding. She comes up with a scheme to become an assistant police matron at the Los Angeles police department, assuming an alias (Anna Holmes) and a rough spun ugly uniform that doesn’t quite hide her lovely form. Pretty soon, Anna learns that this is more than just a fancy whim of hers; real people need her help and are affected by what she does or doesn’t do. However, if she’s discovered by either her father or her fiance, she stands to lose quite a bit. She has to choose between being an obedient daughter and fiance or catching a killer who is murdering prostitutes.
This was such a delightful book! I really enjoyed it. I thought it would be a bit intense, it being a murder mystery and historical fiction. The book does have those qualities, but the author took things a step further and threw in plenty of well-timed humor. First, Anna’s character is a strange yet compelling mix of innocence, curiosity, determination, and sleuthing ability. She’s had a mostly sheltered life so the salty atmosphere of the mostly male police force and the even saltier streets continuously fascinate her. She’s quick to learn, except when it comes to deciphering the reasons for the scowls she gets from certain coworkers.
There’s plenty of sexual innuendos throughout the story. Anna, being nearly completely innocent, misses the full meaning of most of them. Occasionally, another character will take a bit of pity on her and explain things. I also loved the hit and miss budding romance between her and fellow police officer Joe Singer. She first meets him when he’s dressed as a woman and very obviously drunk. Meanwhile, she has to be all proper when passing time with her fiance, Edgar. She wants him to be a little naughty and steal a kiss or two, but he’s all about being proper even when no one’s looking. I especially loved the arrow collar man advertisements and the interesting bit about how hysterical women are clinically treated. Funny and also a little window into the past.
As for the murder mystery, that had me guessing right up to the end. I felt like I had good company though as Anna was guessing up to the end as well. There was also a side mystery concerning a serial rapist that Anna helps close. These mysteries provide a backdrop to show how men and women were treated quite differently in the early 1900s, no matter their social status or skills. For instance, I didn’t realize that women could be arrested for smoking in public at that time. The humor keeps this from being a brow beating on social justice for women.
I’m definitely looking forward to Book 2. By the end of this book, Anna’s life has quite changed from where she started out. She’s a determined young lady but also still a bit prim, a bit focused on expensive girly things, and a bit innocent on how the majority of people live. I’m sure finding out how she handles a bit more first-hand knowledge will make a good story.
I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.
The Narration: Moira Quirk did an excellent job with this book. She was perfect for Anna. I loved how she handled the humor and the innuendos. I would love to hear her blooper reel on this one! I also thought she did a great job with the regional accents, giving a stiff upper lip to the socialites and a more salty accent to masses.
Reading the synopsis of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc, I was instantly drawn to it as it has so many components that I love in historical fiction: a look into the customs and culture of the time period in which it takes place; a resourceful, intelligent female battling against the set stereotypes of the time; some sort of drama/action/adventure to keep me interested. I've also been hearing great buzz about this audiobook version and was delighted at the prospect of finding another delicious audiobook to make my commute less frustrating and boring then it typically is. I'm happy to say that I did enjoy listening to Anna's story unfold very much, even if I did have some issues with the main heroine herself.
Speaking of Anna Blanc (or Anna Holmes or Ami Amour depending on whether she was using one of her aliases or not), I'm sorry to say that I wasn't a huge fan of her as a character. She was quite selfish, impulsive, and arrogant and this all served to undermined her natural talents at detective work and obvious intelligence. She seemed to act without any regard for how her actions would effect other people and even destroyed the property of other people without seeming to care. She also came off as somewhat flighty at times, which made for a really odd dichotomy between her obvious abilities and her ditzy persona. She seemed shocked when people didn't take her seriously, but then did things over and over again that would make anyone not take her seriously! I'm not sure if I missed something by this being a listening experience over reading the actual book but I just had the hardest time wrapping my head around Anna Blanc.
