How I first came to read ‘Anna Blanc’: I am a reviewer for Prometheus Books and their imprints starting in  as I contacted them through their Edelweiss catalogues and Twitter. I appreciated the diversity of titles across genre and literary explorations – especially focusing on Historical Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction and Scientific Topics in Non-Fiction. I received a complimentary copy of “The Secret Life of Anna Blanc” direct from the publisher Seventh Street Books (an imprint of Prometheus Books) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared therein. This selection marked my ‘first’ choice of novels from Prometheus Books – which is why being able to listen and review the audiobook was such a sweet blessing!
How I acquired this Digital Audiobook and my connection to the author: Jennifer Kincheloe
I remained in touch with the author – as I had hoped this would turn into a series – where this would only be the first installment of Anna Blanc’s life. When I caught sight of the audiobook being published on Twitter, I reached out directly to the author, to ask if she were seeking reviews on it’s behalf. Blessed to say, she was and I offered to re-read this novel via the audiobook in exchange for an honest review in December 2016, thinking I would post my ruminations on behalf of the narrator’s vocalisation of Anna Blanc in January 2017.
Except to say, I couldn’t get motivated to re-listen to this title – I was still adjusting to my father’s recovery from his stroke as he was just getting through his recovery period at home. I struggled with finding the inspiration to read in mid to late December and throughout January; although I did find a few stories which took hold. Sadly, this story I pushed forward to listen too, as I wanted to be in a better frame of mind to listen to Anna’s story for the second time, as became such a dear joy of mine the first time round! I had mentioned to the author about possibly contacting the Audiobookworm about promoting the audiobook, too. Turns out whilst I had a few months of a reader’s rut to trudge through, this audiobook and story made it into Audiobookworm Promotions!
I requested to be an ‘additional’ reviewer and to interview the narrator originally as I didn’t want to affect the blog tour – yet at the same time, I was so inspired by the narrator’s take on Anna Blanc, I was wicked excited about setting up a conversation with her about her performance. This conversation ended up being canncelled on my end, as I simply couldn’t pull it together on a short deadline. I also remained on the blog tour to be a ‘second time reader’ of the novel.
Therefore, I received a complimentary audiobook copy of “The Secret Life of Anna Blanc” via the author Jennifer Kencheloe in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein nor for recommending her to use Audiobookworm Promotions for publicity for this title or series.
What I initially loved about the story of ‘Anna Blanc’ – quoted from my original review of the print edition:
Anna Blanc is self-assured and a women who doesn’t take kindly to be ‘put in place’ by her controlling father – as soon as she announces her presence on the scene, you want to know more about her as she’s a formidable woman straight from the gate! Her cheeky cleverness to hide whilst attempting to flee by rail and to be fashionable even though necessity dictates that to be a difficulty when trying to outfox someone from finding out your whereabouts – Anna Blanc has a charm about her that lends well to become entranced by a character you can tell is going to surprise you at each new turning of her story! How can you not help but smile when things go her way? She has this curious aplumb about her that delights the expectation of where she’s about to take you on her adventure!
Kincheloe has this cheeky sense of humour threading through her ink, as right when you think Anna Blanc has mastered the art of deceiving her father for the goodwill of her future, he pulls back twice as strong as before – leaving Anna with a shattered bit of hope and a firm displeasure of injustice. When she meets up with the Suffragettes, I was not too shocked to find her winning a wink towards their cause – as their cause was her cause!
The best attribute Anna Blanc has within her is a self-motivating resolve to become self-educated as it was such a joy to watch her expand her mind in a fervent attempt to understand the underpinnings of motives and causes of the crimes that were leeching through her city at such a fast rate of alarm. She did not just want to sleuth for the sake of detection but to fully understand the methodology behind the crimes and I think this is a nod to the writer’s (Kincheloe) curiosity being piqued by true crime stories straight out of the historical archives from whence she draws her inspirations. Kincheloe also under-writ a stunning historical survey of early Forensic techniques which inspired Anna with her investigating – especially in regards to understanding the differences between murder and suicide. This became quite pivotal in the story as Anna Blanc made her transition from socialite to female detective.
The beauty of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc are the little bits of plot your not expecting to find encircle through the evolving story – there were little clues fluttering through it’s context, but the joy was not completely sorting it all out until the very last chapter – wherein, your heart swoons with glee and you champion the success Anna Blanc had in closing her second case! This is a bit of a guilty pleasure for historical fiction readers – Kincheloe has tempted us with her wicked sweet prose where a heroine peppers the scenes with her feisty personality and a penchant for seeking out the truth from a sea of lies!
Sophisticated in her ascertainment of conception behind Anna Blanc, Kincheloe has writ such a lively character, you drink in her words with such a joy of delight! She has a fast paced narrative, where the humour is smitten by the sophisticated edging of her character’s personality, matched equally brilliantly by the grace of a Cosy Historical Mystery backdrop! She’s captured the turn of the century atmosphere aptly, as she tucks in recognisable familiarities to alight in your imagination as you turn the pages; replete with gaslights and other bits which correlate with the era.
I loved the way in which Kincheloe turnt a phrase, using words not oft found in historical fiction as her novel is a good primer of words that are wicked to say aloud and used in descriptive narratives such as this one! The phrases themselves are a delight for readers who love words as much as wordsmiths, which Kincheloe definitely excels at including whilst giving Anna Blanc a crafty choice of words to express her emotional duress! She also found a clever way to include Anna’s religious background by having her talk to the Saints when a mood or a moment fitted the hour; it was quite an interesting way to thread faith inside a mainstream novel and I liked the author’s candor.
I found this unputdownable – I read it straight through in one sitting!
I found it deliciously refreshing as Anna Blanc is a heroine who made her mark on the world on her own terms whilst owning the truth of her heart. I cannot wait to see what Ms Kincheloe will give us to devour next when this novel’s sequel is released – with a bit of hope, she won’t leave us in suspense too long!
It's 1907 Los Angeles. Mischievous socialite Anna Blanc is the kind of young woman who devours purloined crime novels—but must disguise them behind covers of more domestically-appropriate reading. She could match wits with Sherlock Holmes, but in her world women are not allowed to hunt criminals.
Determined to break free of the era's rigid social roles, Anna buys off the chaperone assigned by her domineering father and, using an alias, takes a job as a police matron with the Los Angeles Police Department. There she discovers a string of brothel murders, which the cops are unwilling to investigate. Seizing her one chance to solve a crime, she takes on the investigation herself.
If the police find out, she'll get fired; if her father finds out, he'll disown her; and if her fiancé finds out, he'll cancel the wedding and stop pouring money into her father's collapsing bank. Midway into her investigation, the police chief's son, Joe Singer, learns her true identity. And shortly thereafter she learns about blackmail.
Anna must choose—either hunt the villain and risk losing her father, fiancé, and wealth, or abandon her dream and leave the killer on the loose.
Places to find the book:
Published by Jennifer R. Kincheloe Ltd
on 14th November, 2016
Format: Audiobook | Digital
Length: 12 hours 44 minutes (unabridged)
(Audiobook) Published By: the author herself
Available Formats: Paperback, Ebook and Audiobook
Converse via: #SecretLifeOfAnnaBlanc
My Review of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc (audio version):
It was at the train station when Ms Blanc first saw the deceased at the tracks where I could tell Ms Quirk was going to give me a memorable listening experience! You could feel the tension bubbling between her and Louis, as much as you could detect the urgency of Anna needing to seek out more details about the recently dead. She had an intellectual mind, a keen curiosity and an active imagination which worked well noodling out the origins of human behaviours. This is where we get to hear a more lively presence of Anna Blanc – on the fringes of being more self-assured and embracing her confidence for sleuthing.
