Rating: 3.75 stars
New York City, 1896. As the temperatures rise, so does the crime rate. At the peak of this sizzling heat wave, police inspector Hank Brandt is called to investigate the scandalous murder of a male prostitute. His colleagues think he should drop the case, but Hank’s interest is piqued, especially when he meets the intriguing key witness: a beautiful female impersonator named Nicholas Sharp.
As a nightclub performer living on the fringes of society, Nicky is reluctant to place his trust in a cop—even one as handsome as Hank. With Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt cracking down on vice in the city, Nicky’s afraid that getting involved could end his career. But when he realizes his life is in danger—and Hank is his strongest ally—the two men hit the streets together to solve the crime. From the tawdry tenements of the Lower East Side to the moneyed mansions of Fifth Avenue, Nicky and Hank are determined to uncover the truth. But when things start heating up between them, it’s not just their lives on the line. It’s their love…
Ten Days in August
I couldn’t help it. When I read the blurb on this book it called out to me immediately. I’ve always had a fascination for this time period, the late 19th century/turn of the 20th century. So many events were happening: cities had gotten to the point where science needed to step in to make them livable; things like air conditioning and a reliable source of potable water and dependable plumbing, refrigeration for foods, more efficient modes of individual transportation besides horse drawn carriages, things we take for granted these days.
The cities had drawn in huge numbers of people from all walks of life and all places on Earth, so for the first time people realized they weren’t alone, including gay people – thus begins the evolution that would lead to the modern gay rights movement, further propelled by the two World Wars.
Nicholas Sharp – Stage name Paulina Clodhopper:
…he found Nicholas – Nicky – beautiful. Nicky had stood there on the street with a soulful pout as Hank and Stephens had approached the scene, and there was something about Nicky’s sass and indifference – insouciance, perhaps – Hank found compelling. His blond hair had shone on his hatless head, his clothes were well tailored and fashionable, and Hank got the feeling this was a man who had seen a lot in his short life, though he still had something delicate about him.
Henry “Hank” Brandt – Acting Inspector NYPD:
This man was really quite attractive, in a sweaty, disheveled way, although Nicky supposed there was no way around that in this weather. The man pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and then pulled the dusty bowler hat off his head, revealing dark brown hair, cut short. He wiped his whole face from his damp forehead to his thick mustache before he dropped the hat back on his head. There seemed to be a strong body under the wrinkled clothing, but it was hard to tell. Still, this man intrigued Nicky. His companion in the uniform was blond and bearded and looked considerably more polished, but in a bland way. This disheveled man was far more interesting.
This is a fascinating story of a serial killer on the loose, taking advantage of the rent boys that flourished in The Bowery section of Manhattan at the end of the 19th century. Set against the backdrop of the summer of 1896, with a 10-day heat wave that killed nearly 1,500 people, many of them tenement-dwellers, across New York City. Enter Theodore Roosevelt, Police Commissioner. It was Roosevelt that spurred the administration of Mayor Strong to open up the parks so people could sleep at night and escape the suffocating, murderous heat, and it was he who initiated the delivery of free ice to the suffering inhabitants. Add in the tumultuous election of 1896 between William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan and the elaborate tapestry that binds this story together is all set.
One can tell right away that this book was well researched. From the manner of speech to the affectations of the characters, from the historical backdrop of the heat wave to the tumultuous election of 1896 that would change American politics for the next 40 years, from the clothing fashions to the lifestyle of a bustling, dirty, smelly megalopolis that New York City was on the verge of becoming, this book seems to have been meticulously researched. What a joy this is when it is coupled with the smooth storytelling that Kate McMurray carries out in this book.
I could absolutely see the time period, smell the fetid, pungent smells of a city in the throes of a massive heat wave. A city that did not yet have the modern efficiencies of air conditioning to escape the heat and refrigeration to maintain the food from spoiling. I could feel and taste the dust of a horse drawn cab and the smells of sweat from our MC’s. This was really good, descriptive prose.
The story was well drawn and the story arc progressed at a good pace, not too fast and not too slow, just about right. Although I could feel the romance and attraction of our two MC’s, and our two SC’s, I do wish there had been more intense, descriptive sex between them as I could feel their desire and angst for each other. Delving a bit more into this aspect of their relationship would have propelled and made the story so much more. As it is, it is good, solid writing, well enjoyed.
I would like to thank Kate McMurray and Lyrical Press, Kensington Publishing Corp., for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Kate McMurray is an award-winning author of gay romance and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She has served as President of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance chapter of Romance Writers of America. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.