Now, that being said, I loved almost all of the other characters! Joe Singer was an amazingly charming character and the brothel girls were hilarious. Actually, there was quite a bit of humor amongst most of the characters and I found the banter to be very entertaining. The actual search for the killer of the brothel girls was interesting as well and I can honestly say that I had no idea who the killer was and was surprised when he revealed himself.
Even with the delightful secondary characters, my absolute favorite aspect of this audiobook would have to be the narrator, Moira Quirk. She was amazing! Her ability to change her voice and make every single character distinct was unlike any other narrator I've listened to before. She was easily able to express the humor and danger and romance wherever it needed to be and made me excited to keep turning it on to listen to a little bit more whenever I could.
Anna Blanc herself aside, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc was very entertaining. While I didn't connect with this particular heroine I can see how others might really enjoy her contradictory nature and, regardless, her adventures searching for a killer definitely keep your attention.
Prepare for me to fan-girl all over this review. You have been warned!
I couldn’t get enough of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc from the moment I picked it up! I listened to it every moment that I had: in the car commuting to work, while at work, while running on the treadmill, out-loud while sitting at home with my husband (which made for some extremely comical discussion!). I didn’t want the book to end and I’m thrilled to learn that this is a series and book 2 is coming out at the end of this year so I can inhale more of Anna Blanc!
One of the things that immediately connected me to this book was the style. It reminded me in many ways of the early Janet Evanovich comedy/romance/mystery novels: girl is completely out of her depths trying to solve a mystery and has no idea what she is doing. Beyond that, Kincheloe’s writing style is full of wit and comedic timing. I was constantly laughing either at what one of the characters was doing or how they were saying it.
Anna is delightfully naïve in the world of the underbelly of society, which makes sense because she comes from money. But she wants to get out and see more of the world, not sit around and wait to get old while her father refuses to find a man for her to marry. She is bold and daring and comes up with an over-the-top way to become employed as a police matron at the local police station. Is she qualified? Not in the slightest. Does she get the job because the man hiring her thinks she is nice to look at? Absolutely.
But despite her lack of skills, somehow Anna manages to get the job done…with a lot help from both willing and unwilling friends and accomplices. Officer Joe Singer is one of those sometimes willing and unwilling friends. Thinking back on it now, he really reminds me a lot of Luke from Gilmore Girls: totally in love with the heroine and will do anything to help her, but will go out of his way to make it seem like a hardship and be grouchy about doing it. I loved how Kincheloe played Anna and Joe off of each other and their conversations were some of the best of the book. The author really knows how to write banter between two people who are so at odds with each other but totally into one another.
Oh, and speaking of the writing – hands down, the best parts were when we get inside Anna’s head and what she is thinking, especially when it comes to romance where she is a complete novice. In terms of what happens in the book, it’s no more than PG-13, but Anna’s thoughts are hilarious in where she takes these rendezvous. (It’s even more hilarious when your husband walks into the room when one of these segments is playing out loud and he abruptly walks back out of the room! I credit the author with some entertaining conversations that arose from this over the rest of the week.)
Beyond the mystery storyline, there is a lot to be said about women, their rights, and how they are perceived during this time. Anna attends a rally for women’s right to vote (really just because she wants to do something sensational), which gets her arrested and infuriates her father. On the job there is a lot of sexist remarks made toward Anna or spoken in front of her (lots of conversations about going to the horse stables with Joe and what that means, true or not). Her father and fiancé are appalled with her antics and want her to be well behaved – she even ends up with a bevy of chaperones and the lengths she goes to in order to get around them are hilarious. Then beyond Anna, there is the whole element of the brothel girls and how the deaths of these girls is handled and how these women are treated. It was all very well integrated into the novel as a whole.
I cannot wait for book 2 to be released and will be on my auto-buy list as I had the most fantastic time reading this book. This is an EXCELLENT debut from this author and I have and will continue to highly recommend this book to everyone I talk with.
