THE DAVENPORTS by Krystal Marquis
SERIES: The Davenports #1
GENRE: Young Adult Historical Romance
PUBLISHER: Dial Books
RELEASE DATE: January 31, 2023
The Davenports delivers a totally escapist, swoon-worthy romance while offering a glimpse into a period of African American history often overlooked.
“A fresh, utterly enchanting read.” —Ayana Gray, New York Times bestselling author of the Beasts of Prey trilogy
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.
Amy-Rose picked up Helen’s soggy towel from the bedroom floor and hung it in the adjoining bathroom. After she found Helen in the garage with John, she had quickly ushered the youngest Davenport into the bath and gotten her dressed for dinner. Now Helen was downstairs with the rest of her family while Amy-Rose tidied up. After this, she would be needed in the kitchen.
Through the next set of doors was Olivia’s bedroom. The girls’ rooms may have been mirror images of each other—great four-poster beds, thick Persian rugs, rich vibrant wallpaper—but that’s where the similarities ended. Olivia kept her room pristine: Every object had its place. She never left discarded garments on the floor. Her books sat erect on their shelves. A few family photos dotted the fireplace mantel.
Amy-Rose had spent hours in there as a child, hosting elaborate teas with the Davenport girls and their dolls, whispering hopes and dreams late into the night when their mothers were fast asleep.
When her mother was still alive.
Amy-Rose thought back to the day she and her mother, Clara Shepherd, arrived at the long gravel drive of Freeport Manor, the biggest house she’d ever seen. Everything was large here, glittering and beautiful. Especially the family who called it home. The Davenports were the only family in Chicago that would take a maid with a child; no one else wanted the extra mouth to feed. In this new, strange place so far from home, Amy-Rose had found friends.
It had been three years since her mother had passed. Some days she could pretend that her mother was just in another room, dusting a chandelier or turning down a bed, singing French lullabies. Amy-Rose would run up to their shared bedroom and the pain of remembering her passing would force her to her knees.
When the ache eventually subsided, happy memories would fill her mind. The best were the stories her mother used to tell her about St. Lucia—the colorful birds that visited their home, the bright mangoes that grew in the yard, and the sweet smell of the Bougainvillea mixing with the salty sea air. She missed the views of the mountains, Gros Piton and Petit Piton, reaching for the sky. Amy-Rose had been only five when they left the island, so she didn’t remember much. Her mother’s memories felt like hers.
They rarely spoke about the storm that took the rest of their family or their home. This was their new home.
A carpeted hall led into the small drawing room where the girls spent most of their time. Deserted except for the small terrier lounging on a grand silk pillow in the corner, the room was a mix of Olivia’s ordered and classic style and Helen’s latest interests: books about Rome and manuals about automobile engines. Even Ruby left her mark here in the samples of perfume from Marshall Field’s dotting a small rolling tray used for tea.
With a sigh, Amy-Rose descended a set of stairs to the Davenports’ impressive kitchen.
“Good, you’re here,” a voice boomed from inside the pantry. “Take this. And this.” Jessie, the head cook, dropped a carton of eggs into Amy-Rose’s arms without looking to see if she was ready to catch them.
Jessie heaved a sack of flour onto a cutting board with such force, Mrs. Davenport’s favorite tea service rattled on the tray. The cook set her fists on her wide hips and turned slowly toward Amy-Rose. “It don’t take that long to lace that girl into a corset.”
She pivoted again, her broad hands shoved dishes into the sink.
Clearly, Jessie had never tried to dress Helen Davenport.
“Helen needed a touch-up,” Amy-Rose said. “Her hair doesn’t hold the curl as long as Olivia’s.”
Henrietta and Ethel appeared through another passage and immediately began straightening up the kitchen. Jessie didn’t spare them a glance, even when Ethel placed a hand on her shoulder. Instead she stared at Amy-Rose as if she knew the young maid’s thoughts were far from the task at hand.
“I think you’re helping that girl get away with mischief you have no business being involved in.” Jessie sighed long and deep, softening her gruff tone. “I know you care for those girls like sisters, but mind me, they ain’t your sisters. You need to stop dreaming of how things used to be and start thinking about how they is. The girls will be married soon.” Jessie pointed to the pots piled high in the sink and the maids polishing the fine silver. “The Davenports won’t need you then.”
Amy-Rose edged in to wash her hands and grabbed an apron from the hook, ignoring the truth of Jessie’s words. Instead, she let herself be transported to Mr. Spencer’s storefront and the day she’d flip the sign from Closed to Open on the door. The day the storefront would have her name above the entrance, and customers waiting for her wares and trained stylists. The apron hanging from her neck wouldn’t be to protect her clothes from potato peels or sauce, but hair butter and shampoo. “Who’s to say I’ll even be here when that happens?” she huffed. “In a few weeks’ time, I aim to have enough saved in Binga Bank to lease Mr. Spencer’s storefront.”
Amy-Rose looked at the older woman who, for years, had hovered over her like an overbearing godmother. Telling Jessie her plans made her plans that much more real—more than a daydream she shared with her friend Tommy. Out in the stables with him, it was a wish. Tommy was the only person who really knew of her desire to leave and strike out in business for herself. He’d gone with her to get the loan. His belief in her was almost as strong as her own.
