A Betting Woman by Jenni L. Walsh

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’ve had this one sitting on my shelf for months now as it arrived during the summer in my Once Upon a Book Club box. This year has come with a lot of struggling to read the last few months and so it took me some time to get around to it. But I finally picked it up last week and was consumed by this historical novel about the life and times of Madame Moustache, the first female croupier.

This novel follows the Madame from her late teens as Simone Jules living with a prominent family in New Orleans to her adventures in the Wild West during the gold rush era. She dramatically lost her family in a fire in New Orleans and was faced with a very difficult decision. Should she stay where all of her now painful memories lied and marry the man she was promised to, or should she leave and forge her own undetermined future?

She chooses to leave and the remainder of the book follows her adventures as she arrives in San Francisco, a young scared woman, but willing to defend herself and begins dealing her family’s game of Black Jack, which had been unknown to most people at the time. It was an ironic situation as most men only ever saw women in gambling houses if they were saloon girls and there as the entertainment. But Simone establishes herself with dignity and poise as she refuses to subject herself to those demands and instead sets herself up as a dealer at the card tables.

The men are enamored with her and everyone wants to play the infamous dealer. But tragedy continues to follow her and she eventually has to keep moving from city to city and even spends some much needed time in one place where she reconnects with her past fiancé for a time. This story had me glued to the pages as I love reading about historical accounts. This one in particular because it focused on the aspects of life and the hard times during the gold rush and mining towns as they rose and fell with constant population movement.

While I loved it very much, I gave it only 4 out of 5 stars as the last quarter of it felt too repetitive and wore out the nostalgia I was feeling with the overall story. Character development was well written through most of the novel, and while this story reflects the life of the real historical figure, her journey towards the end felt repressive and uninspiring. She continued to be driven only by her own idolization and desire to feel and be important and while I understand this was a very relevant part of her story, I started to lose my interest in the character When I realized that she would never do anything different than what she was doing.

Still a very highly recommended book for my historical fiction fans,. It was a real treat to read about gambling from her perspective and the excitement that she felt over it. I grew up in a house where we were taught the rules and game of Poker and I have a lot of fond memories surrounding it. So this book provided a very nostalgic experience for me as well.

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About The Book

Born Simone Jules, reinvented as Eleanor Dumont, and largely remembered as Madame Moustache, A BETTING WOMAN is a historical novel inspired by the tumultuous life, times, and loves of America’s first professional croupier of modern-day blackjack, bringing to life an intrepid and entrepreneurial real-life woman who lived on her own terms.

When her whole family dies in a fire, young Simone Jules flees her grief and travels west to reinvent herself in burgeoning San Francisco. Down to her last dollar and facing some unsavory options, Simone quick-wits her way to a gambling table where she begins to deal vingt-et-un – modern-day blackjack. Word travels fast among of this French-speaking, card-playing novelty, and she begins to build a new life for herself.

MOLLY’S GAME for lovers of the American West. Fans of Thelma Adams, Therese Anne Fowler, and Marie Benedict will root for the quick-witted, charming, and self-sufficient Eleanor as she paves her way in a man’s world and into the pages of history.

About The Author

Jenni L. Walsh spends her days knee deep in words in Philadelphia’s suburbia. Beyond words, Jenni is a mama (of an soulful seven-year-old, an dinosaur-loving five-year-old, and three needy furbabies), a wife, a Philly and ‘Nova sports fan..

But where did it all begin? Jenni spent her early years dabbling in various forms of writing and with her nose in a book. Her writing chops first began to develop through one-page stories. Never fail, the storyline followed the same progression: girl meets boy, girl marries boy, girl and boy have baby. That’s it. Jenni’s mom treated it like a masterpiece each and every time. 

Now Jenni has moved on to stories with a bit more depth and, for the mamas, Side by Side is a historical women’s fiction story of America’s most infamous crime spree of Bonnie and Clyde told in the raw and honest voice of the woman who lived it, Bonnie Parker. In Becoming Bonniea prequel set in the Roaring Twenties, a picture of Bonnie’s earlier life, before and while she meets Clyde, is brought to life. Jenni’s third historical women’s fiction book A Betting Woman takes us to the California gold rush, featuring a little known woman from history, Eleanor Dumont, but who is largely remembered by the moniker Madame Moustache. The Messenger’s Secret, a saga about two women that spans both world wars, is releasing in 2022 with Harper Collin’s new imprint Harper Muse. A second historical novel will follow in 2023.

For the kiddos, Jenni’s debut middle grade books, She Dared, features true stories from women who, at a young age, accomplished daring feats of perseverance and bravery. She is also the author of I Am Defianceinspired by a real-life resistance group, known as the White Rose. Jenni has also contributed Hettie and the London Blitz: A World War II Survival Story to the Girl’s Survive series. Her next middle grade novel, releasing November 2, 2021, is By the Light of Fireflies, a historical novel with a touch of magical realism about Revolutionary War hero Sybil Ludington. In the spring of 2022, middle grade readers can expect Over and Out, an escape and espionage story set during the Cold War.

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