John Jakes is a touted master of American historical fiction. He presents stories of various communities and cultures in North America, mixing real and fictitious persons and relying on well done research to set scenes of authentic lifestyles.
Jakes tells the story of a self-made wealthy man, Sam Driver, and his daughter Jenny as they try to break into the very structured and snobby summer society of Newport Rhode Island. The summer set is 'ruled' by grande dames such as the famous Mrs. Astor, Mrs. Vanderbuilt, and others who kowtow to Mrs. A's rules about what is proper, what is forbidden, who is acceptable and who is not.
By introducing a love interest from the wrong class, Prince Molloy, an Irishman who works at the tennis Casino, and who falls for Jenny, we are exposed to life at all levels of society.
As Jenny and Sam try to ingratiate themselves with this group, Prince tries to win Jenny. There are many scenes of violence, back-stabbing, cheating, bribing, whoring, sailing, horse racing, and other instances of life in the late 1800's that paint a clear picture of what Newport was like both for the very rich, and those whose life was to serve the very rich.
NO spoilers, but there is a rather corny ending that will disappoint some, and be enchanting for others. All in all it was a pleasant read. Having lived several years in Newport, (my first apartment was actually on Bellevue Ave!) I found the descriptions of the town and the opulent 'cottages' a wonderful stroll down memory lane