Debut author Krystal Marquis transports readers to opulent 1910s Chicago in THE DAVENPORTS, the first book in an enthralling duology that interweaves romance, heartbreak, and courage, experienced through the lens of the early 20th century and four distinct perspectives. Olivia, Helen, Amy Rose, and Ruby bring readers along for the ride as they navigate the intricacies of love for the first time. Marquis’ dynamic Black heroines and their romantic adventures—inspired by the family of automobile magnate C.R. Patterson, and the flourishing of Black excellence in the 1900s—are perfect for fans of Jasmine Guillory.
About the Book
The Davenports #1
By Krystal Marquis
Format: 384 pages, Hardcover
Published: January 31, 2023 by Dial Books
The Davenports delivers a totally escapist, swoon-worthy romance while offering a glimpse into a period of African American history often overlooked.The Davenports are one of the few Black families of immense wealth and status in a changing United States, their fortune made through the entrepreneurship of William Davenport, a formerly enslaved man who founded the Davenport Carriage Company years ago. Now it's 1910, and the Davenports live surrounded by servants, crystal chandeliers, and endless parties, finding their way and finding love—even where they’re not supposed to.There is Olivia, the beautiful elder Davenport daughter, ready to do her duty by getting married . . . until she meets the charismatic civil rights leader Washington DeWight and sparks fly. The younger daughter, Helen, is more interested in fixing cars than falling in love—unless it’s with her sister’s suitor. Amy-Rose, the childhood friend turned maid to the Davenport sisters, dreams of opening her own business—and marrying the one man she could never be with, Olivia and Helen’s brother, John. But Olivia’s best friend, Ruby, also has her sights set on John Davenport, though she can’t seem to keep his interest . . . until family pressure has her scheming to win his heart, just as someone else wins hers.Inspired by the real-life story of the Patterson family, The Davenports is the tale of four determined and passionate young Black women discovering the courage to steer their own path in life—and love.
Ruby Tremaine loved her best friend, truly she did, but nothing
highlighted the change in her circumstances more than lying on
Olivia’s four-poster, silk-canopied bed after a long day of shopping
for items Olivia cared so little about.
Ruby’s own life had been reduced to budgets and polite smiles,
as Margaret, the maid she and her mother now shared, tore up
her old dresses and attempted to make them look different and
daring enough to pass as new purchases. Luckily, the latest trend
of narrow, shorter skirts meant there was enough fabric to work
Ruby had tried to ignore the signs of her father’s tightening
grip on her purse strings, especially when the city’s influential law-
makers continued to appear at dinner each week, or when her
family enjoyed the view from their private box at the racetrack.
But then last spring, Henry Tremaine sat his wife and daughter
down in the study and told them he was running for office. “We
will all have to do our part,” he said.
Our part felt more and more like their decisions and her con-
sequences. Ruby still tried to focus on the positive outcome of
when her father succeeded in his bid for mayor. She was in much
better circumstances than her cousins in Georgia, who, with her
father’s help, recently secured ownership of the land where her
uncle was a tenant farmer. The cotton they harvested supplied the
raw materials for the textiles produced at the Tremaine mill and
boardinghouse. But failing crops down South coupled with the
financial stress of the campaign were taking their toll.
At first it was fun. New, handsome politicians to flirt with, even
if she had to suffer through endless debates about wages and the
overcrowding in factories.
Less than a year later, though, Ruby wasn’t sure if her father
was any closer to becoming Chicago’s first Black mayor, much as
she hated that stab of doubt. She did know that a summer holiday
in Paris was drifting farther and farther from reach.
Of course, Ruby had intended to confide all this to her best
friend several times before today, but the words always got stuck
somewhere in her chest. Every purchase Olivia ordered seared a
hole in Ruby’s pride and forced her to bite back the poison bit-
terness rising in her. She’d disappear between the displays of the
department store and admire the wares, telling herself the lack of
pressure to purchase was a relief. At least it allowed her to sulk in
private, which she seldom did around her friend.
Olivia entered from the drawing room she shared with Helen.
“What have you heard of this Jacob Lawrence?” she asked. Her
eyes glowed as she stared out her bedroom window.
Ruby shrugged. “You?”
Olivia shook her head. “He is something, isn’t he? I’d like to
know more about him, but I’m afraid showing too much interest
will have Mama hovering closer than ever.” She smiled. “Do you
think there’s a secret catalog where parents find suitable husbands?”
