It's very highly recommended reading.
A Betting Woman tells of Simone Jules (aka 'Madame Mustache'), who arrives in San Francisco in 1849 after the death of her family in a fire. Broke and bereaved, Simone needs a job, fast. Fate brings her into the unusual position of being a blackjack dealer at a card table, where she makes her mark as an exotic French-speaking woman who adds pizzazz to the process.
Jenni L. Walsh presents this vivid story in the first person. This approach brings the milieu of early San Francisco to life as Simone captures the City's sights, sounds, and women's lives.
But the story doesn't end there, because romance and murder lead Simone to a new town, a new identity as gambling hall matron Eleanor Dumont, and yet another revised life changed by death.
With the Gold Rush serving as the backdrop for her achievements and confrontations, A Betting Woman provides historical novel readers with a special blend of real history and fictional drama that will attract not just history buffs, but women who enjoy strong female characters determined to survive.
Walsh's vivid imagery and language is part of what drives this moving story, from its first paragraphs: "I had arrived; ready to start anew, with nothing but two trunks, a mouth of deceptions, and my broken memories. Opportunity whistled through San Francisco, where its gold was discovered accidentally, unexpectedly. One could’ve said the same about my coming here. Unexpected."
Walsh carries this spunky character's feel throughout life's slings and arrows and the buffeting, changing circumstance that drives her not outward, but upward. The addition of romance and its delicate dance is also very nicely described and compellingly written: "The night continued. David and I danced around each other in words, expressions, and stolen glances. To say his presence shook me and left me off kilter would be an understatement. I didn’t want to let on that I knew him beyond an old acquaintance, and he seemed to understand me and give me that courtesy. He didn’t refer to me as Simone, nor as Eleanor. Only Madame. His eyes flickered to my ringless finger now and again, perhaps wondering when and why I exchanged the title of mademoiselle, as I was so often called back home. Had I married? Or did I simply prefer the more respected title? I saw the questions in his head."
A Betting Woman is an engrossing story, very well done and hard to put down. Hopefully, it will reach beyond historical fiction audiences and into enthusiasts of women's literature who look for powerful voices, experiences, descriptions, and growth in their novels.
It's very highly recommended reading.
Reviewed January 7, 2021
An enjoyable search-for-identity tale with a strong female protagonist.
Based on a true story, a historical novel focuses on an unconventional young woman who introduces the game of twenty-one to mid-19th-century San Francisco during the California Gold Rush.
Simone Jules, not yet 20 years old, arrives in San Francisco in 1849, having journeyed for six months by sea from New Orleans, or, as she refers to America’s fourth largest city at the time, “La Nouvelle-Orléans.” Her departure from home was precipitous, a decision made after a tragedy took the lives of her family. In the throes of grief, Simone packed her bags and boarded the first ship available, determined to begin a new life. Left behind, without a word of explanation, is her fiance, David Tobin. She takes up residence at the Bella Union Hotel and negotiates with the owner, Monsieur Sullivan, to pay for her $2,000 per month room by working the card tables in the establishment’s gambling parlor. Sullivan assumes he will throw her out after the first night—women are employed only as bar or dance girls at the parlor. But Simone soon becomes a sensation at the Bella Union, teaching the rowdy gold miners twenty-one and becoming America’s first female croupier. Fluent in French, she discovers that sprinkling in a few words of the exotic language and adding a coquettish smile as she deals the cards quickly charms the men out of their newfound fortunes. It is the beginning of a unique Western adventure, with an indomitable female protagonist who repeatedly finds herself rising out of the ashes to forge a new identity. Although Walsh is working with scant available details about the real-life Simone Jules (aka Eleanor Dumont and Madame Moustache), she has wrapped an intriguing fictional melodrama around an assortment of historical events and personages, bending timelines and creating relationships to suit the arc of her lively narrative. The author effectively captures the excitement of a burgeoning San Francisco increasingly flooded with America’s new westward migration. Walsh also offers readers several engaging secondary characters. And through Simone’s later experiences as a supply-line muleteer to the mining settlements, the author vividly depicts the dangerously harsh conditions endured by the hopeful miners.
An enjoyable search-for-identity tale with a strong female protagonist.
Reviewed by Kirkus (12/28/2020): https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/jenni-l-walsh/a-betting-woman/
I'm very excited to share the cover of A BETTING WOMAN! I am in complete awe of this cover designed by my publisher Wyatt-Mackenzie. Thank you!!
This is Eleanor Dumont (aka Simone Jules aka Madame Moustache) perfectly depicted: Vulnerable. Confident. Determined. Scarred.
If you likewise adore this cover, please click over to Netgalley and give the cover a thumbs up. While you're there, feel free to request a review copy 😉
GUYS, I am so excited for this book and so thankful to Shannon and Nancy for helping me bring Eleanor Dumont's (aka Madame Moustache's) story to readers.
My interest in Eleanor Dumont’s story bloomed as I began researching the women of the California gold rush. It wasn’t long before I came upon a name unknown to me, Madame Moustache. As it turned out, Madame Moustache was the sobriquet for Eleanor Dumont, who was born as Simone Jules, and who had popularized vingt-et-un, now known as blackjack.
The presence of three names for a single woman intrigued me. I wondered how one name bled into the next and how life winded to a nickname—one I didn’t initially find particularly endearing—that Eleanor lived with for over a decade. I wondered if she endured the moniker for all those years or if she was accepting of the name, which was spat at her after taking a man’s last dime during a game of vingt-et-un and offering him a glass of milk, Eleanor having been claimed to have said, "Any man silly enough to lose his last cent to a woman deserves a milk diet.”
In all the anecdotes I found of Eleanor, she was warmhearted, quick-witted, business savvy, courageous, and tenacious. The attributes led me to believe that perhaps Eleanor didn’t tolerate the nickname but instead embraced it. After that, there was no stopping me from telling her story.
And I hope you're excited to read it!!
If you're on Goodreads, please take a quick moment to click the "Want to Read" button >>> https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55367443-a-betting-woman
*rubs hands together* I'm so excited for I AM DEFIANCE, releasing with Scholastic, and equally excited for the swag available for anyone (kiddos and adults!) who locks down a copy early.
When you order through my indie bookstore Newtown Bookstore, you'll receive your copy autographed (and personalized, if you so choose) and also the following goodies:
- an I AM ____ sticker to fill in. The sticker is vinyl so it'll be extra durable.
- a Reading Challenge bookmark to make reading even more fun
- a Crossword Scavenger Hunt. And what makes this baby so fun is that after solved, send a photo to me to be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift card! I'm also a total nerd and had so much fun making this, aligning each number clue with chapter numbers. Teachers, I hope you also just geeked out a little with me there. And yes, photocopied crosswords are totally cool to give out to students and for them to enter.
No receipts or verification needed. If you order through the Newtown Bookshop, you'll receive all of the above via mail or in-store pickup after I AM DEFIANCE is released on February 2, 2021. Orders must be placed by February 7, 2021 to qualify.
Thank you for the support! I hope you enjoy my story about a real-life youth resistance group in World War II Germany, and about the power of thinking for yourself in the fight against hatred.
Words have power, an important theme in my forthcoming novel I AM DEFIANCE, about a real-life youth resistance group in World War II Germany and about the power of thinking for yourself in the fight against hatred.
I've created these posters, which I hope will be an inspiration to our kiddos, and I'd love to gift a digital copy to you!
If you'd like a poster for your school, your classroom, your library, or personalized with your kids' name, please fill out the form below. I'll personalize and email the digital poster over to you to print at your convenience (CVS, mpix, Walgreens are all wonderful options for online printing).
I take every opportunity possible to work on my kindergartener's writing so... here she is helping to reveal the title of my next middle grade book... I AM DEFIANCE, where 12yo Brigitte, a member of the Hitler Youth, begins to question all she's ever known when anti-Nazi flyers begin to arrive in the mail from a resistance group called the White Rose.
She's releasing from Scholastic on February 2, 2021 and I'm so dang excited!!
If you're on Goodreads, I'd be so appreciative of any adds to your TBR.
And, if you're a teacher or librarian, I'll be starting a Street Team very soon. Stay tuned!
🎉 Book news! 🎉
I'm such a nerd for research and outlining so it's with immense pleasure that I get to say I've begun researching a new middle grade book and that I'll be contributing to Capstone Publishing's Girls Survive series!
The Girls Survive series is for kiddos 8 and up that tells amazing stories of survival during events like the sinking of the Titanic, the San Francisco Earthquake, the bombing of Pearl Harbor and stories about the underground railroad, spying during the civil war and the Night of Broken Glass.
My book -- which is coming Spring 2021 -- is about the London Blitz. It occurred during WWII when Hitler turned his attention away from bombing military targets and instead terrorized civilians in London night after night. For 57 days!
I am very excited to be writing and sharing a young girl's story of survival during this time. Thank you to Capstone for the opportunity to contribute to this awesome series!
I'm very excited to announce a new middle grade novel with Scholastic, inspired by a real-life resistance group in Nazi Germany! Stay tuned for updates. This beauty is planned to hit shelves in early 2021!