You know how I was fan-girling hard above? It continues here too!
This was one of THE best audio productions I have listened to and I am even more impressed as it appears it was published by the author, because the quality is that of one of the big name audiobook publishers. It is excellently narrated. Moira Quirk is someone that would now lead me to pick up a book I’m not even interested in because she could interest me in it through her performance (believe me, I have already went and shelved a few of her other works in my Audible wishlist that are paranormal in genre, which isn’t my typical thing). And a performance it truly is. Quirk doesn’t just read the novel, but imbues Kincheloe’s characters with even more life. As I stated above, Kincheloe wrote some amazing characters that I loved, but Quirk brings out their complete nature to where you feel like they are standing in the room next to you. Yes, each character has their own unique voice, but many narrators do that. However, Quirk not only brings a different voice, but you can envision their mannerisms as well just from the way they are speaking. I’m not sure how she does this, but whatever it is, keep doing it! There is quite the range of nationalities and type of personalities in this novel and Quirk makes them all feel truly real, not cookie cutter or stereotyped. And there is singing! Actual singing! That is one of the things that always disappoints me is when a part that is clearly intended to be sung is instead simply read. And while I know that there are often legitimate reasons this has to be done, it does take away from the experience of the book and colors my perception of it.
Loved the book, loved the production, loved the narrator! Go pick up this book in print (if you don’t listen to books), but I HIGHLY encourage you to check out this audiobook production, it is FANTASTIC and you will not regret it!
Love to read, love talking about what I read.
I was provided the audiobook for this story in exchange for an honest review and as part of this lovely blog tour.
The story captivated me from the very beginning. The first few chapters can offer an idea of what type of character Anna really is and the narrator definitely did an amazing job to give voice to these traits. What is absolutely fabulous about the book is that not only the story is great and keeps you focused from start to end, but also the setting, the character and the writing style (+ in my case, the narrator).
The action is quite present throughout the pages, since Miss Blanc has a tendency to always start trouble, or better to look for it. She plans to elope, she gets mixed with women that can only ruin her reputation, she wants a man’s job at a police station and, as if these weren’t enough, she starts her own investigation. I just love this woman! There are twists all over the pages and there just isn’t one moment of boredom! So from plot point of view, it has all my points
What really made me give 5 stars to this book was actually the character. The author did an amazing job at creating Anna Blanc – a strong woman, one that knows her values and believes she can do anything she sets her mind to. All these while trying to maintain a reputation of a decent lady. In a time where women were regarded as inferior to men, in time where they started challenging for voting rights, Anna is a great symbol of what means to be determined, what means to fight for your dreams and not feel beneath the people around (be those men or women).
As for the narrator, I was mentioning in the beginning that she is absolutely great! Her voice is intelligible and she does a great job at making the difference between characters. But to top that, I believe she is fit for Anna’s character. I don’t know, but Moira has that voice I imagined for a person like Anna (not sure if this has much sense). Oh, and the emotions are also very nicely captured!
All in all, I loved this audiobook and I am lucky to be part of this tour. This is one of those books that can be an inspiration. For me at least it was. I’ve been having some tough days lately and Anna reminded me that we can me strong, we can still follow our dreams. Although I am not a convinced feminist (as I do believe men are better at some things), the story has more to it. I recommend it and I hope you like it at least as much as I did!
Anna Blanc has gumption. Moxie. She’s a socialite moonlighting at a police department. Trying to solve a string of murders. Surrounded by men who find women to be useless. At least as police detective.
"It was a cock shame being a woman. Being right and having the facts meant nothing if one wore frocks. Even if they were very nice frock, which her matron’s uniform was not."
I had some issues with Anna at the beginning of the novel. She is rather naive and silly about the world. But she’s been protected her whole life. She is really looking for some adventure in her life. She shows some real growth throughout the novel. Maturing and figuring out what it is that she wants. Or really, who. And she isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Which is a great trait in any character!
