I received an advanced review copy of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss.
The Gilded Age is one of my favorite time periods in American History. I have always thought that it would make a spectacular setting for an historical fiction novel, so I was thrilled to find Renee Rosen’s book which captures all of the glamor, opulence and bombast of this period.
The book opens with an enthralling introduction when Delia Spencer, a wealthy socialite, is on her way to a party with her family to mingle with Chicago’s other elite citizens. While they are enjoying an extravagant party, the great fire breaks out and at the young age of 17 Delia witnesses the destruction of much of the city, including her family’s dry goods business and their elaborate home.
Delia eventually marries Arthur Caton but from the beginning something is not quite right with their marriage. Arthur rarely visits Delia’s bed and, although they are friends and genuinely like each other, they never share a deep passion for one another. When Delia meets Marshall Field, the great “Merchant Prince” of Chicago, she is immediately drawn to this fierce man with the blue-gray eyes.
Marshall Field is stuck in a loveless marriage with a spiteful and vindictive woman with whom he stays because of their two young children. The first third of the book describes the intense attraction between Marshall and Delia, who is 20 years his junior. Since they are both married to other people, they try to resist their passion for one another but they inevitably give in to their emotional and physical desires.
Although this book is told from Delia’s point of view, the character I admired most in the story is actually Marshall Field. Despite the fact that his store was destroyed by fire twice, he rebuilds and each time his store is bigger and better. He is constantly trying to figure out “What A Lady Wants” and to provide that to the wealthy ladies of Chicago through a fabulous shopping experience in his store.
The central plot of this book is the love affair between Marshall and Delia. What was unique about the character of Marshall is that he refuses to sneak around and hide his passion for Delia. After they make love for the first time, he insists on telling both of their spouses about their relationship. This is one of many unexpected and refreshing plot twists that the reader is treated to in this novel.
The meticulous research that Renee Rosen put into her novel is evident from the details we are provided with throughout the story. If you want to experience the wealth and extravagance of The Gilded Age then I highly recommend you read WHAT THE LADY WANTS. You will also be treated to a passionate and tender love story that endures despite all odds.
About The Author:
Renee is the author of three novels: EVERY CROOKED POT, DOLLFACE: A Novel of the Roaring Twenties and WHAT THE LADY WANTS: A Novel of Marshall Field and the Gilded Age (coming November 4, 2014 by Penguin/NAL.)
Most people discover their love of reading first and then decide to try writing. For Renee Rosen, it was just the opposite. From the time she was a little girl she knew she wanted to be a writer and by age seventeen had completed her first novel, with what she admits was the worst opening line of all time. Her hopes of being the youngest published author on record were soon dashed when her “masterpiece” was repeatedly rejected. Several years and many attempts later, Renee finally became a reader first.
Since then she has been fortunate enough to study the craft of writing from such esteemed novelists as Michael Cunningham, Susan Minot and Carol Anshaw. For more information, visit her website: reneerosen.com.
Have you read an good historical fiction novels set during The Gilded Age. Please let me know in the comments, I would love more recommendations!