Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review & Giveaway: The House Girl by Tara Conklin (CLOSED)

The House Girl by Tara Conklin
William Morrow
February 2013
Format: ARC Paperback, 336 pages

First line: Mister hit Josephine with the palm of his hand across her left cheek and it was then she knew she would run.

From the back cover: Two remarkable women, separated by more than a century, whose lives unexpectedly intertwine...

2004: Lina Sparrow, the daughter of an artist, is an ambitious young lawyer working on a historic class-action lawsuit seeking reparations for the descendants of American slaves.

1852: Josephine is a seventeen-year-old house slave who tends to the mistress of a Virginia tobacco farm - an aspiring artist named Lu Anne Bell, whose paintings will become the subject of speculation and controversy among future collectors.

Lina's search to find a plaintiff for her case will introduce her to the story of Josephine. Was she the real talent behind her mistress's now-famous portraits? It is a question that will take Lina from the corridors of a modern corporate law firm to the sleek galleries of the New York City art world to the crumbling remains of an old plantation house. Along the way, Lina will unearth long-buried truths about Josephine and about herself...and just maybe achieve long-overdue justice.

My thoughts: This is Tara Conklin's debut novel and it was captivating from page one. From the stunning cover of a silhouette of a woman against a background that gives the appearance of wallpaper, to the two unique women who drive this story, I had a hard time putting down this book.

The House Girl takes place during two different time periods - 2004 where young lawyer Lina is working on a ground breaking case trying to make reparations to descendants of slaves; and 1852 where Josephine Bell, 17 year old slave in Viriginia, takes care of the mistress of the house. Seamlessly flowing back and forth between the two time periods, the story propels itself forward without the feeling that you are missing anything. The stories come together, each giving just a little bit to enhance the other story.

Lina attends an art gala showcasing the work of Lu Anne Bell. It appears there is some controversy surrounding these paintings, as it has come to light that perhaps the paintings were not done by Lu Anne, but by Josephine Bell, Lu Anne's house slave. Believing that this could help her case, Lina travels to Virginia to look into this more closely, hoping to find any information she can on Josephine and her descendants.

I really enjoyed the history that was part of this book. Having recently read Jennifer Chiaverini's newest book, Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, I had come away with a newfound interest in this time period. With this book, the history concentrates solely on the slaves and their life. I loved how Tara Conklin used letters to help tell the story - it adds another dimension to the book. This story has a little bit of everything - rich history, a mystery or two, and even a little romance. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for what Tara Conklin writes next - she is one to watch!

I received a complimentary copy of The House Girl by Tara Conklin from Trish at TLC Book Tours.

About the author: Tara Conklin has worked as a litigator in the New York and London offices of a major corporate law firm but now devotes her time to writing fiction. She received a BA in history from Yale University, a JD from New York University School of Law, and a Master of Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School (Tufts University). Tara Conklin’s short fiction has appeared in the Bristol Prize Anthology and Pangea: An Anthology of Stories from Around the Globe. Born in St. Croix, she grew up in Massachusetts and now lives with her family in Seattle, Washington.

Find out more about Tara at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

To see who else is participating in Tara Conklin's The House Girl tour, click here.

Want to know what inspired Tara Conklin to write The House Girl? Listen to this short podcast to find out: 

Giveaway Information (CLOSED):
Thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours, I have one copy of The House Girl to give away to my readers.

  • Open to US/Canada only
  • Must include email address to enter   

* Mandatory entry - leave a comment telling me why you want to win this book.

* Extra entry #1 - become a follower of Always With a Book. If you are already a follower you will automatically receive the bonus entries (just leave the name you follow under).  
* Extra entry #2 - please help spread the word by blogging, posting on sidebar, tweeting, pinning onto Pinterest or posting this giveaway on Facebook (each way you share gets you 1 more entry).  

All entries can be in one email, but you MUST include your email address in order to be counted.  


Good Luck!!!


  1. I would love to win this book! I really enjoy reading books that are dual with current day/and historic. The idea of the historic also part of slavery really grabs my attention because I haven't read anything like that before!

    Laura Kay

  2. I follow GFC

    Laura Kay

  3. Interesting storyline! The "current" story regarding reparations for descendants of slaves has been an issue, and a sensitive one at that for people for a long time. It would be interesting to read about it in a novel form. Thanks for the giveaway.

    I follow via GFC.

    lafra86 at gmail dot com


  4. The issue of reparitions is so interesting to me. Can you really use money to make up for what happened to slaves??? Can you put a monetary value on something like that? It's a hard question. I've heard a lot of good things about this novel and your review made me want to read it even more!

    - I follow via GFC

    - I tweeted:

  5. I really wanted to read this book and after reading your review, I really can't wait to get my hands on a copy now!

    kristens (dot) booknook (at) gmail (dot) com

    I follow via GFC as Kristen's Book Nook

  6. This novel sounds captivating and memorable. Your review peeked my interest thanks. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  7. What a fascinating story. Thanks for this great review. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  8. I am really looking forward to reading this book and I am glad to hear that you enjoyed it. I like the idea of the dual narrative and telling the story through letters.

  9. Great review -- I was really blown away by this one, too. Such a fascinating angle she used -- art, slavery, the lawsuit -- and I can't wait for her next book!

  10. The two intertwining stories in the book sound interesting. Also would be enlightening to learn about the life of a slave.
    mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

    -GFC follower

  11. I find the subject matter fascinating.
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  12. gfc mamabunny13
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  13. I love finding that we have so much more in common with our ancestors than we realize. Thanks for the giveaway!
    I follow via GFC: Meghan Stith

    mestith at gmail dot com

  14. I've seen such good things about this book and it sounds terrific.

    I follow via google reader.


  15. This sounds like such a great story. The idea that those days of slavery are not so very far from us today is incredibly intriguing to me. I'd love to win this book.

    I follow your blog by email: carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx

    I tweeted about the giveaway:

    I pinned this post on Pinterest:


  16. The storyline is so intriguing. I like the two different time periods.

    I am a GFC follower.
    I tweeted:
    I shared on FB:!/
    I shared on Google+:

    Thank you so much for the chance.

  17. being a Native New Yorker, i always enjoy reading books set in 'old time' NY!! LOL!!!!

    i follow via GFC as Cyn209

    shared on my FB wall,

    cyn209 at juno dot com

  18. I love a book that grabs me from page one!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  19. I want to read this book because it sounds so interesting to learn about history in a story that links the two time periods.

    I am a GFC follower as sunnydaysrule.

    I have Tweeted the contest.

    I have posted on FB.


    sunnydaysrule (AT) hotmail (DOT) com

  20. I love to read debut author books.

  21. I love stories about slavery, human struggle and endurance, and overcoming great odds!

  22. +1 I follow via GFC: nfmgirl

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

  23. I'd like to win this book because I enjoy reading books on this topic; the addition of art to the mix makes it even more interesting.

    jscites2002 @ hotmail dot com

  24. I'm also a GFC follower, 'Dolly'


Thank you so much for leaving a comment! I love interacting with other book lovers and appreciate any thoughts or feedback! If you read a book after seeing my review, please let me know. Come back and leave me a link to your review so I can read it. Thank you!!!

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