I found the novel as a whole completely delightful. And hilarious.
"Anna kneed him in his secret man parts. Not hard. But that was the nice thing about secret man parts. They were man’s Achilles heal."
I’m hoping that the novel was intended to be funny. Sometimes my sense of humor is a bit off the wall. It’s the sarcasm that gets me every time.
Anna Blanc, the novel and the character, was also more sexually suggestive than I was expecting. Including Anna cutting out a rather suggestive advertisement which she brandishes in front of her father. There were quite a few scenes that had me blushing. And wondering how sexually liberated women were in the 1900’s.
I wholly enjoyed the narration of Anna Blanc. Ms. Quirk did a great job with the different characters. I could easily distinguish each one. She even sings as one of the characters!
After finishing The Secret Life of Anna Blanc, I’m ready for to be a part of her next adventure!
I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jennifer Kincheloe. The gift of this audiobook did not affect my review of it.
Deborah J Ledford
The underlying humor is quite amusing, and I found myself going back to re-listen to more than a few passages.
I enjoyed Anna's journey from the first moment to the last.
The narrator brings an added level of interest and intrigue. The voicing of each character is spot-on and features a wide range of accents.
Anna's determination to follow her dreams and stick to her convictions.
Captivating tale of socialite and crime fighter Anna Blanc, who navigates an era and her father's disapproval with finesse and cunning.
4.75★ Audiobook⎮The Secret Life of Anna Blanc was such an unexpected surprise! It started out good, became better as it went along, delivered a punch, and ended with a sizzle. I don’t think a mystery novel has ever made me laugh this much. Marvelously cheeky and delightfully inappropriate, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc exceeded my expectations and was anything but predictable.
Firstly, Anna Blanc rates 10/10 on the memorable character scale (something I just made up). My feelings for her ran the gamut during this audiobook, frequently swinging from chapter to chapter. She would go from annoying to amusing in a matter of seconds, but I never tired of her antics. Anna was a truly multifaceted character and an avant garde female protagonist, especially considering the ridiculously prudish ways of the early 1900s.
Kincheloe, a research scientist, definitely did her homework regarding the historical setting. Certain historically contextual details were so outrageous and unfathomable, that I knew they had to be fact. It took me a little while to acclimate to the uses of some specific terms and phrases, especially one like “making love”, which has come to mean something very different today. From what I could discern, it used to mean merely whispering “sweet nothings”. Oh, how times have changed.
Jennifer Kincheloe also won me over with her descriptive imagery. In example, saying a slap stung “like sandpaper on a sunburn”. Her writing easily painted pictures in my mind, though not always positive ones. At times, I sheepishly wished her descriptions hadn’t been quite so vivid, particularly the graphic postmortem descriptions. However, I cannot deny the effectiveness of their impact on the story. Kincheloe proved that writing does not have to be complex or superfluous to be beautiful. There was something mesmerizing about the directness of her prose. It made the story incredibly easy-to-follow and enjoy.
I’ve dubbed Kincheloe “Queen of the fake-out” for her ability to pull a bait-and-switch. I thought I knew where this mystery was going and I was fine with it. There was a trail of breadcrumbs leading in one direction, so followed it. It was a masterfully built mystery, so I had resigned myself to being okay with having figured it out beforehand. And then… AND THEN… Kincheloe pulled the literary football away at the last second as if I was Charlie Brown and she was Lucy. It was such an eloquent fake out that I can’t even be mad. In fact, I’m elated that Kincheloe was able to pull one over on me. I never saw it coming.
The historical setting of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc was reminiscent of The Luxe series by Anna Godbersen, which happens to be one of my favorites. The mystery element was similar to a Sherlock Holmes story, which I suspect was purposeful since Holmes is referenced multiple times in this novel. If you’re eager and willing to be blindsided by a mystery with an amusingly annoying protagonist, a love triangle that’s actually useful to the plot, and cheeky, grin-inducing writing, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc is for you.
