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Pretty Waiter Girls

A Helena Brandywine Adventure
Narrated by: Alexa McKracken
Length: 7 hrs and 4 mins
2 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Some monsters are still human. 

In magical 1899 San Francisco, the new millennium is quickly approaching. Of course, new inventions happen every day, some wondrous, some mundane, while the streets produce a new murder every night. 

Set against this backdrop, a debutante goes missing, and socialite Helena Brandywine takes it upon herself, along with her trusted manservant, to discover what happened. 

Did the woman run afoul of the Tongs in Chinatown? What horrors might she have exposed? 

Discover this slice of the Gilded Age while Helena uncovers her family's secrets. The good and evil, where danger lurks around every corner. 

Can Helena Brandywine be prepared for the monsters she will uncover?

©2018 Greg Alldredge (P)2018 Greg Alldredge

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Show's a lot of promise

Pretty Waiter Girls is historical, semi-steampunk urban fantasy mystery story that defies easy classification. (Note) I listened to the audiobook edition and found the narrator's tone and tenor a little grating at times. But it wasn't a deal breaker and I was able to listen to the entire story.

What really worked:

Taking place at pre-turn of the century San Francisco, Pretty Waiter Girls opens up and quickly introduces our cast of characters, Helena, Lane, and her butler (who has a Mr. Carson from Downton Abbey feel to him). I appreciate books that take a moment to capture a moment in time, and Alldredge does exactly that. There are moments early on where the smell, sounds, and energy of a downtown scene are painted with obvious care and attention to craft. The book also moves along at a vey steady and clip pace. Following a fairly linear storyline, Pretty Waiter Girls takes our characters from location to location, as they work to unravel Helena's mystery - find a missing girl. Alldredge does this with a regular and well-practiced hand, peeling away the layers of the mystery deliberately. The tension does grow, allowing the uncertainty and doubt to propel us forward and keep reading. Helena is naive about more than just the world beyond her estate doors. We get to see and experience most of Alldredge's world for the first time with her, which really is a magical literary experience. There are magical elements introduced into this world, and where some authors simply would have run on in exposition laden tangents, Alldredge sticks to his character's voices. Kudos here as books in this genre are only truly successfull if the authors can narrow the narrator's focus and only allow the reader a small sliver of the world before them. We want to guess, we want to wonder, and you will wonder.

Some of the locations are wonderful. Being a wine lover, I really enjoyed seeing Helena and her entorage embark on a quest through early Napa valley territory, as well as Sonoma county, where you see some places and names that will strike familiar in established wine culture. This element was fantastic and could have been expanded, truly.

What I would have liked to see more of:

Pretty Waiter Girls suffers a little at the hands of its short length and pacing. Worldbuilding and descriptive scene structuring are what suffer the most, as once the story gets in gear, I struggled to paint a picture of many of the locations in my mind. I lost track of where they were several times and more importantly why they were there. I can't help by feel like this could have all been remedied with another draft - one intended to fatten the word count a little and flesh the setting and characters out a little more - incorporate less travel and build a fantastical steampunk San Francisco with a seady underbelly for these characters to adventure. The first book in a series sets the stage, but if it can't effectively build the world, then what is there to encourage the readers to return? Imagine Narnia, Middle Earth, Sherlock Holms' foggy London town, or George R.R. Martin's Westeros if the authors hadn' taken the time to construct the magical landscape for their characters to inhabit. In those instances, the world is what draws us in...it begs to be explored.

Despite its short length and sometimes sprint-like pace, Pretty Waiter Girls is a fun book, that promises even more as the series continues.

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Disappointing all around.

I'm not sure what was worse, the writing or the narration. The main character is a spoiled little princess, naive, and talks down to the people who look out for her. The writer seems to want to beat it in to your head how badly women were treated In that time period. Most people know this already and don't need to be reminded every 5 seconds during the story. The main character constantly asks "Is it really so bad to be a woman?" To everyone she meets. She's supposed to be this sort of young female Sherlock Holmes but is so completely ignorant of everything around her that it is laughable. She practically has to be led around by the nose by her 2 guardians who she constantly disrepects.
And then we get to the narration. The narrator gives the main character the voice of a 9year old and it really gets annoying after about the first 5 seconds .
Bottom line, this could have been a good story if the author wasn't constantly going on about the mistreatment of women, focused more on plot, and had chosen a better narrator.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful