Walsh (Becoming Bonnie) hits the jackpot with an impressive fictionalization of the life of Eleanor Dumont (formerly Simone Jules), a blackjack dealer in the Old West. In 1849 New Orleans, Simone, 19, is happy to be marrying trader David Tobin. But after Simone’s parents and sister die in a fire and David reveals his interest in taking over her father’s jewelry shop, Simone boards a ship bound for San Francisco for a fresh start. With a mind for numbers and memories of her mother playing 21, Simone endears herself to a gruff saloonkeeper when she brings in thousands of dollars at the blackjack tables, using her velvety feminine voice to throw the drunken gold panners off their game. A romance with Black freedman Arthur Reynolds is cut short after a New York merchant named Reuben Withers accuses Simone and Arthur of card sharping, then stabs him to death. Simone tracks Reuben across the West and sets up a gambling club in Nevada City, Calif., where she changes her name to Eleanor, earns the nickname “Madam Moustache,” and wonders if Reuben will show his face. Walsh weaves emotion and suspense with historical details of a woman persevering in the face of inequality as she finds a way to earn a living. Readers will relish Walsh’s fully developed portrait.
First reviewed on Publishers Weekly site on 7/14/21: https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-948018-95-1
Middle grade fiction readers will find By the Light of the Fireflies a fine historical novel based on the life of Colonial girl Sybil Ludington, following Sybil and her family's struggle during the Revolutionary War.
The story opens with the Loyalists to the British Crown coming for her father. They are accusing him of being a traitor to England.
Sybil believes in her father, and in the magic light of fireflies which (legend has it) appear when you need them most. But can they help her family when war swirls around them and they all are endangered?
As Sybil steps into a role she'd never envisioned, young readers receive an action-packed story that captures the environment and atmosphere of the times: "I used my musket to point into the dark forest, my own gaze following the long barrel. I heard Rebecca’s gasp. My gun felt heavy in my hands. I should fire it. It was what Papa told us to do. Fire it and he’d come running. He’d handle the situation, in this case: his capturers. Or worse: his assassins. I quivered. I wouldn’t fire my gun. That felt like hand-delivering a worm to a bird’s nest to be gobbled."
Forced to be assertive and proactive beyond her years and experience, Sybil becomes an inadvertent heroine as she struggles to protect everything she loves from the Loyalists and the evolving battle that engulfs her home.
Revolutionary War history and motivations on all sides come to life in the course of a survey that does an outstanding job of capturing the political and social sentiments of the times.
Jenni L. Walsh is especially adept at capturing the Sybil's first-person observations and emotions: "I pushed us north, toward the hamlet of Stormville. That’d be the point where I turned us south again. I yearned for Stormville. I wanted nothing more than to see that strip of homes. My hands were red. They burned from the cold, from where I gripped the reins and my stick. My jawline hurt, where my teeth had clenched for so long. My legs and back and torso ached from keeping beat with Star. My stomach felt hollow and grumbled for food. My eyeballs even felt as if they’d been rattled to the point of pain."
These drive a story line that personalizes the history in a manner that makes it understandable, realistic, and quite accessible.
Middle grade readers who normally eschew fact-laden historical fiction will find the emotional driving force particularly strong in By the Light of the Fireflies. This approach strengthens the compelling story of a young girl's trials, which forces her into the unexpected role of becoming a female war hero in times where girls and women normally are staid.
A concluding note from the author reinforces the real historical events that receive such evocative, personalized attention in the plot.
--Midwest Book Review
Reviewed June 2021
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 paved her own way in a man's world.
At times I want to pinch myself because I had the best time telling this story. Also, some really awesome people had some pretty awesome things to say about Eleanor's story -- and I'm feeling very grateful!
"A fabulously entertaining story about a remarkable woman..." — Historical Novel Society
"A rollicking ride of a story.” — New York Times bestselling author Fiona Davis
"An enjoyable search-for-identity tale with a strong female protagonist." — Kirkus
"A Betting Woman is a winner!” — USA Today bestselling author Heather Webb
"Bold, pioneering, romantic, and intriguing.” — bestselling author Camille Di Maio
“Engaging and empathetic" — Elise Hooper, author of The Other Alcott and Learning to See
"Walsh has written a fast-paced, original tale of the Gold Rush" — Amy Poeppel, author of Small Admissions, Limelight, and Musical Chairs
"An engrossing story, very well done and hard to put down... It's very highly recommended reading." — Midwest Book Review
I hope you'll check out Eleanor's story!
From its enticing cover to the turn of the last page, this novel is engrossing. A fabulously entertaining story about a remarkable woman who just wanted to be herself.
WRITTEN BY JENNI L. WALSH
REVIEW BY FIONA ALISON
From its enticing cover to the turn of the last page, this novel is engrossing. Alongside other historical women way ahead of their time, Simone Jules was the first female professional croupier. Her tale dabbles in love and revenge, but her game of choice? Vingt-et-un, which she introduced to the West in 1849.
After a family tragedy overtakes her life, Simone arrives in San Francisco, determined to reinvent herself, no longer a daughter or twin sister or fiancée. The miners flock to her table to spend their gold. Simone is striking, intoxicating, with a feminine allure, made even more so by her silky French accent, which she uses to advantage. She is well-mannered, intelligent, and business-savvy. She never allows a client to touch her. Her gambling houses are respectable—no cussing, no brawling—and she doesn’t hire girls! After another tragedy, she joins a mule train for a few years, reinvents herself as Eleanor Dumont, and sets up Madame Dumont’s with her own hard-earned money. Until the inevitable happens and the miners move on again, drawn to the seductive whispers of gold.
Simone is a drifter, a very successful one, a survivor with the will to overcome anything life throws at her. She sets up in many places from San Francisco to Kootenay, always dealing vingt-et-un, her specialty. We experience her wanderings, her hardships, and loneliness with her. The commotion and cacophony of noise in a place being built from the ground up and the subsequent quiet of the foothills are exactingly rendered. Many memorable characters come and go, but what stands out is Simone’s autonomy, her self-reliance, her freedom to go where she likes and do what she likes. A fabulously entertaining story about a remarkable woman who just wanted to be herself.
First published on the HNS Website (May 6, 2021): https://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/a-betting-woman-a-novel-of-madame-moustache/
Author of I AM DEFIANCE Jenni L. Walsh’s BY THE LIGHT OF FIREFLIES, based on the true story of a hidden Revolutionary War hero, Sybil Ludington, dubbed the “female Paul Revere,” and following a teen girl who braves a perilous midnight ride to warn the troops, with the believed magic of the fireflies to light her way, to Nancy Cleary at Wyatt-MacKenzie, for publication in early November 2021, by Shannon Hassan at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency (world English).
More information coming soon!
Add on Goodreads here.
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
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!
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!
Exciting news! The ebook of SIDE BY SIDE, which tells the story of Bonnie and Clyde through Bonnie's eyes, is on sale for only $2.99 and only until February 28th!
If you've ever been fascinated with, intrigued by, or interested in the story of Bonnie and Clyde, then this book's for you -- and now's the time to snag it!
"Jenni L. Walsh has written my favorite kind of novel. She's taken a name we're all familiar with and breathed life into the legend." - Ariel Lawhon
"Compulsively readable" - Chanel Cleeton
"Full of charm and sly humor" - Elise Hooper
History, romance, crime and action – a great book." - Historical Novel Society, Editors' Choice
Grab a copy for yourself or gift an ebook to your partner in crime!