I am probably one of very few people in my demographic in the US who has not watched Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones and has not read the Song of Ice and Fire books. Still, much of it has somehow been absorbed into my pop culture subconscious, such as the fact that George R. R. Martin called Walter White a monster worse than anyone in Westeros. And while I know that there are some real doozies of monsters out there in fiction-land, I think Timothy Patrick's character Dorthea Railer could play ball with the worst of them.
Tea Cups & Tiger Claws follows three generations of women, starting with Elma Railer during World War I. Elma gives birth to identical triplets and allows two of them, Abigail and Judith, to be adopted by a duchess, but she keeps the third baby, Dorthea, for herself--presumably out of spite for the people trying to manipulate her into giving up all three of her children. The Railer family is, put simply, white trash, and everyone figures that Dorthea will end up just as bad as the rest of them. She doesn't. She ends up much, much worse. As Dorthea tries to claw her way to the top of Prospect Park society and find her place in the mansion on the hill, she creates her own little underworld, complete with drugs, secret dungeons, kidnapping, and a hefty dose of murder. Sucked into this mess are Abigail and Judith's daughters, good girl Sarah and party girl Veronic, and when Dorthea finally makes her grab for the high life, it's Sarah and Veronica who get caught in the flames.
This is very much a character-driven story, and really all of the characters are reflections of each other, showing what each could have become if things were just a little different. It's written in a mostly-linear fashion, broken up by great chunks of background info on places and people. Still, this exposition is written in such a flowing, fluid style that I didn't feel it bogged down the narrative at all, but instead made it even fuller and richer. The level of detail could have easily strayed into the territory of dull and lifeless, but instead left just enough to the imagination to keep me interested.
There were a few issues--some misplaced or misused words, some typos and rough grammar in a few areas, though not enough to be ruinous to the whole. The thing that bothered me most was part of the mystery I never felt was truly resolved. One of the characters leaves clues tot eh others that are meant to help stop Dorthea. While I am pretty sure I know who the helper is, it was never said outright, and the "how"s and "why"s of the aid are left somewhat in the dark. I really would have liked to see that fleshed out a bit more to add some more completeness to the story. Still, I could gather enough on my own, I guess, and the engaging characters and prose kept me going long after I should have been asleep on more than one night.
4.5 stars out of 5.