With Christmas nearly upon us, thoughts turn to gifts, gift-giving and what a “gift” truly means. What could be a greater blessing than realizing the “American Dream,” proving that with hard work and determination, a person can come from anywhere with virtually nothing and achieve whatever success they desire? The set of stories we’ll look at this month feature both “haves” struggling to fit into their world and “have-nots” determined to create for themselves a future better than their past.
Moving chronologically, we begin with THE SATURDAY EVENING GIRLS CLUB: A NOVEL by Jane Healey. The author follows the lives of four young immigrant women in Boston’s North End, who find friendship and hope for a better life amid pottery-making and conversation at the Saturday Evening Girls Club. All must fight not just poverty and prejudice, but the traditional expectations of their conservative ethnic families. Enterprising Caprice longs to become an entrepreneur running her own hat shop; bookish Ada, to obtain a college education, stunning Maria to avoid becoming trapped, like her Italian Catholic mother, in marriage to an abusive alcoholic, while timid Theo yearns to escape the rigid requirements of her strict Jewish tradition. The friendship and support forged at their weekly meetings sustains them through the difficulties of their lives—and keeps alive their hopes of achieving what they might have once considered impossible dreams.
We progress to the Gilded Age in CARNEGIE’S MAID by Marie Benedict. When immigrant Clara Kelley discovers that a fellow-traveler from Ireland also named Clara Kelly, an experienced maid expected to begin work for the mother of Andrew Carnegie, has died during the journey, this indigent farmer’s daughter daringly decides to take her place. Securing employment in the Carnegie household will allow Clara to send money home to her family—if she can carry off the impersonation, scrambling to master skills for which she has no training to the satisfaction of an unsympathetic and demanding mistress. But Clara has steel in her backbone, too—as well as, she discovers, an unexpected talent for business. Gradually, her employer’s son Andrew begins to notice her, appreciate her clever mind and care for her as more than just an employee. In the meantime, her influence molds this into robber baron into becoming one of the world’s first millionaire philanthropists. But even intimacy can’t let her risk revealing the deception upon which her own and her family’s survival depends.
FORTUNE’S DAUGHTERS by Consuelo Saah Baehr moves us into the twentieth century. Faith Simpson is born into a rich Long Island family who gives her luxuries but little love or attention. In the filthy, desperate streets of New York not far away, Hope Lee, daughter of Irish and Chinese immigrants, struggles to survive—until an untimely disaster thrusts her in the midst of a privileged world. The bond forged by the two lonely, self-contained children strengthens over time and endures…until encouraged by Faith’s father, the enterprising Hope explores a fascination with finance and ends up becoming Simpson’s protégé–and the two fall in love with the same man. Through the tumult of World War I, the disaster of the Wall Street collapse and the trade union wars, the two childhood friends must move past broken trust and betrayal to forge a future that will endure.
Finally, we move to the other coast of America for Melanie Benjamin’s THE GIRLS IN THE PICTURE. In 1914, Francis Marion leaves her husband for Los Angeles, where she intends to live independently as an artist. But the revolution sweeping California isn’t in art, it’s in an exciting new medium–silent moving pictures. Francis soon finds her passion is writing the stories portrayed by these films. As she pursues it, she meets and forms a close friendship with the “flickers’” most famous star, Mary Pickford, who becomes known as “America’s Sweetheart.” But even this new century is a male-dominated world, and the two find their ambitions hemmed in by men who make success at both a career and in love difficult to obtain. Along the way, their friendship is tested as Mary struggles to maintain her career and Francis rises to the top of her own. An absorbing portrait of female friendship in the golden years of Old Hollywood glamour.
From immigrants driven to pursue their dreams, to women breaking into new fields in stockbroking and film, this month’s selections have the power to fill your stockings with hours of entertainment and inspiration. Merry Christmas to all!
Books Featured in this Article:
For four young immigrant women living in Boston’s North End in the early 1900s, escaping tradition doesn’t come easy. But at least they have one another and the Saturday Evening Girls Club, a social pottery-making group offering respite from their hectic home lives—and hope for a better future.
Ambitious Caprice dreams of opening her own hat shop, which clashes with the expectations of her Sicilian-born parents. Brilliant Ada secretly takes college classes despite the disapproval of her Russian Jewish father. Stunning Maria could marry anyone yet guards her heart to avoid the fate of her Italian Catholic mother, broken down by an alcoholic husband. And shy Thea is torn between asserting herself and embracing an antiquated Jewish tradition.
The friends face family clashes and romantic entanglements, career struggles and cultural prejudice. But through their unfailing bond, forged through their weekly gathering, they’ll draw strength—and the courage to transform their immigrant stories into the American lives of their dreams.
From the author of The Other Einstein, the mesmerizing tale of what kind of woman could have inspired an American dynasty.
Clara Kelley is not who they think she is. She’s not the experienced Irish maid who was hired to work in one of Pittsburgh’s grandest households. She’s a poor farmer’s daughter with nowhere to go and nothing in her pockets. But the other woman with the same name has vanished, and pretending to be her just might get Clara some money to send back home.