“If there is, I’d like a subscription.” Ruby sighed, her chest
tightening at the thought of John.
Olivia’s delicate brows wrinkled. She must have sensed Ruby’s
anxiety, because she said, “We are to be true sisters soon. Once
John is over the stress of impressing Daddy, I’m sure he’ll make
you a grand proposal.”
Ruby reached instinctively to twirl the pendant at her neck,
remembering too late it wasn’t there. She clutched the decorative
pillow in her lap instead, holding on to her friend’s encourage-
ment just as tightly. “I hope so.”
Being near John made Ruby’s throat dry and stomach twirl; she
had loved him for as long as she could remember. Yet despite little
flirtations and stolen kisses, and the clear encouragement of their
families, John had yet to propose.
It worried her.
Like Olivia, Ruby was now of age. It was time to settle down
and get married. And, with her family’s situation growing more
dire, the pressure was on to find a good match, one that would
secure Ruby’s wealth and position in society. John would do that,
but more importantly, she had never wanted anyone but him.
Ruby looked down and realized she had unraveled the pillow’s
braided fringe. She tossed it aside and her hand flew up to her
neck again, where her namesake gemstone once sat in the hollow
of her throat. She was suddenly filled with an urgency to see John.
To remind him of why they belonged together. “Let’s head down-
stairs,” she suggested. “We were so late this afternoon, maybe we
can make up for it by being early for dinner?”
Ruby led the way, Freeport as familiar to her as her own home,
not too far from here. They descended the grand staircase and
followed the voices in the hall to the living room, where the rest
of the family was indeed already gathered. This space, decorated
in deep reds and rich golds, was where the Davenports did most
of their entertaining. The person Ruby most wanted to see stood
apart from the others. John positioned himself in front of the fire-
place, a glass of amber liquid cradled in his hand.
This is my chance, Ruby thought. She walked up to the fire, her
skin already prickling from the sight of him. She fixed a soft smile
to her face and touched his shoulder.
“Good evening,” she said, hiding her nerves behind a casual tone.
John flinched in surprise and turned to her.
She placed a hand on his wrist. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“My mind was somewhere else.” John smiled, the full force of
his gaze on her.
In a moment, she was transported back there: under the white
oak trees that lined the Davenport property. Helen had challenged
Ruby and Olivia to a race. Ruby’s horse had thrown her from the
saddle and run off into the woods. Helen and Olivia were too far
ahead to see what had happened, but their brother came running.
As John had inspected her ankle, Ruby could only think of how
handsome he was. How much she wanted to kiss him. Before she
could lose her nerve, she leaned in.
His body had stiffened, one of his hands still encircling her
ankle. Then he softened and returned the gentle pressure of her
lips. A violent fluttering had erupted in her chest. Ruby had risen
onto her knees and closed the space between them. She’d shiv-
ered as his hands brushed the top of her shoulders, slid across her
back, and settled at the nape of her neck, deepening their kiss.
When he’d finally pulled away, gasping for air, Ruby had almost
fallen forward into his lap. His heart had thudded under her palm,
and he’d smiled at her. Wordlessly, he had helped her to her feet
and escorted her back to the house. It was their first kiss, and
certainly not their last.
He stared at her lips now as if he was trapped in the same
Ruby’s face warmed, and she took another step closer.
“Do you still ride?” John asked, practically reading her mind.
“Not as often as I’d like,” she replied, a smile on her lips. She
did not mention that her family had sold all but two of their horses.
John took a small sip from his glass. “Weather permitting, we
should arrange an afternoon ride for next week.”
Ruby kept her grin demure. “I’m sure we can find the shade of
an oak tree when the sun is high.”
John’s eyes widened, but just when she finally had his full at-
tention Amy-Rose suddenly appeared, holding a bottle filled with
the amber liquid John was drinking.
“Thank you, Amy-Rose.” John extended his glass, the effects of
their shared memory quickly vanishing. “And thank you for this
afternoon. I know Helen can be a handful.”
“No trouble at all,” Amy-Rose said, casting her eyes downward.
She was, as always, infuriatingly beautiful for a maid. Ruby had
never seen a girl whose features, unadorned with jewels, gloss, or
rouge, appeared so flawless up close.
Ruby stepped closer to John. Between him, the fire, and the
look he was giving Amy-Rose, she felt a ribbon of sweat unfurl
down her back. “Come. Let’s go someplace a little more private,”
she said to John, eager to get their conversation back on track.
