Wednesday, March 23, 2011
For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage in the late 1890s, so much depends on her social season debut. Clara Carter has been given one goal: secure the affections of the city's most eligible bachelor. Debuting means plenty of work--there are corsets to be fitted, dances to master, manners to perfect. Her training soon pays off, however, as celebrity's spotlight turns Clara into a society-page darling. Yet Clara wonders if this is the life she really wants, especially when she learns her best friend has also set her sights on Franklin De Vries. When a man appears who seems to love her simply for who she is, and gossip backlash turns ugly, Clara realizes it's not just her heart at stake-the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.
I love, love, loved this book!
The story of a young debutante in the early 1890's of New York, we experience the trials and tribulations one girl must go through in order to catch a husband by the end of the season. With no choice but to do as she is told, she must endure all sorts of agonies to appear as beautiful and biddable as possible. Yet, is it worth it? What's more important, obeying your parents or doing what feels right in your heart?
I pitied Clara, particularly when it comes to the wearing of a corset. Back in the day, an hourglass figure was the be-all-end-all, and poor Clara is forced to wear a corset 24/7 to force her waist down to a tiny sixteen inches. It's no wonder she can never eat anything and must sleep sitting up! Everything is done to disguise her (what her aunt considers) less flattering attributes. Poor thing, her aunt requires that her long white gloves be two sizes too small to make her hands appear smaller. She must cover her mouth when she smiles to hide her "large" mouth. All sorts of tricks to catch the De Vries heir. Only, he's not the one she winds up falling for - it's his brother, the younger son that's the real one worth having. This was a great book!
I loved reading about Clara's season. What starts out to be a lacklustre debut turns into a huge success - thanks to the fact her father, a prominent physician, uses bribery to get her in the newspapers and invited to only the best homes and balls. It seems he knows a lot about the most prominent families in New York, who'd rather not have certain things known about them. Clara is unaware of her father's behind the scenes machinations, but gradually she begins to wonder and ultimately puts two and two together.
Meanwhile, as she is thrown time and time again at Franklin, the De Vries heir - and seems to be making headway with him, we realize we don't want Clara to marry him. His brother is the good one, the nice one - the honorable one. I liked him with his unruly lock of hair and mischievous sense of humor. At first Clara won't admit she likes him better, but over time she can't deny it. Especially when she thinks he prefers her best friend. Will Clara marry the better man - or will she be the dutiful daughter and marry for money and an unhappy future?
Do yourself a favor and read this book. It was wonderful, and if you're wondering, it's clean, no sex and nothing graphic, perfect for pre-teens - or adults alike. I was swept up in the gay '90's of New York's high society, hob nobbing with the Vanderbilts and Schermerhorns. Dining at Delmonico's and Sherry's. Yet, there is a moral to this story. Money isn't everything. As long as you can hold your head up high, that's what's important.
A real keeper, and I was pleased as punch to get it for free on my kindle!