I was introduced to the beautiful writing style of Fiona Davis in 2016 with her debut novel The Dollhouse. It was such a captivating story with a lot of historical facts that compelled me to research the building and the occupants.
This time around, Fiona takes us to The Dakota, a new hotel opening in New York City in 1885. Critics at the time were quoted as saying The Dakota will undoubtedly be known as ‘The Address’ of New York’s West Side. Once again, Fiona made a historical building so fascinating I was constantly researching the history.
Our main character in The Address, Sara Smythe, travels from England to New York to manage The Dakota, something she has never done before. While working as the head housekeeper at a posh London hotel, she has a chance meeting with Theodore Camden, the architect for The Dakota. Theodore wants Sara to run the Dakota for him and insists she must come to America and accept the position.
Sara insists that she will not be like her mother who fell for her employer, but as Sara and Theodore’s friendship progresses, so does their romantic relationship. Even though Theodore has a wife and children, the two of them can’t stay away from each other.
Then we jump forward 100 years to Bailey Camden who is fresh out of rehab. She blew up her interior design career when her party girl habits took a dark path leaving her penniless, jobless and homeless. To try and make money and get her career back on track, she takes a job from her best friend and cousin Melinda to redecorate Melinda’s apartment at the Dakota. The apartment Melinda inherited from her ancestor Theodore Camden.
Fiona does a great job of taking historical events and winding a fascinating story of greed, passion, love and sacrifice taking the reader on a journey through dual timelines alternating between 1885 and 1985. She shines a spotlight on how women were treated in 1885 as a second class citizen. The fact that women could be put in a crazy house without a trial is horrible.
I felt sorry for Sara and what she went through. All the sacrifices she made. I also was glad that Bailey became strong and fought for what she thought was right. As for Melinda, I wanted to smack her. What a bitch.
Fiona Davis is making a name for herself in the historical fiction genre. Her stories take the reader back in time entertaining them and educating them. She takes dual timeline stories and eventually ties them together for a great revelation that the reader won’t see coming. The Address is well worth the read and I would put this at the top of your to be read list.
After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility–no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.
In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her -cousin- Melinda–Camden’s biological great-granddaughter–will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.
One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages–for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City–and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich–and often tragic–as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden–and the woman who killed him–on its head.
With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives –and lies–of the beating hearts within.
Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat