Friday, November 7, 2014

"What the Lady Wants"

As clichéd as it sounds, Renée Rosen is a former advertising copywriter who always had a novel in her desk drawer. When she saw the chance to make the leap from writing ad copy to fiction, she jumped at it. A confirmed history and book nerd, the author loves all things old, all things Chicago and all things written.

Rosen applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, What the Lady Wants: A Novel of Marshall Field and the Gilded Age, and reported the following:
This snippet leads into one of my favorite scenes from What the Lady Wants. By this point in the novel, Nannie is well aware that her husband is in love with her neighbor Delia and you know what they say about a woman scorned.

But that’s only one aspect of What the Lady Wants. Here’s a better representation of the novel: In late 19th century Chicago, visionary retail tycoon Marshall Field made his fortune wooing women customers with his famous motto: “Give the lady what she wants.”
His legendary charm also won the heart of socialite Delia Spencer, and led to an infamous love affair.

The night of the Great Fire, as seventeen-year-old Delia watched the flames rise and consume what had been the pioneer town of Chicago, she couldn’t imagine how much her life, her city, and her whole world was about to change. Nor would she have guessed that the agent of that change would not simply be the fire, but more so the man she met that night…

Leading the way in rebuilding after the fire, Marshall Field reopens his well-known dry goods store and transforms it into something the world has never seen before: a glamorous palace of a department store. He and his powerhouse coterie— including Potter Palmer and George Pullman—usher in the age of robber barons, the American royalty of their generation.

But behind the opulence, their private lives are riddled with scandal and heartbreak. Delia and Marshall first turn to each other out of loneliness, but as their love deepens, they will stand together despite disgrace and ostracism, through an age of devastation and opportunity, when an adolescent Chicago was transformed into the Gleaming White City of the Chicago’s World’s Fair of 1893.

From page 69:
A few days later Nannie invited Delia to tea. She arrived wearing a purple silk Madame Gabrielle dress with two gathered flounces and a rolling collar trimmed in velvet. But Nanny greeted her in a simple skirt with a tablier hanging down the front. At first Delia thought she had arrived too early, but it became apparent that Nannie had no intention of changing. Delia ended up feeling terribly overdressed and awkward.

Still, Nannie had a lovely table for two set near the window in the parlor. The cockatiels were perched in their golden cage, squawking and flapping their wings in a fury as Delia passed in front of them.

The weather had called for rain according to the newspapers, but so far it was a crisp fall day, not a cloud in the sky. The sunlight coming through the window shades landed directly in Delia’s line of vision. She could see the bands of sunlight running across her arms and hands and no doubt across her face.

“Excuse me,” Delia said, squinting to block the sunlight, “but would it be possible to adjust the shades?”

“Of course, of course.” Delia waited patiently, but Nannie never called for her butler and made no attempt to adjust them herself. Instead, she went on talking. “You and Arthur are such a fun couple. Everyone always says you’re the life of the party.”

“Well, Arthur’s the instigator, you know.”

“That’s not what I’ve heard. Weren’t you the one who started everyone playing charades at the Swift’s dinner party?”

Delia cringed inwardly remembering that night when Arthur had behaved so badly.
Visit Renée Rosen's website, blog, and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: Every Crooked Pot.

My Book, The Movie: Dollface.

The Page 69 Test: Dollface.

Writers Read: Renée Rosen.

--Marshal Zeringue