One of our recommended books is The Davenports by Krystal Marquis


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,

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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.

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  • Dial Books
  • Hardcover
  • January 2023
  • 384 Pages
  • 9780593463338

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About Krystal Marquis

Krystal Marquis is the author of The DavenportsKrystal 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 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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“With dazzling prose and whip-smart pacing, Krystal Marquis’s gorgeous debut spirits readers into a world of polished glamor, but also a world shadowed by painful reckonings. Through trial, defeat, defiance, and triumph, its characters offer heart and perspective. The Davenports is a fresh, utterly enchanting read, and a much-needed addition to the contemporary canon of Black literature.” —Ayana Gray, New York Times bestselling author of the Beasts of Prey trilogy

A dazzling debut.” Kirkus (starred review)

“This stunningly wrought historical fiction debut follows a group of Black teens navigating classism, familial expectations, gender norms, and racism in 1910 Chicago. . . . “ Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Fans of Bridgerton and Downton Abbey will love the Davenports!” – A.C. Raymond, Copper Dog Books

“Bridgerton with an all-Black cast and so much fun till the very last page!” – Ashley Grafton, Goodreads user


Chapter 1


Olivia Elise Davenport pulled a bolt of vibrant yellow silk from the display and held it to her dark complexion. She was drawn to the bright fabric nearly hidden behind the muted pastels, a shock of sunshine peeking through the clouds, and wondered if it was too bright for so early in the season. In her free hand, she held a sample of beaded lace and tried to imagine the sound it would make whispering around her ankles while she danced. There will be a lot of dancing, she thought.

Anticipation bubbled in her chest. The season of ball gowns and champagne had arrived at the conclusion of the Easter celebrations. Now that Olivia was out in society, it was time for her to find a husband. It was her second season, and she was ready. Ready to do her duty and make her parents proud, as she’d always done.

The only problem? It was difficult to find eligible gentlemen—born into the right family, educated, and set to inherit a large fortune—who were also Black.

Olivia took a deep breath. The yellow silk fell from her arm. She knew what her mother would say: It was too loud. Besides, she’d only come here to pick up a few finished alterations.

“May I help you?”

Olivia started at the voice over her shoulder. A shop attendant stood next to her with her hands clasped. Despite the smile on her face, her cold blue eyes betrayed a different intent.

“I was just admiring the fabric selection.” Olivia turned toward the display of broad-brimmed hats, ignoring the eyes of the shop girl digging into her back. “And waiting for my friend,” she added. Where is Ruby, anyway? It was her best friend who insisted they send the servants ahead with their parcels and browse Marshall Field’s unaccompanied. And now she was nowhere to be found.

The shop girl cleared her throat. “You may pick up your mistress’s orders at the service desk. I could direct you, if you’ve lost your way.”

“I know where the service desk is, thank you,” Olivia said with a tight smile, ignoring the slight. All around them, pale faces watched the exchange with increasing curiosity. Someone behind her chuckled.

She remembered her mother’s words: to always rise above. Because her family was rare. Wealthy. Beautiful. Black. Ruby wore her wealth like armor, usually in the form of jewels and furs. Olivia preferred the understated air she observed in her mother.

Today, those perfect manners didn’t matter. Her beauty was no shield. All the young girl before her could see was the color of Olivia’s skin. She stiffened her spine, pulling herself to her full height. Olivia pointed to the largest jeweled broach in the display in front of her. “I’d like this boxed, please. And I’d like that hat as well. For my sister. She always gets cross when I come home without something for her,” she said conspiratorially to the other patrons—though she knew full well Helen would prefer a pair of pliers to a hat. Olivia walked slowly around the room. “Those gloves.” She tapped her chin thoughtfully. “Five yards of that yellow silk—”

“Excuse me—”

“Miss,” Olivia provided.

The shop girl’s cheeks reddened.

Good, Olivia thought, she’s realized her mistake.

“Miss,” the shop girl huffed, clearly frazzled. “Your choices are quite expensive.”

“Yes, well,” Olivia said, the playfulness vanishing from her tone, “I have expensive taste. You can charge it to my family’s account.” Her eyes cut back to the shop girl. “The name is Davenport.”

There weren’t many Black shoppers ordering white attendants around department stores. But Davenport, a name cultivated by her father’s hard work and her mother’s determination, was well known. It was powerful enough to get her father admission into most of Chicago’s elite clubs, her mother on the most exclusive charity boards, and her older brother into university. Chicago may have been a beacon in the North, where many Black people thrived under laws enacted during and after the Reconstruction, but painful encounters due to the color of her skin still caught her off guard.