She cut her eyes to Amy-Rose, who nodded and walked away.
Ruby needed to remind John of what they once were and what
they still could be. And that would not happen if he was staring at
the maid like that.
From outside, Ruby’s brick-faced home seemed empty, abandoned.
Tremaine Mansion was nestled closer to the bustle of downtown
Chicago. Ruby alighted the carriage in front of the grand entrance.
She couldn’t help but think it looked like a haunted mansion com-
pared to Freeport. It lacked the warmth of the Davenports’ home,
and the family that breathed life into it.
Standing in her empty foyer, Ruby felt like a ghost, a specter
who flitted silently in and out. She was glad for the darkness. It
hid the changes that opened a hollow sadness in her—missing
paintings, sold mementos, items that were, to her, priceless trin-
kets. The list was endless.
“Ruby, darling, is that you?”
She had nearly reached the landing of the staircase when her
mother called from the dimly lit room down the hall. Her shoul-
ders sagged. “Yes,” she replied quietly. Her stomach rolled as she
dragged her feet across the hall where a plush Aubusson runner
once warmed the corridor.
Mr. and Mrs. Tremaine sat on either side of a slowly dying fire,
drinking sherry. Ruby came to a stop before them as if called to
the mat for some transgression.
“How was your evening?” her mother asked.
Ruby stared at the embers glowing red in the firebox. “Lovely.”
She tried not to fidget; her mother despised fidgeting.
“The Davenports are well?” she pressed. Ruby looked at her
mother and saw what she would look like in twenty years. Even
in the low light, she could make out her regal nose and full lips.
Though her figure was fuller, Mrs. Tremaine could easily be mis-
taken for Ruby’s sister.
Mr. Tremaine placed his crystal glass on the side table with
a crash. “Enough pleasantries. Did you speak with John?” Her
father turned in his chair and frowned at her. He was a tall man
with a rounded belly. Ten years older than his wife, his hair showed
a light dusting of white at his temples, but the sharp, piercing
gleam of his eyes had not dimmed a bit.
“John and I shared a moment alone after dinner,” she began.
“We laughed about some of our adventures as children—”
“Ruby,” her mother said, “you’re rambling.” Mrs. Tremaine
didn’t raise her voice, but there was something in her calm, com-
posed tone that made the hairs on Ruby’s arms rise.
“He invited me to go riding.” She took a step closer to them.
“When?” Mr. Tremaine’s voice was loud in the quiet, and made
both his wife and daughter flinch.
Ruby looked between her parents, realizing that she had played
this all wrong. She should have said she was still priming John to
ask her the question they so dearly wanted. “We . . . haven’t de-
cided on an exact date.”
Her mother’s mouth puckered into a tight bow.
Mr. Tremaine slapped his knee and shot up from his chair. “I
had intended to announce your engagement to John Davenport
at the party this Friday.”
Ruby sucked in a breath. How could he plan an announcement
before a proposal?
“Darling.” Her mother stood and took Ruby’s hand, her face
softening ever so slightly. “John is a good man, from a wonderful
family. Your marriage to him could save this family. Together, the
Tremaines and Davenports can be the example of what’s possible
here. I do hope you are trying.” Her tone was supportive and yet
her fingers were tight around Ruby’s hand.
“I am, Mother,” Ruby said, keeping her voice controlled and
stepping out of her mother’s reach. How could she even ask Ruby
that? Ruby had been trying with every modest smile and well-
timed laugh, with every arch of her eyebrow or accidental run-in
on the estate grounds. How could she explain to her parents that
perhaps no matter how hard she tried, it may not work out the
way they’d planned? No one asked her if she wanted to be the face
of Black progress. They were gambling what they had—her future
and their own—to convince a city full of people that the Tremaine
family’s success could be easily replicated.
With her heart in her stomach, Ruby left the room, wondering
who wanted her engagement more.
About the Author
Krystal Marquis of Hartford, CT happily spends most of her time in libraries and used bookstores. She studied biology at Boston College and University of Connecticut and now works as an environmental, health, and safety manager for the world’s biggest bookseller. A lifelong reader, Krystal began researching and writing on a dare to complete the NaNoWriMo Challenge, resulting in the first partial draft of The Davenports. When not writing or planning trips to the Book Barn to discover her next favorite romance, Krystal enjoys hiking, expanding her shoe collection, and plotting ways to create her own Jurassic Park.
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