Rating:

fifth avenue artists society book coverReviewed by Meg Massey

Virginia Loftin is a gifted writer, and one of five talented children in a family that is struggling financially after the death of their father several years prior. Set in New York City in the 1890’s, author Joy Callaway brilliantly captures the plight of women during this time. Virginia struggles to make her way as a writer, facing rejection after rejection from major publishers due to her sex. In addition to this, she is forced to watch as Charlie, her friend and the man she has loved forever, proposes to another woman.

Absolutely shattered, Virginia reluctantly accepts an invitation to attend a salon in a Fifth Avenue mansion, hosted by her brother Franklin’s friend, John. It is here that Virginia’s talent and her work begin to flourish, due in part to her conversation with other musicians, writers and artists, but also to her growing relationship with John. But when Charlie inserts himself back into her life, she is torn between the man she has loved forever, and a new exciting relationship with John.

When a young woman from the Fifth Avenue Artists Society is found dead, many difficult truths about the salon, John and Virginia’s brother are revealed. Will these truths ruin the Loftin family for good? And will Virginia finally have the opportunity to share her work with the world?

I’m always a fan of books about the Gilded Age, and The Fifth Avenue Artists Society is no exception. As noted, the author captures the struggle women faced during this time period, to make their mark in a world dominated by men. But even Charlie must marry a woman of wealth for his family to survive, which was an interesting addition to this narrative.

And while there were many twists in this novel that I found a little perplexing, I very much enjoyed reading it. I also found the ending to be less than satisfying, but I will say that considering the rest of the novel and how the story evolved, it seemed appropriate and realistic. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, you’ll like following the lives of the Loftin family.


Meg lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Ryan. Library professional by day, freelance writer by night, Meg writes about life, entertainment and everything in between.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper Paperbacks. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.