Where the Wealthy Come to Play

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
281 Pages
Reviewed on 03/15/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Edith Wairimu for Readers' Favorite

Set in 1913 during the suffrage movement, Serabelle: Where the Wealthy Come to Play by Tavi Taylor Black is a sweeping historical novel led by Mabel Rae, a young servant girl who is oblivious to the inequality divide between the rich and the poor in her era. After Mabel turns seventeen, her mother secures a job for her with the influential Ainsworth-Hunt family at Serabelle Cottage. Soon after her arrival, Mabel meets Alistair Hunt. Flattered by his attention, Mabel accepts his advances. She gets involved with him, believing that she can convince him to leave his wife. The novel follows the stories of other characters including Willie, a young Black man working at the cottage, Rupert, Hunt’s son, the gardener, and others. In the background, the suffrage and temperance movements rage on.

Black creates an alluring storyline and realistic characters in this moving story that explores prejudice and inequality. Through vivid descriptions and dramatic scenes, Black brings to life the events at the cottage and transports readers to early twentieth-century America and the movements that shaped the country. With extraordinary skill, Black intertwines the lives of the people at Serabelle Cottage. Each character is complex and interesting, with struggles and hopes of their own. I found each chapter intriguing and appreciated the author’s apt portrayal of the inequality that existed in society then. Even though it is set in a different time, I found the book’s main themes relevant today. Serabelle by Tavi Taylor Black is a moving, exceptional historical work with memorable characters and important themes that will hold readers until its final page.

K.C. Finn

Serabelle: Where the Wealthy Come to Play is a work of fiction in the historical fiction, interpersonal drama, and family saga subgenres. It is best suited to the general adult reading audience. Penned by author Tavi Taylor Black, this captivating tale transports its readers to Bar Harbor, Maine, in 1913. The story follows Mabel Rae, a smart and reckless seventeen-year-old who joins the staff at a cliffside cottage owned by a wealthy estate owner. Swept off her feet by the owner's improper advances, Mabel finds herself pregnant with his child, leading to a series of challenges and decisions that will shape her future. Caught in a family feud and facing limited options due to her social status, Mabel must navigate the complexities of class divisions and societal expectations. As suffrage gains momentum and war looms in Europe, Mabel's journey becomes intertwined with larger themes of idealism, harsh reality, and the quest for freedom.

Author Tavi Taylor Black has crafted a gorgeous tapestry of intricate relationships and lyrical prose, offering readers a vivid portrayal of the Gilded Age and its enduring inequities. The atmospheric lexis and vivid descriptive choices make for a deeply immersive experience that transported me to the world of early 20th-century Maine and taught me a lot along the way. The well-drawn and realistic characters populate these moody period settings and are brought to life in relatable ways, allowing readers to envision the opulent estates and rocky landscapes of Bar Harbor. The protagonist, Mabel Rae, is a compelling and complex character whose journey resonated with me on many levels, particularly in her struggle against societal constraints and her quest for autonomy in a patriarchal society. The historical backdrop of suffrage and temperance movements added thought-provoking layers of poignancy to the rich narrative, highlighting the social and political tensions of the era in a beautifully subtle way that underpins but never overtakes the personal tale at its core. Overall, Serabelle is a thought-provoking and engaging read that I would recommend for fans of historical fiction everywhere.

Christine Nguyen

Serabelle: Where the Wealthy Come to Play is a historical novel about the strict class structure of a prestigious and remote estate in Bar Harbor, Maine. Set in the year 1913 when the rights of women were being fought for and change was rapidly coming to America, a seventeen-year-old girl named Mabel Rae comes to the rugged, wind-swept Serabelle to be a servant girl. Mabel is caught in a dangerous seduction by the head of the family and household, Alistair Hunt. The wealthy and the servant class are divided by rigid, imperceptible boundaries. Mabel believes that love can transcend social divisions and forge a future with the man she loves.

Author Tavi Taylor Black transports readers to two different and opposing worlds. One world is the opulent wealth of the elite co-existing side by side with the working-class servants that remain invisible. The backdrop, which is masterfully described, captures Serabelle’s imposing grandeur in all its majesty. The tale features numerous well-developed and captivating characters, ranging from Mabel to the gardener and even down to the stable hand. I turned the pages eagerly to see what would happen next because the plot deepened with numerous unexpected incidents. The storyline was interesting and fast-paced. Important social issues made me think on a deeper level. Serabelle is an absorbing novel that combines a haunting location, rich characters, and an unexpected plot to highlight the inequalities that existed between the elite and the working class in the past that continue to the present day.