The Davenports: A Window into Untold History

Image Source: Penguin Random House

The Davenports by Krystal Marquis is a historical novel set in 1910s Chicago, centering around a rarity in the United States: a wealthy Black family. The story is told from the perspectives of four young women of varying prospects navigating a changing political and societal landscape, their futures, and love. 

As soon as I saw this novel in my Barnes & Noble newsletter, I was interested. I love reading historical novels from unique perspectives, especially people of color. They give me the opportunity to learn about new pieces of history that are beautifully true. 

On that front, The Davenports delivered. 

The family is aware of their unique status and their responsibility to elevate Black society. While their wealth and status are a privilege, they also weigh heavily on them, especially on the Davenport children who are charged with carrying on their family’s legacy. Marquis builds a vivid picture of 1910s Chicago with concrete historical details and society on the brink of change. The characters feel like real humans with realistic struggles. Also, I appreciate that the novel highlights Black beauty in many forms. 

Overall, I enjoyed this novel and binge-read it in a week. However, I have a few criticisms. The setting was so interesting that I found myself more invested in politics, business, and societal relations than romance. However, romance was the main focus. I wish this premise was used for an adult historical novel rather than a young adult romance novel. 

Each of the four women, Olivia, Helen, Amy-Rose, and Ruby, has a love interest whom it seems obvious they will end up with. This is emphasized by the fact that there are love triangles between the women and their love interests, but we know each of the women’s true feelings since we get to read her perspective. 

This leads to another issue: too many perspectives. Personally, I don’t tend to like novels with multiple perspectives, especially more than two. The story can get confusing, and some suspense is lost since the readers know multiple characters’ thoughts. Each woman is unique and tells a unique story, but I found myself caring more for some perspectives than others. I was the least invested in Ruby’s story and felt that it could have been omitted or partially told through the other women’s perspectives. 

Another criticism I had with this novel’s romance was that the couples frequently “coincidentally” ran into each other. These meetings made the least amount of sense since the couples were of different social statuses. It felt like they were thrown together to progress the plot rather than letting them meet organically. 

Overall, I rate The Davenports a 7.5/10, and I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel, which is expected to release in January 2024.