A second attendant, an older woman with more decorum, appeared from the crowd. “I can assist you, Miss Davenport. Eliza, you are dismissed,” she said to the shop girl. Olivia recognized her as one of her mother’s regular attendants. “How are you, dear?”

Olivia’s anger began to settle as she watched the older woman flit around wrapping things in tissue. She knew she was being petty. Most things considered, her life was privileged. She thought about canceling the sale, asking that everything be put back, but she could still feel the eyes of the other attendant watching from afar. And pride was one of the many things Davenports had in abundance.

Finally, Ruby appeared. Olivia was relieved to see her friend, and to no longer be the only Black person in the room.
Ruby’s face was flushed and her eyes glittered against her russet-brown complexion. “I heard there was a commotion over here,” she said with a grin. “What happened?”

Harold, the coachman, pulled the carriage from the curb in front of Marshall Field’s and into State Street traffic. It was late afternoon in the early spring, and Chicago was alive. Colonnaded restaurants shared walls with brick and glass factories churning man-made clouds into the sky. Bells from the streetcars competed with the horns of motorized cars. Men in their tweed suits rushed by newsies yelling from their corners. People of all kinds filled the streets as Olivia watched from the window of one of her family’s many covered, luxury buggies, concealed by a silk-lined canopy.

“Oh, Olivia.” Ruby reached for her hand. “That girl knew damn well that your dress cost more than what she makes in a month. Plain old jealousy, is what that was.”

Olivia attempted a smile and refolded her hands in her lap. Her friend was right, but there was more to it. That girl had looked at Olivia as if she were a thief. A pretender. Less than.

Olivia would never get used to that look.

Beside her, Ruby examined the fox-fur trim on a pair of gloves Olivia purchased during her shopping spree. “Keep them,” Olivia said, catching her best friend’s eye. One less thing to remind her.

Ruby pulled on the gloves and cupped her face, preening. Then she wiggled her brows and stuck out her tongue until Olivia gave her a real smile and the two collapsed into a fit of giggles.

Harold stopped the carriage at the intersection. Straight would take them to the North Side, where Chicago’s wealthiest and most affluent residents lived. It was where the Davenports called home.

“Oh! By the way,” Ruby said, “did I imagine it or did Helen come out of your garage covered head to toe in grease the other day?” She stifled a laugh.

Olivia rolled her eyes. Her younger sister was determined to be as unmarriageable as possible. “She should be more careful. If Daddy sees her, he’ll have a fit.”

As children, Olivia and Helen had been close. Together with their maid Amy-Rose, and later Ruby, they turned the grounds of their family estate into their very own kingdom. They spent hours in the gardens, evading their governess. When the time came for Olivia to make her societal debut last spring, she decided to do away with childish things, hoping Helen would follow her example. Instead, Helen seemed to be barreling in the other direction.

As Harold guided the carriage through the gates of Freeport Manor, Olivia couldn’t imagine a more beautiful welcome after a long day. The Davenport mansion stood at the edge of one of Chicago’s most elite neighborhoods, where their estate dwarfed those around them. When Olivia was younger, she thought it was because of her family’s money. Later, she realized it was because no one wanted to buy property that bordered a Black family’s estate. The grounds included several acres for gardens, stables, and fields for the horses to roam. The newest addition was a garage for the repair of Davenport carriages and the automobiles John collected.
The Davenport Carriage Company was a leap of faith her father had taken years ago. As a very young man, he had escaped enslavement and made the treacherous journey north, where Black folks had a chance at something like freedom. He dreamed of creating a horse-drawn carriage so luxurious, it would be more than a means of travel. And he succeeded. Shortly after being laughed out of the garage where he worked, William Davenport took his savings and a few disgruntled employees and began his own business. It thrived, and in time his carriages became the most sought-after in the world.

But now, with automobiles competing for space on city streets, John had started to pressure their father to update with the times.

“Look.” Ruby pointed to the phaeton near the garage. “Is that one of yours?”

The phaeton was spartan in design. Matte black with thin spindly wheels and no driver, the opposite of the Davenport models with their velvet-tufted seating, thick sturdy tires for a smooth ride, and a finish so lacquered, one could see their reflection above the gold-leaf Davenport crest emblazoned on the back.

Olivia straightened up and gathered her skirts. “Probably one of John’s projects. Though, I don’t see why he’d bring it here. Ever since he came home with his automobile, it’s been all he and Helen talk about.”

“Will John be at dinner tonight?” Ruby asked, feigning nonchalance.

Olivia rolled her eyes. Her best friend was terrible at hiding her interest in her brother. “He does have to eat,” she teased.

