Reviews for Defending Alice : a novel of love and race in the roaring twenties

Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A tale about a tense legal battle over race and love, based on the sensational 1924 case of Rhinelander v. Rhinelander in White Plains, New York. Leonard Kip Rhinelander, “pampered scion of an aristocratic bloodline,” meets and falls in love with Alice Jones, a beautiful, alluring young woman of English and West Indian background. The attraction is mutual, and she appears to be indifferent to his wealth. They run off and marry, the news of which is too much for Leonard’s domineering and racist father, Philip, who has his son kidnapped. Leonard, who has a weak backbone, sues for annulment of his own marriage, with expensive lawyers paid for and under the orders of Philip. The grounds? Alice supposedly tricked Leonard into thinking she was White. Defending Alice, attorney Lee Parsons Davis warns her that the trial will be nasty and brutal. Indeed, Leonard’s lawyers look out only for Philip’s interest, portraying Leonard as a stuttering, “brain-tied idiot” defrauded by a whore who just wants a piece of the family fortune. The marriage must be annulled! Thus unfolds an epic courtroom clash that gains national headlines for weeks. Tension builds for both courtroom and reader. The existence of love letters comes to light—Leonard apparently wrote some doozies describing sex acts Davis deems disgusting, unnatural, even illegal. But will he introduce the correspondence into evidence? He keeps the courtroom on tenterhooks. Alice is deeply sympathetic as she receives and rejects repeated offers of cash to settle the case and go away; she simply wants her marriage back. Opposing attorneys smear her entire family with racist insults. Davis is the primary narrator, and he is masterful in building suspense as opposing sides brutalize each other. Davis makes it known that he is a renowned trial attorney; and he is a great storyteller as well, though he—or the author—suffers from a touch of logorrhea as he drives home essential points. Still, the story flows well. Gripping courtroom drama and social commentary. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.