Of course, I couldn’t help smiling listening to the quirky turns of phrase, Ms Kincheloe enchanted me with the first time round; as much as I chuckled at re-discovering the innocence of Anna intermixing with her passion for seeking truth and justice for those who no longer had a voice to defend themselves. Listening to Anna’s conflict of better understanding her romance with Louis was befitting of a woman on a verge of striking out on her own; of seeking independence in lieu of marriage or a steady beau. She hadn’t realised it until now, but she simply wasn’t ready to give into a life of repetition. In other words, to stay with Louis, she would always know what to expect to happen on an acute level of certainty. Of course, the other side of it really, is she felt she was ready to make a clean break from her father’s oversight, but there was this churning of self-doubt and a mixture of emotions not allowing her to be entirely calm. She wanted to go through with the marriage if only to spite her father; to upend his control and to finally act on her own merits of retaking the reins of her own life.
The fall-out between father and daughter over the marriage, er, annulment – stitched out a plan in Anna’s mind. She had a sharp mind for planning and for sorting out what would be her ‘next best’ option to seek the freedom she was recently denied. The conflict, of course, is how to have freedom when your father clipped your wings to fly. After having destroyed so much in her room, Anna was at a cross-roads – uncertain of which way to turn and which path to walk down next. She was given a new chaperone which was a desperate attempt on her father’s behalf to continue to control his daughter’s actions; this was the last straw in her mind. Except how she contrived to ‘shed’ the woman off her scent is quite ingenious!
Ms Blanc’s life intersected with the march for Women’s Rights – the Suffragettes were downtown and trying to impart their voice on the people gathered. Quite cloyingly, she tried to distract her chaperone to take a rest whilst she blended into the crowd of Suffragettes. It was hear where Anna crosses path with a girl of a more humble appearance with two young children; the encounter made her consider their differences in stations. Despite her mistrust of their social differences, she took the sign from the young mother and joined the march. What made her feel a bit undone is when a photographer took her picture without her permission. The photograph was taken to show an impartial portrait of how women of different class stations could join together for the common cause.
This segue of her day led her directly into police headquarters – any other woman would have been worried about how to ‘get out’ of such a situation (she was caught smoking in public) but for Ms Blanc, it was an opportunity she could not forsake! She took the happenstance opportunity to sort out a way to work as a detective whilst having the gall to keep her new life as a voice for the dead separate from her life outside the station itself. How she had the moxie and the fortitude to think on her feet and to feel she could be compelled to even handle the gruesome crime scenes is a credit to her person. One thing that Anna Blanc never did was back down from a challenge; especially one she gave herself!
Anna’s keen observational skills lend themselves well to sleuthing because she can drink in the small details which are easily dismissed by others. She denotes something hidden within the obvious and of taking more time to think about the depth of what something ordinary could refer too before making her mind about something. In this way, she was a natural bourne detective as she likes to knit out facts and pull threads together whilst her head muses about all possible angles of how something could be explained or resolved.
What became so very apparent to me as I re-listened to this story is how well envisioned Anna Blanc is to her creator: Ms Kincheloe! She has fleshed out so many wonderful attributes to carve into the spunk of Ms Blanc, you cannot help but become re-caught up in the hectic lifestyle of Anna Blanc! The humour is just as effervescently brilliant and the timing of how everything pulls and tugs together is the backbone of what makes the series as solid as it is to hold it’s salt against others in the same genre. I personally love how Anna Blanc never backs down from voicing her opinion, of being bold in her observations and being genuinely impartial to make quick judgements when more information is needed to round out a fuller assessment.
On transitioning from the print to the audio edition:
I happily did not have issues transitioning from the print to the audio version – if anything, it felt like such a smooth transition, it was hard to remember I hadn’t ‘heard’ a narrated voice whilst I read the print edition! I felt so hugged inside and connected to Anna Blanc the first time I met her, I was equally awaiting the rest of the book blogosphere and the readerly world at large to catch-up with me, as I felt she made a wicked splash of arrival in the Cosy Historical Mystery shelves!
Being able to listen to the story, now, I feel like I should pinch myself, as there was a certain way I envisioned Anna Blanc ‘talking’ and ‘voicing’ herself – to see how Ms Quirk brought her to life is so equal to my own imagination is heart-warming to listen to her deliver the lines!