“About two months ago,” she continued when Jessie didn’treply, “I asked Mr. Spencer if he’d be interested in selling one of my deep conditioners in his barber shop.” Amy-Rose felt a warmth spread through her. “They were a hit. He said they practically walked off the shelf. Since then, he’s been reunited with his daughter down in Georgia. He’s a grandfather and—”
Jessie brushed excess flour from the top of the cup in her hand. “Girl, get to the part about the store.” She turned then, and watched Amy-Rose with misty eyes, a hand settled back on her hip. “Well, go on,” she said after clearing her throat.
Amy-Rose flushed. “Mr. Spencer agreed to rent his barber shop to me so he could move South.” The words came in a rush that blew all the air from her lungs. She watched the other women stop their work. Her heart raced as she took in their wide eyes and their slow turn to Jessie. The Davenports’ cook and self-appointed leader of the household took her face in her hands as she walked around the butcher block table to embrace Amy-Rose.
“Oh, your mama would be so proud!” Henrietta cried from her station at the silver cabinet.
“Hetty’s right. Your mama’d be proud.” Jessie patted Amy-Rose’s cheek. “Now, until then, separate the yolk from the whites.”
Her order lacked any of its usual sternness and Amy-Rose obediently picked up a knife.
Hetty sidled up to Amy-Rose and said in what she may have thought was a whisper, “What about Mr. John?”
“He’ll inherit his father’s company one day.” Amy-Rose chased away the image of John in the garage, his worn trousers and shirt sleeves pushed up to his elbows. The way the muscles in his forearm moved under his skin. “And I’ll have mine.”
Jessie turned, her face screwed up for a lecture, when something outside the window caught her eye. “What does that boy want now?’
Amy-Rose followed the cook’s gaze and saw Tommy, Harold’s son, waving from the garden. He had warm brown skin and wide, eager eyes such a deep, calm brown, they could set anyone at ease. After Amy-Rose’s mother had died, she’d spent time feeding and brushing the horses with Tommy, finding the fresh air had felt good. Long rides on the grounds led to a close friendship between the two. When Amy-Rose shared her dream of one day opening a salon for the care of Black women’s hair, Tommy congratulated her as if she’d already done it. His hope buoyed her own.“It can wait,” Jessie complained, but Amy-Rose was already on her way outside.Tommy paced along the fence, wringing a hat in his hands.
There was an unusual fervor in his eyes and an energy about him that filled her with both excitement and dread. Like Amy-Rose, Tommy had grown up alongside the Davenport siblings, but he’d always respected the line that separated the help from the family.
He’d never befriended John, a boy his own age, even though the Davenports’ only son had spent as much time in the garage and stables as the lead coachman’s only child. Tommy seemed to be the only person immune to John’s endearing charm.
“I’m leaving,” Tommy said by way of greeting.
Amy-Rose skidded to a stop.
Tommy barreled on. “I spoke to the conductor of the Santa Fe Railway, and he agreed to give me a reduced fare on a transcontinental headed west.”
“West?” Amy-Rose said, her mind still struggling to catch up with Tommy’s words. It should have come as no surprise. He’d been trying to escape Freeport ever since he was old enough to work, or “earn his keep,” as his father said. Tommy vowed he would leave this place and make a fortune of his own.
“I’ve been talking to a member of the Chicago chapter of the National Negro Business League. He said that there’s new cities growing like daises all over the country. Full of new opportunities.”
“Where could you have more options than here?”
“I need to start somewhere new, where I’m not one of the Davenports’ boys. I’m not trading in a bridle for a shoe-shine kit when they eventually switch to horseless carriages.” Tommy twisted his hat some more. It was barely recognizable. “Amy-Rose, the man offered me a job at his insurance company.”
Amy-Rose was confused. “You want to sell insurance?”
He laughed. “They do more than that. They secure loans and real estate for Black entrepreneurs. It’s what built the South Side.”
Tommy closed the distance between them and took both of Amy-Rose’s hands in his. “I aim to be on the California Express in six weeks’ time.” He cupped her shoulders. “I wanted you to be the second person I told, after my dad, of course.” He let her go and shook his head, as if surprised by his own news. “I also wanted to thank you.”
“You’ve inspired me. I listened to your plans for a salon, watched you pepper every business owner downtown until they chased you out and onto the street.” They both smiled at the memory of the dry-goods store owner, Clyde, doing just that. “You were a force to be reckoned with when you brought your savings to the bank.”
He laughed. “Not sure you needed me at all.” Tommy looked at her with a genuine warmth that made her heart swell. “You’re on your way to make everything you want a reality. And I want that. For you, and for myself.”
Amy-Rose threw her arms around his neck. He smelled like hay and horses, sweat and determination. Tommy was a salve to her battered soul when she needed a friend. A good man, hard-working and proud. How could she not want the best for him?
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll come back to visit my father. And for your grand opening.”
She laughed around the lump in her throat and pulled away. She tried to imagine Freeport —Chicago—without him. Already, the world around her seemed less bright. As if he knew what she was thinking, he brushed a finger against her cheek, catching a tear before it fell. He said, “Everyone has to leave home sometime.”
Krystal Marquis, The Davenports
Dial Books, a division of Penguin Random House, © 2023. Used by permission.
Krystal Marquis 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 an online retailer. 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. Visit her at krystalmarquis.com
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