Seventeen-year-old May Convery, unhappy with her privileged life in turn-of-the-century New York City, dreams of becoming a poet. When she meets the talented young Mike Bernard, an aspiring concert pianist, she immediately falls in love. But after their secret liaison is discovered, neither is prepared for the far-reaching consequences that will haunt them for decades. As Mike abandons serious music to ruthlessly defend his hard-won title, Ragtime King of the World, May struggles to find her voice as an artist and a woman. It is not until years after their youthful romance, when they cross paths again, that they must finally confront the truth about themselves and each other. But is it too late?
The world of ragtime is the backdrop for a remarkable story about the price of freedom, the longing for immortality, and the human need to find forgiveness. From vaudeville’s greatest stars to the geniuses of early black musical theater, an unforgettable cast of real-life characters populates this richly fictionalized historical saga.
Although historical fiction isn’t my favorite genre, I do enjoy stories with an actual historical background. Having read The Other Einstein and Carnegie’s Maid, I was very excited to read Temptation Rag. And it was a wonderful read. It shows the life of the ton in New York at the beginning of the nineteenth century. We meet May Convery, a rich girl from the upper class of society, who falls in love with her piano teacher: Mike Bernard. They elope and get married, but when Mike is confronted by May’s bethrothed and her father, he cowers and runs away, leaving May with her unborn child.
Mike builds a life of his own as the Ragtime King of the World, having learned this new musical style from Ben Harney. As competitors they often meet througout the years. Elizabeth Huthison Bernard (yes: she is the granddaughter of Mike Bernard) weaves the stories of the lives of May and Mike througout the decades. We see how May joins the Suffragettes (for women’s rights) and befriends African American men and women, despite her husband’s objections. As a poet, she becomes an icon for herself and an inspiration for other women of her time.
Although the story is fictional it is using actual elements from that era and tells you the story of the music of that era and the racism and hypocrisy towards negro’s at that time. A wonderful read. Four out of five stars from me and a special thank you to Netgalley for providing the arc.
Publisher: Belle Epoque Publishing
Published: December 2018
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