Remember: visit my original review to get more details directly about how this story first impressed me!
why I am wicked in love with this series by Jennifer Kincheloe:
There is a level of sophistication inside this novel which even on a re-reading experience, you cannot help but marvel at how Ms Kincheloe drew together her heroine’s story. An equal measure of cheeky humour, sharp wit and a winning personality of a strong woman emerging into her own independence of following her passion for sleuthing. It’s hard not to simply tune out the world and soak inside this feisty historical mystery series where everything feels authentic and is illuminated through a heroine’s eyes you want to champion but also, find yourself smiling over her forward thinking attitude and her incapable way of being a diplomat. She would rather speak her opinion and own the charge of being unladylike than to be placated and put down for having an opinion in the first place.
What I truly loved being reminded about though is how Anna Blanc writes her own ticket – of how she refuses to accept social standards and how somewhere along the way, she finds she has a worth of purpose in standing up for the injustices facing those who live lives which are not just of ill repute but of lives where the standards of living are not like those she grew up with herself. She finds an entire new side of the city, where the lives of women she never felt she’d meet became the ones she wanted to support; to prove their unjust ends merited being righted through the law and where those who seek to do harm unto others were meant to be caught.
Anna Blanc is an incredibly strong character – she’s a woman with a purpose she never knew she possessed and with a heart of gold. She might make a few mistakes or should I say, blunder how to go about things properly, but what she has within her is the willingness to learn as she lives. She has a sharp tact of understanding the wider picture even when presented with a narrow viewing of the facts and it’s her innate ability to sleuth which grants her the most leverage outside her intellect to solve the unknown puzzles which baffle other detectives.
I cannot wait to see where we adventure next – as there are two wicked sweet new installments of this series arriving quite soon! One even this Autumn 2017 – which surely will give me hours of pleasurable joy and I am itching to see which case becomes the next challenge for Ms Blanc to solve! It doesn’t hurt that she consistently changes people’s mind about her (as she is pre-judged more times than not) and changes the lives of those who never felt their voice could be heard.
specifically in regards to the audiobook:
I am appreciative of Ms Jess providing a cursory outline of how best to articulate my listening hours on behalf of this audiobook and the others I shall be blogging about or reviewing in future. I’ve modified the suggestions to what I felt were pertinent to respond too on my own behalf as well as keeping to the questions I felt were relevant to share.
Number of Times I’ve heard the Narrator(s):
This is my first audiobook narration on behalf of Ms Quirk – although I daresay, it shall not be my last! She has a lovely voice for narration, as she takes her time to not only articulate what is going on inside a ‘scene’ but what is going on inside a ‘character’s’ mind! Her approach is equal to Jake Urry and Erin Spencer; thereby giving me a third favourite narrator to seek out in the future!
Regards to the Narrator’s Individual Character performances: three examples:
Anna – Ms Quirk has this organic way of intuiting a character like Ms Blanc’s quirky personality to such alacrity as to make you feel the person you had such a lovely time becoming ‘introduced’ too is now wholly alive and streaming into your headphones!
Louis – his almost whispered breathy voice fit him quite well. I never quite liked Louis and somehow Quirk pulled out his personality with a fine understanding of what makes him uniquely himself.
Bill Tilly – the exchange between this photographer and Anna made me chuckle! It brought to life one of the cheekier moments in the story of how you can get yourself in a ‘dilly of a pickle’ without even trying!
Secondary Characters: One thing I like is when a narrator treats secondary characters as an actor taking their cue and then disappearing just as quickly from stage. Where everything feels well scripted to a time of pace that fits well with the story-line and nothing feels overly rushed or forced into inclusion. In this way, I like narrators like Ms Quirk who like to champion secondary characters whilst never taking away from the main and secondary threads of the story’s core!
One example: The housekeeper sounded just like I had felt she might; another accent and a crisp delivery of the messages she had to give to Anna. She, too, had keen observation but she chose to ignore some of the quirks of Anna’s life out of love.