If she can keep up the ruse, that is. Serving as a lady’s maid in the household of Andrew Carnegie requires skills he doesn’t have, answering to an icy mistress who rules her sons and her domain with an iron fist. What Clara does have is a resolve as strong as the steel Pittsburgh is becoming famous for, coupled with an uncanny understanding of business, and Andrew begins to rely on her. But Clara can’t let her guard down, not even when Andrew becomes something more than an employer. Revealing her past might ruin her future — and her family’s.
With captivating insight and heart, Carnegie’s Maid tells the story of one brilliant woman who may have spurred Andrew Carnegie’s transformation from ruthless industrialist into the world’s first true philanthropist..
Women’s Fiction Historical [Sourcebooks, On Sale: January 16, 2018, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9781492646617 / ]
Faith Simpson is born at the dawn of the twentieth century into a dynasty that gives her everything she will ever need—except her parents’ love and attention. Often misunderstood, she trusts few as she grows up on the family’s manicured Long Island estate. Just twenty-nine miles away, on lower Manhattan’s dirty, crowded streets, Hope Lee’s world is one of poverty and desperation. The scrappy child of hard-working Irish and Chinese immigrants has learned to fend for herself, until a terrible disaster thrusts her into a strange, new world of privilege.
When she meets Faith, Hope has faced enough loss to last a lifetime, and, like Faith, she has built an emotional wall to survive. Compelled by the tragic bonds of very different childhoods, they soon forge a strong alliance. But when Faith’s father chooses Hope as his protégé, and, worse yet, both Faith and Hope fall in love with the same man, resentment and betrayal threaten their bond. Caught in the tumult of World War I, Wall Street, union fights, and changing women’s roles, these two extraordinary women find that true fortune can’t be bought or sold.
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and The Aviator’s Wife, a “rich exploration of two Hollywood friends who shaped the movies” (USA Today)—screenwriter Frances Marion and superstar Mary Pickford
“Full of Old Hollywood glamour and true details about the pair’s historic careers . . . a captivating ode to a legendary bond.”—Real Simple
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY REAL SIMPLE
It is 1914, and twenty-five-year-old Frances Marion has left her (second) husband and her Northern California home for the lure of Los Angeles, where she is determined to live independently as an artist. But the word on everyone’s lips these days is “flickers”—the silent moving pictures enthralling theatergoers. Turn any corner in this burgeoning town and you’ll find made-up actors running around, as a movie camera captures it all.
In this fledgling industry, Frances finds her true calling: writing stories for this wondrous new medium. She also makes the acquaintance of actress Mary Pickford, whose signature golden curls and lively spirit have earned her the title “America’s Sweetheart.” The two ambitious young women hit it off instantly, their kinship fomented by their mutual fever to create, to move audiences to a frenzy, to start a revolution.
But their ambitions are challenged by both the men around them and the limitations imposed on their gender and their astronomical success could come at a price. As Mary, the world’s highest paid and most beloved actress, struggles to live her life under the spotlight, she also wonders if it is possible to find love, even with the dashing actor Douglas Fairbanks. Frances, too, longs to share her life with someone. As in any good Hollywood story, dramas will play out, personalities will clash, and even the deepest friendships might be shattered.
With cameos from such notables as Charlie Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer, Rudolph Valentino, and Lillian Gish, The Girls in the Picture is, at its heart, a story of friendship and forgiveness. Melanie Benjamin brilliantly captures the dawn of a glittering new era—its myths and icons, its possibilities and potential, and its seduction and heartbreak.
“A boffo production . . . Inspiration is a rare and unexpected gift in a book filled with the fluff of Hollywood, but Benjamin provides it with The Girls in the Picture.”—NPR
“Profoundly resonant, The Girls in the Picture is at its core, an empowering and fascinating tale of sisterhood.”—Bryce Dallas Howard
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
About Julia Justiss
Real, intense, passionate historical romance
After twelve years as a vagabond Navy wife, an adventure that took her from Virginia Beach, VA, to Monterrey, CA, to Tunis, Tunisia to Oslo, Norway and back, Julia Justiss followed her husband to his family’s East Texas homeland. On a hill above a pond with a view of pasture land, they built an English Georgian-style home. Sitting at her desk there, if she ignores the summer heat, she can almost imagine herself in Jane Austen’s Regency England.
In between teaching high school French and making jaunts to visit her three children (a Seabee in Gulfport, MS, a clothing buyer in Houston and a mechanical engineer in Austin, TX) she pursues her first love—writing historical fiction.
Regency Silk & Scandal | Hadley’s Hellions | Ransleigh Rogues | Whiskey River Christmas | Sisters of Scandal | Wellingfords
JULIA’S LATEST RELEASE:
Shunned by the ton
How would she find a husband?
Part of Sisters of Scandal: After her mother’s latest outrageous affair, innocent Prudence Lattimar has fled to Bath.
With her dubious background, she must marry a man of impeccable reputation. A clergyman with a title and a considerable income would be perfect.
She must steer clear of Lieutenant Johnnie Trethwell—his family is as notorious as hers, no matter how funny, charming and unfailingly honorable he is!
Romance Historical [Harlequin Historical Romance, On Sale: October 1, 2018, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781335522931 / eISBN: 9781488087004]