Olivia descended the steps of the carriage and looked up at Freeport, the only place she’d ever called home. The three-story Victorian was painted a pale blue with steep, gabled roofs and a pair of turrets. The wood railing of the wide porch had been carved with an ivy pattern so lifelike, the leaves appeared to flutter in the breeze. Large oak doors opened before them, revealing a grand staircase that snaked up the side of the foyer, brightly lit by the late afternoon sun filtering through the stained-glass cupola above.

Edward, the butler, waited patiently for their hats and gloves. “You’re late for tea, miss,” he whispered.

“Tea?” she asked. Her mother hadn’t said anything about tea. Olivia tugged at the ribbon below her chin and gave Ruby a confused look.

The girls quickly made their way over the polished hardwood floors and past the gilt-framed mirrors toward the sitting room.

Olivia held her breath, her brow furrowed, as she opened the door. “I’m sorry I’m . . .”

Her apology faded when she caught sight of a handsome stranger sitting across from her parents. His camel-colored tweed suit wrapped his smooth dark skin.

“Oh, and here she is now.” Emmeline Davenport rose from the couch, the skirt of her gown falling gracefully around her. She stood impeccably straight, whether from the stays of her corset or sheer determination, Olivia could not tell. Mrs. Davenport cut a quick look at her daughter with the expressive almond-shaped eyes they shared and gently turned her guest from Mr. Davenport and the tea service. “This is our daughter Olivia. Darling, this is Mr. Lawrence.”

The gentleman before Olivia was not like any of the young bachelors she’d met. He towered over her, forcing her to take in the breadth of his shoulders. His hair was parted to one side and brushed flat. Not a single hair out of place. Not even in his thick mustache, which framed full lips that parted at the sight of her to reveal straight white teeth and a self-assured grin. His smooth cheeks ended in a blunt, cleft chin.

He was very handsome.

“It’s lovely to meet you.” Olivia extended her hand.

“It is my pleasure,” he said, accepting her hand and bowing his head. His voice, which had an accent, was so deep, it sent a vibration up her arm.

Olivia watched the smile form on her father’s face. Mr. Davenport’s large brown eyes softened. He slid his glasses off his proud nose and placed them in the pocket of his jacket. He left his cane against the chair and met her mother at the windows across the room. They made the ultimate picture of what Olivia wanted. A perfectly matched pair.

A flutter at her side brought her attention back to their guest.

“Ruby Tremaine. I don’t believe we’ve been acquainted,” Ruby said, her hand shooting out between them. Olivia met the gentleman’s eyes, a twinkle of humor at her friend’s boldness passing between them.

“Jacob Lawrence. It’s a pleasure to meet you as well,” he said.

“Mr. Lawrence recently moved here from London,” Mrs. Davenport called with a smile, before returning her attention to Olivia’s father.

“Oh? And what brings you to Chicago?” Olivia asked.

His eyes found Olivia’s. “Looking for new opportunities.”

Indeed, Olivia thought. “What sort of opportunities?” She could barely keep the flirtation out of her voice.

Mr. Lawrence grinned. “I’m looking to expand my shipping business beyond the British Isles. I met your father at a newsstand a few days ago and he graciously offered to make some introductions. I called to give my thanks.”

Olivia felt her parents’ stares from across the room and moved closer to Mr. Lawrence. “I apologize for my tardiness. If I had known you were coming, I wouldn’t have kept you waiting.”

Without taking his eyes off Olivia, Mr. Lawrence said, “No need to apologize. My visit was not planned. I only regret that we aren’t able to spend more time together.”

Olivia’s heart raced.

Ruby near-shimmied her way between them. “I absolutely insist you attend my father’s party this Friday.”

“It’s a campaign fundraiser for Mr. Tremaine’s bid for mayor,” Olivia’s mother said, walking over. She turned to Mr. Lawrence. “The Tremaines’ ballroom isn’t as grand as ours, but it’s sure to be a cozy, intimate gathering.”

Olivia shot an apologetic glance at her best friend and said, “I have always found the Tremaines’ garden to be lovely this time of year. Will it be open for exploration, Ruby?”

“Of course.” Ruby sniffed. “We’ve spared no expense.”

Mr. Davenport appeared at Mr. Lawrence’s elbow. “It will be a perfect opportunity to meet Chicago’s major players.”

“You’re very kind. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Friday evening.” Mr. Lawrence turned to Olivia. “Will I see you there?”

Olivia felt a flutter in her stomach. The season had only just begun, and here the most eligible suitor she’d ever laid eyes on was quite literally in her drawing room. Maybe finding a husband at last would be easier than she thought.

“Of course,” she said, a smile playing across her lips. “I might even save you a dance.”