Narration review: This was my first experience listening to Moira Quirk, but I hope it won’t be the last. She portrayed the naïve frivolity and rueful determination of Anna Blanc with aplomb. Anna was an increasingly dynamic character who constantly evolved throughout the novel. Quirk’s narration captured the growth of Anna’s character, but held tight to her innocence. Narrating this title gave Moira Quirk the opportunity to display her repertoire of accents. She provided the best vocal distinction for characters with marked accents. For others, especially unaccented male characters, a bit more characterization wouldn’t have hurt. But overall, she gave a lovely performance. I look forward to hearing more from her and Kincheloe soon. Here’s hoping for a sequel! ♣︎
➜ This audiobook was graciously gifted to me by its author, Jennifer Kincheloe, in exchange for a review containing my honest thoughts and opinions. Thanks, Jennifer!
I read this book, and then listened to the audio version and enjoyed both tremendously.
This story is such a fun ride, and keeps you guessing while enjoying the quirks of Anna's personality, and the details of life in 1907 Los Angeles.
Moira's narrations is just lovely, and brings the story to life. She lets you feel the characters personalities, and enjoy their various accents.
Yes, it was awesome! Hilarious! Couldn't stop smiling! What really made this story shine for me were the little things. The use of language both historical and just in different character’s voices was really impressive. I loved that Joe had this thing for singing and that the main character shouted things like: “Oh biscuits!” and “worse than a rattlesnake cupcake.” Then there was this ongoing thing that Anna would say about “doing what any sensible woman would do in that situation” which would be followed by something utterly hilarious!
All in all, I was really impressed with this book and how much fun it was to read/listen to. Jennifer Kincheloe is a master of comedy, character, plot, Gilded Age history, and especially writing. I cannot wait to read the second installment in her Anna Blanc series!
Anna Blanc. Kincheloe is also very talented at characterization. The main character Anna Blanc is like a Scarlett O’hara type but even more loveable. I don’t know how, but Kincheloe managed to make naivety, self-absorption, and stubbornness into hilarious and again loveable traits! Anna Blanc is also caring, tenacious, and especially daring. Building a character like this really shows the skill of the author. Supporting characters were also great fun, especially Joe who makes a perfect side-kick and romance. He’s gritty and just a little bit bad. I loved him!
No, but she was great! The narrator Moira Quirk was quite talented and impressive. She did all kinds of voices and accents and did them really well.
I really, really enjoyed this book. It was a fun and adorable romp into America’s Gilded Age Los Angeles. The author Jennifer Kincheloe kept me constantly smiling and laughing out loud – for real not just lol style.
First thing, as a Gilded Age historical novelist myself, I was blown away by the unique history that went into this book – from turn of the century LA to the world of crime to the inner workings of police matrons, to the world of the upper class. Fashion is a big thing for me in historicals, and Kincheloe really delivered. Not only did she give fantastic details about clothing, but worked it into the story in a way that was smooth and made sense. Same thing goes for the rest of the historical details. I really enjoyed the historical setting as most Gilded Age and Victorian novels take place in New York or England. This was unique and interesting because it was new and different.
The overall story is exciting and interesting too, not to mention really good at keeping you guessing. I don’t usually go for mysteries or crime novels as I feel they will be predictable, but that was not the case here. In fact this book is making me completely reevaluate my opinions about these types of books because this was so good! I was sure I knew who the bad guy was, or that I had guessed who it was at least once in my many attempts, but in the end I was still surprised, not only by who but by how it perfectly rounded out the plot. I was also intrigued in the side-plots from the criminal rapists (not the main murder mystery) to the question of Anna Blanc’s engagement.
Reminiscent of the Thin Man movies, I really love this first novel and hope it evolves into a series. After listening to myriad dark detective novels this was a welcomed respite.
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