... painstaking ... It must be said: For a tale as colorful as this one — sex! corruption! greed! betrayal! — the storytelling can be a little drab. I yearned (in spots, particularly in the first half) for a little more yarn spinning, particularly involving the clandestine love between Clark and Post. The facts are there, sometimes to the point of overload. It’s the feelings that are occasionally missing ... Brown’s research is jaw-dropping in its meticulousness. For the better part of two decades, she went wherever the next secret took her, tracking down diaries, scrapbooks, letters, passenger lists, prison records and other archival material. When she can’t get to the bottom of something, she scratches to come as close as she can...Brown may have rightly worried that any loose end might invite broader skepticism — this tale seems way too tall to be true.
This is a rags-to-riches story, weaving in well-known celebrities and familiar events, that will keep readers wondering what could happen from one page to the next. The author offers plenty of backstory, allowing for a deeper appreciation for the actions of the book’s main figures, and their motivations ... This is a definite must-read for fans of early Hollywood, and those interested in LGBTQ history, with plenty of scandals and gossip to grab interest.
... absorbing ... The author is forthright in portraying the Clark family’s ruthlessness—especially wielded by William Clark Sr.—as well as Gilded Age society’s relentless persecution of homosexuals ... Thorough research informs an often sordid, entertaining history.