Book Review: The Secret Life of Anna Blanc by Jennifer Kincheloe

Official Book Description
It's 1907 Los Angeles. Mischievous socialite Anna Blanc is the kind of young woman who devours purloined crime novels—but must disguise them behind covers of more lady-like books. She could match wits with Sherlock Holmes, but in her world women are not allowed to hunt criminals. 

Determined to break free of the era's rigid social roles, Anna buys off the chaperone assigned by her domineering father and, using an alias, takes a job as a police matron with the Los Angeles Police Department. There she discovers a string of brothel murders, which the cops are unwilling to investigate. Seizing her one chance to solve a crime, she takes on the investigation herself. 

If the police find out, she'll get fired; if her father finds out, he'll disown her; and if her fiancé finds out, he'll cancel the wedding. Midway into her investigation, the police chief's son, Joe Singer, learns her true identity. And shortly thereafter she learns about blackmail.

Anna must choose—either hunt the villain and risk losing her father, fiancĂ©, and wealth, or abandon her dream and leave the killer on the loose.

My Thoughts
I really, really enjoyed The Secret Life of Anna Blanc. It was a fun and an adorable romp into America’s Gilded Age Los Angeles. Author Jennifer Kincheloe kept me constantly guessing, smiling, and laughing out loud – for real not just lol style. 

First thing, as a Gilded Age historical novelist myself, I was blown away by the unique history that went into this book, which is based on a real police matron. Kincheloe did a fantastic job of incorporating interesting historical details from turn of the century LA, to the world of crime, to the inner workings of police matrons, to the world of prostitution, to upper class fashion. It all ties back to setting, and I really enjoyed that as most Gilded Age and Victorian novels take place in New York or England - especially for crime and mystery novels. It's rare to get this kind of look at the West Coast without it being a western. 

Kincheloe is also very talented at characterization. The main character Anna Blanc is like a Scarlett O’hara type but even more lovable. I don’t know how, but Kincheloe managed to make naivety, self-absorption, and stubbornness into hilarious and again lovable traits! Anna Blanc is also caring, tenacious, and especially daring. Building a character like this really shows the skill of the author. Supporting characters were also great fun, especially Joe who makes a perfect side-kick and romance. He’s gritty and just a little bit bad. I loved him!

The overall story is exciting and interesting too, not to mention really good at keeping you guessing. I don’t usually go for mysteries or crime novels as I fear they will be predictable, but that was not the case here. In fact this book is making me completely reevaluate my opinions of these types of books because this was so good! I was sure I knew who the bad guy was, or that I had guessed who it was, at least once in my many attempts, but in the end I was still surprised, not only by who but by how it perfectly rounded out the plot. I was also intrigued in the side-plots, from the criminal rapists (not the main murder mystery) to the question of Anna Blanc’s engagement.

But what really made this story shine for me were the little things. The use of language both historical and just in different character’s voices was awesome. I loved that her side-kick, Joe, had this thing for singing and that Anna shouted things like: “Oh biscuits!” and “worse than a rattlesnake cupcake.” Then there was this ongoing thing that Anna would say about “doing what any sensible woman would do in that situation” which would be followed by something utterly hilarious!

I should also mention that I listened to the audio version and the narrator Moira Quirk was quite talented. She did all kinds of voices and accents that brought the story to life.

All in all, I was really impressed with this book and how much fun it was to read/listen to. Jennifer Kincheloe is a master of comedy, character, plot, Gilded Age history, and especially writing. I cannot wait to read the second installment in her Anna Blanc series! 

The Secret Life of Anna Blanc is available on AmazonAudible, and wherever books are sold. Visit Kincheloe's website and join her email list to receive all kinds of unique historical books and goodies.  

About the Author

Jennifer is a research scientist turned writer of historical fiction. Her novels take place in 1900s Los Angeles among the police matrons of the LAPD and combine, mystery, history, humor, and romance. Her debut novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF ANNA BLANC was a finalist in the Lefty Awards for Best Historical Mystery, The Colorado Author's League Award for Best Genre Fiction, the Macavity Sue Feder Award for Historical Mystery, and is the WINNER of the Colorado Gold for Best Mystery.

Jennifer grew up in Southern California, but has traveled to such places as Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and Papua New Guinea. She's been a block layer, a nurse's aid, a fragrance model, and on the research faculty at UCLA, where she spent 11 years conducting studies to inform health policy. Jennifer currently lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and two teenagers, two dogs, and a cat.

Visit Jennifer at


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