Blog tour: The Secret Life of Mrs London by Rebecca Rosenberg

New & Final Tour Banner for Rebeccas blog tour

As a historical fiction fan, I was super happy to get the chance to read The Secret Life of Mrs London, by Rebecca Rosenberg. Here’s the scoop:

The Secret Life of Mrs. LondonSan Francisco, 1915. As America teeters on the brink of world war, Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, wrestle with genius and desire, politics and marital competitiveness. Charmian longs to be viewed as an equal partner who put her own career on hold to support her husband, but Jack doesn’t see it that way…until Charmian is pulled from the audience during a magic show by escape artist Harry Houdini, a man enmeshed in his own complicated marriage. Suddenly, charmed by the attention Houdini pays her and entranced by his sexual magnetism, Charmian’s eyes open to a world of possibilities that could be her escape.

As Charmian grapples with her urge to explore the forbidden, Jack’s increasingly reckless behavior threatens her dedication. Now torn between two of history’s most mysterious and charismatic figures, she must find the courage to forge her own path, even as she fears the loss of everything she holds dear.

My Review

In the last few years I have read a fair few novels based around the wife/mistress/sister of a famous historical figure. Here are just some I could mention:

 

 

It’s a great idea – a way to explore a famous life through the eyes of the person closest to them, and to look at the pleasures – and sometimes perils – of living with and loving someone who is highly driven and creative. So how would this one stack up? Well, for me, The Secret Life of Mrs London can take a place on the shelf next to any of these. It has all the same hallmarks of great writing, engaging characters, relationship drama and a vibrant evocation of a different time and place.

Mrs London, Charmain, is a complex character. She loves Jack London but feels her own writing is lost in the tide of his success, his reliance on her as his secretary and his ambitions to build a California mansion, Wolf House. Jack also maintains separate sleeping quarters, leaving Charmain sexually frustrated and open to temptation. This comes in the form of handsome Harry Houdini, another fascinating character, who brings with him into Charmain’s life, his child-like wife, Bess.

The Secret Life of Mrs London is a warm, engaging portrait of a woman struggling to find herself. Like the best of these ‘wife’ stories, although my initial attraction for picking them up is find out more about the famous name, as a reader, I stay for the wife’s story. Charmain struggles to put herself first. She has to remind herself that this is her life, even as she fears being “nothing without Jack.” How she succeeds and/or fails had me totally gripped. Highly recommended.

About the Author:

Rebecca_Rosenberg__novelist_1California native Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where she and her husband founded the largest lavender product company in America, Sonoma Lavender. A long-time student of Jack London’s work and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian, Rosenberg is a graduate of the Stanford Writing Certificate Program. THE SECRET LIFE OF MRS. LONDON is her first novel, following her non-fiction, LAVENDER FIELDS OF AMERICA.

Rebecca Rosenberg’s next historical novel is GOLD DIGGER the story of BABY DOE TABOR.

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Buy the Book:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon AU

 

Review of White Houses by Amy Bloom

Here is a link to my latest review for the excellent book site, Bookbrowse.

Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 2.43.45 PM White Houses by Amy Bloom was a really interesting read, not least because I had very little (no) foreknowledge about Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickock. In fact while I was reading it I kept stopping people (people I know, not strangers, honest!) and asking people if they knew. The response was a bit hazy.

As a love story this is a terrific read and the writing is of the highest quality. I thought it was a bit lacking in terms of plot but it has definitely piqued my interest in Eleanor Roosevelt and I found myself (shock) doing a bit of shopping as result.

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Alice Roosevelt Longworth only gets a teeny mention in Amy Bloom’s book – fair enough, it’s not her focus – but the rivalry between Alice and Eleanor (they were first cousins and born only eight months apart) sounds fascinating. I can’t wait to read Hissing Cousins and then dig into Princess Alice which I spotted at our school book fair and snaffled up at once.

For a little more background on the Roosevelts, check out my Beyond the Book article for Bookbrowse here.

Or better still, read White Houses and see what you think.

New book reviews

With a new edition of the Historical Novel Review out, I can share the three books I reviewed this quarter, plus the feature I wrote for the print magazine. Here they are:

My reviews are available from the Historical Novel Society, but in brief…

Sword of Destiny by Justin Hill. This is a must-read for all the fans of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Shulien is back with some new friends to fight beside. I was so impressed by how Justin Hill made those crazy fight scenes work on the page. For the interview in the latest print edition of the Historical Novel Review, it was really interesting to hear how turning a screenplay into a novel (rather than the other way round) worked for him.

Lazaretto by Diane McKinney-Whetstone. Loved this story which is set in Philadelphia – so local history for me! – and starts on the night that Lincoln was assassinated. Both the story and the writing put me in mind of Toni Morrison and I was sorry not to be able to go the Free Library and hear McKinney-Whetstone talk about the book, as I did last year go and hear and see Morrison. This one is definitely on the literary end of the historical fiction spectrum – I so enjoyed the way the point of view shifted in this story – but there are also great characters and it’s a dramatic and engrossing story.

Three-Martini Lunch by Susanne Rindell. For me this would be the perfect thinking woman’s beach read. It evokes a great sense of time and place, reads easily and is full of incident, but also doesn’t shy away from showing that actions have consequences and that the world can be a dark place. There is a great plagarism storyline, lots of love and loss and I particularly liked the bitchy office politics that Eden has to contend with. Susanne Rindell is definitely someone whose books I would look out for. I also really enjoyed her earlier novel, The Other Typist.

The Empress of Bright Moon by Weina Dai Randel. I came to this book (and its precursor, The Moon in the Palace) with no knowledge of 6th Century China and the history of the Empress Consort Wu. What a treat reading these two has been! I can hardly think of any other historical fiction where so much historical detail has been so seamlessly woven into a page-turning story. I’d definitely recommend reading these novels in order. Prepare to escape to another time and place and root for Mei as she battles to make a life at the Imperial court.

Oprah Book Club pick!

Oprah Announces Her 4th Pick for Oprah's Book Club 2.0

I am so happy to see Cynthia Bond’s novel picked up by Oprah Winfrey. It was THE BEST book I read last year (out of over 70 novels) and I think it deserves a really wide readership!

Here is a quick link to my article about it for the Historical Novel Society – A Haunting Jewel of a Novel and the full interview with Cynthia who was very generous in answering my questions.

Review request

thelowlandHappy today to be asked to review The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri for the Historical Novel Society. I read about it for my article for the HNS on the Booker Longlist.

Also, I’ve just seen it has a very different cover (and much less attractive!) on Amazon.com than on Amazon.co.uk. With my Transatlantic Translator hat on, I can’t help wondering why…