Background Characters: it was quite charming to see how Ms Quirk balanced the direct narrative with the voicing of background characters, of whom, were voiced with such aplumb as you could visualise them being present, but they didn’t overtake the moment. This is a hard balance for other narrators I’ve come across, who either sacrifice something to obtain the same polish Ms Quirk has in narrating her stories or they fall a bit short of keeping the pace to flow smoothly. It was a pleasure to hear different accents, as well. Especially when at the hotel in Riverside, you could detect the different accent of another region of the States.
One example: The older lady on the train whose initials were TLS: I loved how her accent was presented and how her old fashioned views were charming in this rendition by Quirk.
How the Novel sounded to me as it was being Read: (theatrical or narrative)
One part theatrical and one part narrative – Quirk has the uncanny ability to make you feel like you’ve been presented with a radio play – my favourite type of audiobook, to be honest! The kind which takes all your attention inside it’s heart and you simply ‘cannot!’ emerge out of the listening experience until every last word is heard! Quirk also tapped into the conflict of Ms Blanc’s conscience – as she was mindful of the harsh realities of her era but also, had a kindness of heart about her; where she had ready compassion for those who befell an early grave. Quirk also conveyed Ms Blanc’s full personality through the layers of how she presented her to the listening audience. It’s hard to put into words, except the delight for me was listening to a beloved character suddenly come to life and re-telling me her story, of which I already loved reading!
Regards to Articulation & Performance of different sections of the novel: two examples:
At the hotel in Riverside: The whole affair is perfectly preserved from how Ms Kincheloe scripted it originally! This was such good folly, as it shows how cheeky and charming Anna Blanc can be all at the same time! Also, it showed how devious Mr Blanc could be and how she was not quite independent enough to make a clean break from her family. I liked how each of the actions were individually in-tune with the situations at hand but also, how the way Ms Quirk enunciated the nuances – the ill-fated wedding was as lively as if it had be cast to stage.
During the women’s march: I think this scene was even more important to listen too in 2017 than perhaps it was in 2016, given the changing tides politically. It is a good time for Feminist Historical Fiction and a champion of stories supporting Women’s Rights. I liked how Anna was shown being caught up in the flow of the march whilst being a bit out of her depth to understand how far outside her comfort zone she truly was treading! I liked how the voices mingled together – showing how easily adaptive Anna is to her environs and how she tries to ‘blend’ in even when she’s not entirely able too.
Notes on the Quality of Sound & the Background Ambiance:
When you first start the audiobook there is a bit of old fashioned music playing before going into the narration of Ms Quirk. I loved how this set the mood for Anna Blanc’s life to be told but also how it hankered back to a bygone era! The best part of the sound quality is being able to listen to the small distinctions of differences between the characters themselves! The quality is to notch and the lack of ambiance to over-fill the space was a blessing. You can simply soak in Ms Quirk’s narrative voice and be thankful for the experience as she keeps you rapt alert in listening to her words!
Preference after listening to re-Listen or pick up the book in Print?
My next goal for this novel is to re-listen to the audiobook whilst reading the print edition! This way, I’ll be right as rain in time for the second and third installments of the series!!
In closing, would I seek out another Moira Quirk audiobook?
Most definitely! And, I do hope she has the blessing of continuing to read Anna Blanc’s adventures as I cannot imagine now another voice who could capture the beauty of who Anna Blanc is other than Ms Quirk! It was such a smashing fit!
This blog tour is courtesy of Audiobookworm Promotions:
Whilst participating on:
My apologies for those of you following this blog tour – I had unexpected tech issues which delayed this review from posting on my tour stop of the 13th of March. I worked hard to bring this review to the tour as quickly as I could whilst trying not to grow frustrated by connectivity issues and other tech failures which truly drove me bananas to resolve! I hope everyone following the tour is finding a wicked lovely heroine to rally behind and has enjoyed their introduction to Anna Blanc! I look forward to going through the tour’s route and seeing what everyone has been saying! Thank you for your understanding.
I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary! Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst bloggers who picked up the same story to read.
Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2017.
I’m a social reader | I love tweeting my readerly life
— Jorie Loves A Story (@joriestory) December 23, 2016
— Jennifer Kincheloe (@jenkincheloe) December 23, 2016
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- 2017 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge