Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Russian Cover Art for The Queen's Pleasure by Brandy Purdy

This is the cover art for the Russian language edition of The Queen's Pleasure, my novel about the love triangle between Queen Elizabeth I, Robert Dudley, and his wife Amy Robsart Dudley.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

December Kindle Special! The Queen's Pleasure $2.99

Starting today, you can purchase the Kindle edition of The Queen's Pleasure at Amazon.com for only $2.99 This is my favorite of all my Tudor novels because it gives Amy Robsart Dudley a voice, and shows her as a person not just as the victim of one of history's most mysterious deaths and one of the players in an infamous royal love triangle. I hope you'll give it a try.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Ripper's Wife Released Today & A Message From The Author

I have been fascinated by Jack the Ripper since I was a little girl. In 1988, the 100th anniversary of the Whitechapel Murders, my mother gave me a paperback copy of The Complete Jack the Ripper by Donald Rumbelow and I was hooked. Every aspect of the case fascinated me--the victims lives, the setting, the contrast between the squalid slums of the East End and outwardly respectable, affluent West End of Victorian London, the murders, the elusive, unidentified killer, his motive, and the endless, and ongoing, parade of suspects throughout the years. 

When the controversial Diary of Jack the Ripper became a media and publishing sensation in 1993 I was at the bookstore when they opened to buy my copy of Shirley Harrison's book, which included an actual transcript and detailed the investigation of this still hotly debated document. As I read it, I kept thinking, whether it's true or not, there's a novel in this and I want to write it. I'm glad I finally had the chance and I hope you will enjoy it. 



Brandy Purdy

A suspenseful, spellbinding novel of love, jealousy, and murder, The Ripper's Wife reimagines the most notorious serial killer in history through the eyes of the woman who sealed his fate.

"Love makes sane men mad and can turn a gentle man into a fiend."

It begins as a fairytale romance-a shipboard meeting in 1880 between vivacious Southern belle Florence Chandler and handsome English cotton broker James Maybrick. Courtship and a lavish wedding soon follow, and the couple settles into an affluent Liverpool suburb.

From the first, their marriage is doomed by lies. Florie, hardly the heiress her scheming mother portrayed, is treated as an outsider by fashionable English society. James's secrets are infinitely darker-he has a mistress, an arsenic addiction, and a vicious temper. But Florie has no inkling of her husband's depravity until she discovers his diary-and in it, a litany of bloody deeds...

The Ripper's Wife Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, October 27
Review at A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, October 28
Review & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Obsession
Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, October 29
Review at Kinx’s Book Nook
Thursday, October 30
Review at Book of Secrets
Friday, October 31
Monday, November 3
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Interview & Giveaway at Mina’s Bookshelf
Tuesday, November 4
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Interview at A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, November 5
Review at JulzReads
Thursday, November 6
Review at History & Women
Friday, November 7
Review at A Book Geek
Monday, November 10
Tuesday, November 11
Review & Giveaway at Historical Tapestry
Wednesday, November 12
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Thursday, November 13
Friday, November 14

Monday, October 27, 2014

Blog Tour Begins Today: The Ripper's Wife by Brandy Purdy

Please join Brandy Purdy and HF Virtual Book Tours for The Ripper’s Wife Blog Tour from October 27-November 14.

The Ripper's Wife
Publication Date: October 27, 2014
Kensington Books
Formats: eBook, Paperback

A suspenseful, spellbinding novel of love, jealousy, and murder, The Ripper’s Wife re-imagines the most notorious serial killer in history through the eyes of the woman who sealed his fate.

“Love makes sane men mad and can turn a gentle man into a fiend.”

It begins as a fairytale romance–a shipboard meeting in 1880 between vivacious Southern belle Florence Chandler and handsome English cotton broker James Maybrick. Courtship and a lavish wedding soon follow, and the couple settles into an affluent Liverpool suburb.
From the first, their marriage is doomed by lies. Florie, hardly the heiress her scheming mother portrayed, is treated as an outsider by fashionable English society. James’s secrets are infinitely darker–he has a mistress, an arsenic addiction, and a vicious temper. But Florie has no inkling of her husband’s depravity until she discovers his diary–and in it, a litany of bloody deeds…

The Ripper's Wife Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, October 27
Review at A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, October 28
Review & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Obsession
Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, October 29
Review at Kinx’s Book Nook
Review at The Maiden’s Court
Thursday, October 30
Review at Book of Secrets
Friday, October 31
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Monday, November 3
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Interview & Giveaway at Mina’s Bookshelf
Tuesday, November 4
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Interview at A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, November 5
Review at JulzReads
Thursday, November 6
Review at History & Women
Friday, November 7
Review at A Book Geek
Monday, November 10
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Tuesday, November 11
Review & Giveaway at Historical Tapestry
Wednesday, November 12
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Thursday, November 13
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Friday, November 14
Review at Girl Lost in a Book

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Ripper's Wife: The Women of Jack the Ripper

The Ripper's Wife is told from the viewpoint of Florence Maybrick, the beautiful young bride

of wealthy and successful Liverpool cotton broker James Maybrick. 

Their life together is like a fairy tale. 

Battlecrease House, that Florrie dreamed would be their castle and their happy home.

Two beautiful children--Bobo and Gladys.

And the clothes...

But not all fairy tales are happy. Take for instance the tale of Bluebeard. He gives his beautiful and innocent young  bride everything her heart could desire, the keys to his castle, all the rooms filled with riches and pretty things, and asks only one thing of her--NOT to open the door of a certain room.

Opening James Maybrick's diary is like opening that forbidden door.

Florie discovers the five unfortunate down on their luck women whose lives her husband has taken and the rage-filled reason why they had to die.

Polly Nichols, the first victim.

Annie Chapman, the second victim.

Elizabeth Stride, the third victim.

Catherine Eddowes, the fourth victim.

And Mary Jane Kelly, the fifth victim, and James Maybrick's strange angel.

When James dies under mysterious circumstances, Florie finds herself fighting for her life in one of Victorian England's most infamous and scandalous murder trials. And all her mistakes come back to haunt her.

Every love has its own peculiar story, and The Ripper's Wife is James's and Florie's doomed tale of illusions and delusions.

Coming October 28, 2014. Available now for pre-order from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

Another Teaser from The Ripper's Wife

An excerpt from my recreation of Jack the Ripper's diary in The Ripper's Wife:

I lulled her with kind words; I soothed her with sweet deeds. I wanted her to trust me; I needed it. It would make the horror when it came so much the sweeter! I wanted to see the hurt and betrayal in her eyes as she died! I wanted this to be sublime, an experience I would never forget! I wanted this whore to close her eyes in rapture, to submit to me like the most willing lover, the one she had dreamed of all her life but never found. I wanted her to expect delights, to dream of them, only to awaken to a nightmare in my arms that was all too real as I plunged the knife in and twisted it around.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Live Chat on Facebook with Brandy Purdy

To celebrate the release of The Ripper's Wife I will be doing a live chat on Facebook at Hollywood Book Chat hosted by James Zeruk Jr. on November 1, 2014 at 3:00 pm Central time (4:00 pm Eastern time, 1:00 pm Pacific Time. For more information, and to join, please visit

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Teaser from The Ripper's Wife

Love makes sane men mad
and can turn a gentle man into a fiend.

On the outside it looks so innocent, just an old battered book, musty and dusty, nothing special at all. An ordinary diary bound in cardboard covered in rusty black cloth, corners bent and bumped like a quartet of bruised and broken noses, a tad frayed in places like curmudgeonly eyebrows grown wildly awry, chipped and fading gilt accents. Seven lucky gold bands adorn the spine.  I chose it for that reason, because he, because we, believed in luck.  You could walk into any stationary shop in the civilized world and find one just like it. I know: I’m the one who bought it. When you open the cover, that’s when the horrors begin. Your skin begins to crawl and your blood begins to chill, and you discover that this battered old diary is anything but ordinary.

Release date October 28, 2014. Available now for pre-order from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Ebook Sale: The Queen's Pleasure $2.99

The ebook edition of The Queen's Pleasure will be on sale for $2.99 starting today at Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Google, Apple and other major ebook retailers. 

This is my personal favorite of all my Tudor novels as it gives a voice to Amy Robsart Dudley whose death is one of the great unsolved mysteries of British history. Most versions of this story focus on the romance of Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley and the glamour of the court, while Amy is out of sight but inconveniently on their minds in one secluded country house or another. My novel tells the story through the eyes of the two women in Robert Dudley's life--Amy and Elizabeth.

It's also available in trade paperback for those who prefer an old-fashioned book, but if you like ebooks, you can get it at a good price this month--$2.99

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Boleyn Bride Released in the UK Today

The UK edition of The Boleyn Bride goes on sale in the UK today. This time the title is the same in both the US and the UK but I'm still Emily Purdy over there. 

Back cover copy:

From carefree young woman to disillusioned bride, the dazzling lady who would become mother and grandmother to two of history's most infamous queens, has a fascinating story all of her own . . .

Sixteen, of noble birth and stunningly beautiful, Elizabeth Howard envisions a glorious life for herself as lady-in-waiting to the future queen, Catherine of Aragon. But when she is forced to marry Thomas Boleyn, a wealthy commoner, Elizabeth is left to stagnate in the countryside while her detested husband pursues his ambitions. There, she raises golden girl Mary, moody George, and ugly duckling Anne - while staving off boredom with a string of admirers. Until Henry VIII takes the throne . . .

When Thomas finally brings his highborn wife to London, Elizabeth indulges in lavish diversions and dalliances - and catches the lusty king's eye. But those who enjoy Henry's fickle favor must also guard against his wrath. For while her husband's machinations bring Elizabeth and her children to the pinnacle of power, the distance to the scaffold is but a short one - and the Boleyn family's fortune may be turning...

UK readers can buy The Boleyn Bride at:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Romanian Translation of The Boleyn Wife Coming in 2015

My first Tudor novel, The Boleyn Wife, will be published in Romanian in early 2015. I will post more details, including cover art, when I have them.

From the back cover of the US edition:

Shy, plain Lady Jane Parker feels out of place in Henry VIII's courtly world of glamour and intrigue--until she meets the handsome George Boleyn. Overjoyed when their fathers arrange a match, her dreams of a loving union are waylaid when she meets George's sister, Anne. For George is completely devoted to his sister, and cold and indifferent to his bride. As Anne acquires a wide circle of admirers, including King Henry, Jane's resentment grows. But if becoming Henry's queen makes Anne the most powerful woman in England, it also makes her highly vulnerable. And as Henry, desperate for a male heir, begins to tire of his mercurial wife, the stage is set for the ultimate betrayal. . .

Encompassing the reigns of four of Henry's wives, from the doomed Anne to the reckless Katherine Howard, The Boleyn Wife is an unforgettable story of ambition, lust, and jealousy, of the power of love to change the course of history, and of the terrible price of revenge.

Announcement Regarding Book Reviews and Future Posts on This Blog

My Dear Readers,

I regret to announce that due to circumstances in my life I will not be able to post book reviews for the foreseeable future. I don't know if or when I will be able to resume. I've really enjoyed sharing my love of reading with you, and perhaps introducing you to some books you might not have found otherwise, but I don't want to disappoint anyone by missing a deadline or causing any delays of future publications. Being creative, dependable, and giving you new books to read, and hopefully enjoy, means so much to me, and in order to keep on doing that I need to let some things go, and the book reviews seem a logical choice.

This blog isn't going anywhere. All my past reviews will remain for anyone who would like to read them, and Tabby's pictures too; she's just turned seven and is still the love of my life. I will still be posting news about my work whenever I have it and there will be some giveaways coming up soon so please don't forget to stop by. 

October is going to be a busy month for me with the UK release of The Boleyn Bride, and The Ripper's Wife coming out in the USA just in time for Halloween. My virtual book tour for The Ripper's Wife begins October 27th; I'll be posting the schedule and I hope you will follow along. I'll also be posting reviews from other sources, so if you review the book and your blog is not part of the tour please feel free to send me a link. If you enjoy the book and are interested in hosting a giveaway or an interview about it let me know and I'll do my best. For those interested in foreign language editions, a Russian translation of The Queen's Pleasure should be out sometime in December, I'll share cover art and details when I have them. And I'm hard at work on a new novel, which I will tell you more about later. 

Since postings will be irregular, I urge you to use the Subscribe by Email feature to keep up with my news. If you are not familiar with it, there is a box in the right column of this blog, all you have to do is enter your email address then respond to an email confirmation in order to activate the subscription; it only takes a couple of minutes. If your spam filter is sensitive, you may need to add the address to your contacts. I have used this feature myself to follow several blogs and never received any spam or other unwanted emails as a result and I find it a convenient and easy way to keep up. 

I will also continue to update my website www.brandypurdy.com as needed. And you are always welcome to write to me. I love hearing from you.

Thank you for understanding.

Best Wishes,

Brandy Emily Purdy

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Great Early Review of The Ripper's Wife on Good Reads

This review was posted on goodreads.com When I wrote this novel I intended it to begin like a romance novel and then slowly turn into one of horror, so this review really stood out to me. Thank you underthesecovers for posting it.

"The story develops at a leisurely pace before getting into the nitty gritty. It is written like a romance novel turned worst nightmare. Brandy Purdy's poetic style of writing holds your hand through the horror. Her beautiful prose mixed with horrific detail makes for a change of pace in today's horror stories. It was reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe's darker style of writing, elegant with raw horror. 

I enjoyed Florie's honest candor in relating her life with Jim. Her innocent, naive, girlish nature and how Purdy developed Florie's character's full circle. It was indeed a sweet escape, a glimpse into the past on creative license. With Brandy Purdy one can expect entertaining stories on a grand scale.

ARC copy courtesy Netgalley, uncorrected proof."

The Man in the Picture A Ghost Story by Susan Hill

On a cold, dark night an elderly professor decides to reveal the haunting truth behind an eighteenth century painting of a Venetian carnival scene to a former pupil. The picture, purchased at auction during his youth, has the power to captivate the living in a very sinister way.

After he acquired the picture, the professor was summoned to the estate of the elderly Countess of Hawdon. The picture should never have been in that auction in the first place, and she is desperate to reclaim it, because it is the last link to her husband. He was drawn into the picture, and can still been there, his face a mask of desperation and terror amongst the revelers.

The canvas, she claims, was cursed, by Clarissa, the woman Lawrence spurned when he fell in love with and married her. The bitter Clarissa was determined to exact her vengeance on Lawrence and his heirs. But how, and when, if ever, will the curse end?

I really enjoyed this little book, I actually enjoyed it much more than Ms. Hill’s more popular ghost story The Woman in Black; if you have read that book and found it a little ponderous or hard to get through due to its style, I encourage you to give this a try, you may like it better.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Publishers Weekly Reviews The Ripper's Wife

Purdy’s (The Boleyn Wife) latest is a dark recreation of London’s autumn of 1888, when Jack the Ripper terrorized Whitechapel. The novel begins as an affected and slightly overdone love story between the young, beautiful, and well-traveled American Florie Chandler and the English cotton merchant James Maybrick. However, their happy Liverpool home is not what it appears: Florie is friendless, regarded as opportunistic and fraudulent; the servants are in collusion, maliciously controlling the home and the children; and James is an adulterous arsenic addict and secret psychopath with a vicious, hair-trigger temper. When James discovers that Florie has a lover, he becomes the legendary Ripper, trolling for victims and murdering by “proxy” in order not to kill Florie, his children’s mother. Raging with jealously and delusions, James descends deeper into madness. The violent beatings James give Florie are disturbing, calling forth a time when physical abuse was winked at and used to make women “behave.” Ill and remorseful, James confesses to Florie through his diary. Events move quickly toward the end, with a sensational trial, imprisonment, poverty, and seclusion. Purdy’s story has suspense, complex characters, and the requisite gore of a recycled Ripper. – Publishers Weekly

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice

It has been five years since Julia visited her aunt and uncle in Malibu, California, during those absent years she has been devastated by the deaths of her teenage daughter and her estranged husband. Now she accepts an invitation to housesit, at the beautiful red-tile roofed colonial nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains. She welcomes the time with her aging dog, Bonnie, in this peaceful atmosphere while her relatives in are in Ireland, but doesn't reckon on discovering a mutual attraction with the handsome Mexican man, Roberto, who faithfully tends the lemon orchard. 

Roberto has experienced his share of sorrows too, including a literally lost daughter. Six-year-old Rosa vanished during an illegal border crossing. Julia becomes determined to reunite the grieving father with his little girl, but will their reunion mean that she will lose her new-found love?

I had never read a book by this author before, though I understand she is quite popular and prolific, the title grabbed me at a time when I had lemons on my mind. I love the scent of lemons, it's one of the few things I find that successfully soothes my sinuses without making me feel like a zombie in lead shoes with a sopping wet cotton ball for a brain the way most sinus and allergy medications do. But back to the book...this was a bittersweet read with an ending that isn't really an ending; it leaves you dangling, possibly so the reader can envision whatever they would like most.

Until She Comes Home by Lori Roy

In 1958 the peace of a quiet, suburban neighborhood is abruptly shattered when a young, mentally challenged woman vanishes. But everything is not quiet so Better Homes and Gardens magazine perfect as it seems, below the surface Detroit simmers with racial tension and the pot is about to boil over. Black prostitutes expose themselves to tempt the men outside the factory where they work on payday, causing their wives no end of worry, about money and fidelity.

The women who people the pages of this novel all seem like perfect wives, they never leave the house less than perfectly dressed, even if its just to go get a loaf of bread, they belong to church and charity committees, preside graciously over backyard barbeques, card parties, coffee, and cocktails, and devote themselves to their husbands’ comfort.  But each one has her problems and secrets.

Angelic Grace is pregnant with her first child. Her best friend, the voluptuous, button-bursting bosomed Julia still mourns the baby girl she lost even as she cares for her twin nieces. Stylish Malina, the factory boss’s wife, is the queen of the St. Alban’s Church bake sell, the epitome of white-gloved pill-box hat elegance, conceals with a smile the domestic abuse and adultery that mar her “perfect” marriage. And lastly, there is the vulnerable Elizabeth, a child trapped in a woman’s body, unable to dress herself or use money, and with a distressing habit of wandering.

After a young black woman is murdered, and Elizabeth vanishes while walking home from Grace’s house, her neighbors fear that she has met a similar fate. While the menfolk exhaustively scour the area, their wives cope as best they can.

After having read Ms. Roy’s highly praised first novel Bent Road I have to admit I wasn’t all that impressed, I didn’t see what all the fuss was about, and gave it a rather lackluster review on this blog. I bought this novel based on the plot without realizing it was by the same author until I got it home and saw the cover, and I’m so glad I did otherwise I might passed. I consider this novel a vast improvement and the story much more intense and gripping. It held my attention and interest through every page and I highly recommend it.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Ripper's Wife Available on Net Galley

For book bloggers who like to use Net Galley, The Ripper's Wife is now available at https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/show/id/53495

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Happy Seventh Birthday Tabby! And A Gift for You--A Giveaway! Win a Copy of The Ripper's Wife

Tabby: I know this is last year's dress, but it matches my cake so well!

It's Tabby's seventh birthday and she would like to give some gifts as well as receive them. Since my seventh novel, The Ripper's Wife, is soon to be released this seems like perfect timing for a giveaway. So Tabby is going to give away two copies, and I'll sign and mail them. To enter, leave a birthday comment for Tabby and make sure to include your email address. US residents only; I'm sorry, I cannot ship outside the USA. Tabby will pick the winners on September 27th. Want some extra entries? Post a link to this giveaway on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter, and get an extra entry for each.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

RT Book Reviews Gives The Ripper's Wife Four Stars

“Purdy takes the supposition that Jack the Ripper was really English cotton merchant James Maybrick and turns it into a gripping story of a man’s descent into madness and a woman’s emotional journey to murder. Purdy slowly lures the reader into these characters’ minds in a dark and compelling way as they fall into depression, drug addiction, unhappiness and violence. Fascinating reading for anyone intrigued by Jack the Ripper.”– RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Lotions, Potions, And Deadly Elixirs Frontier Medicine In America by Wayne Bethard

While researching The Ripper's Wife I had to do some research about the fascinating history of patent medicines and I was pleased to discover this wonderful book, written by an actual pharmacist. It is scholarly, lighthearted, and entertaining all at the same time, and filled with amusing anecdotes and stories, like a real life Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman who wore her hair short, gave birth to fifteen children, and wore as a good luck charm a necklace made from the bullets she removed form her patients. Then there's Benjamin Franklin's well-intentioned attempt to make flatulence smell like violets via the ingestion of turpentine pills. There are tales of traveling medicine shows and numerous examples of their colorful advertisements and an eighty-three-year-old woman who consulted a doctor about unbearable cramps only to discover that she was carrying a calcified fetus--the sad result of an ectopic pregnancy she had  unknowingly suffered as a teen.

The book also contains a lengthy, conveniently alphabetized, section with entries on various remedies, including herbs and drugs, that were in common use from the eighteen into the twentieth century.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pharmakon by Dirk Wittenborn

Pharmakon is a Greek word that can mean either cure or poison, and that’s a very apt description for Dr. Friedrich’s wonder drug that figured in these pages.

It’s 1951 and the brilliant neuropsychopharmacologist Dr. William T. Friedrich is a thirty-three-year-old untenured professor slaving away in the psychology department at Yale. He’s a man who has devoted his life to the study of unhappiness. After inventing a scale used to measure the progress of mental patients, to determine whether their condition is improving or deteriorating, he was snapped up by Yale. While his career shows promise, privately he is saddened by what the statistics show—remarkably few people with mental problems show any significant improvement after embarking upon treatment. Dr. Friedrich wants desperately to change this, and his red-headed colleague Dr. Bunny Winton, the first female psychiatrist at Yale, might hold the key.

Dr. Winton spent time in New Guinea where she discovered that the shaman of the Bagadon tribe fermented Kwina leaves, brewing a drink the natives took called Gai Kau Dong, or “The Way Home,” to imbibe after enduring stressful events or experiencing depression. Dr. Friedrich and Dr. Winton believe that these special leaves may hold the key, if they can isolate the psychoactive ingredients, they might be able to make a pill that will markedly improve the treatment of depression.

As their research and experiments progress, they advertise for human volunteers. Amongst these human guinea pigs is a young man named Casper, a pimple-faced geek with poor people skills; Dr. Friedrich’s wife persuades him to include Casper in the test after the young man, despondent over a lost love, attempts suicide. The drug has a miraculous effect on Casper, he becomes confident, his appearance improves, he makes friends, and gets a job as a bartender at a yacht club. But the drug has an unforeseen effect, Casper loses the capacity for empathy, his ego swells, and he becomes an unrepentant social climber who thinks nothing of using people, even friends, to get what he wants.

After the trial ends and the drug is withdrawn, Casper falls apart, he becomes paranoid, begins keeping a “Death List” and he’s serious about it, he actually kills Dr. Winton and possibly Dr. Friedrich’s little boy, Jack (it’s uncertain whether his death was murder or an accident).

Casper is sent to a high security mental hospital and Dr. Friedrich and his family try to start over again. They relocate to New Jersey and he takes work as a consultant for a drug company developing antidepressants. But they can never escape the ghost of Casper, eventually he escapes and comes after them.

Ironically, it is Casper’s escape and capture that rejuvenates Dr. Friedrich’s marriage and family life. The rest of the book, which follows the family from 1951 to 1994, tells the story of the children’s sibling rivalries and how their father alienated each one of them. His daughter rejects a career in psychology and instead runs off to work at a poor orphanage in Morocco.  She marries a British surf bum who ironically turns out to be a millionaire; his eldest son, a jock track star, turns out to be gay and moves to Italy to study art; while the youngest dabbles in drugs all the while keeping up the appearance of being a star student, he goes on to become a successful screenwriter but loses it all to drugs when he becomes a full-blown addict.

I enjoyed this book, tying in the story of drug developments to fight the battle against depression kept this from being what might otherwise have been just another dysfunctional family saga.  This is also a good novel for those interested in the history of science and medicine, especially the drug industry. It's one of those novels that you can read, enjoy the fictional story, and also feel like you learned something.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Never List by Koethi Zan

For years, after surviving a car accident, best friends Sarah and Jennifer have faithfully kept “The Never List,” a list of all the horrible fates that can befall the human race, until, one night, as college sophomores, against their better judgment, they accept a cab ride. They spend the next three years naked and chained up in a sadist’s cellar alongside the other girls he has abducted.

Ten years later, Sarah, is struggling to lead a “normal” life. She is a thirty-one-year-old recluse who works at home for an insurance company and rarely leaves her apartment. She has her groceries delivered and her therapist makes house calls.  She is still trying to come to terms with the fact that Jennifer died and she survived.

When their abductor comes up for parole and begins sending taunting letters to her and the other survivors from jail, Sarah forces herself to face her past, and the other girls, who hold a grudge against her, and read the letters in the hope that he will slip up and reveal where he buried Jennifer. But is he really playing a game of cat and mouse and trying to lure the girls who got away back into his web?

Sarah’s quest for closure leads her across the country into a perverted and scary world of BDSM, secret societies, religious cults, and torture chambers, and she discovers there may have been more victims than the police realized, and that her abductor may not have acted alone.

This was a very gripping novel. I could not put it down until I reached the final page. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Russian Edition of The Queen's Pleasure

I've just learned that a Russian language edition of The Queen's Pleasure, my novel about the tragic love triangle between Queen Elizabeth I, Robert Dudley, and his wife Amy Robsart Dudley, will be published sometime in December. I'll post more details when I have them.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Case of the Pederast's Wife by Clare Elfman

The year is 1895, the place is Victorian London. Famed wit and playwright Oscar Wilde is quite the scandal. His dalliance with Lord Alfred Douglas is poised to destroy all that he has achieved, change his fame to infamy, and lead to criminal charges and a prison term. No wonder his wife, Constance, is falling apart.

Enter Martin Frame, an ambitious young gynecologist fascinated by the burgeoning science of psychology, but burdened by an old-fashioned father who thinks hysteria is best treated with ice water, morphine, or, as a last resort, a hysterectomy. Martin, however, prefers to take a gentler approach with his patients; he talks to them, and, more importantly, he listens, trying to discover what distress is presenting itself in the form of physical symptoms.

When a mutual friend, Robbie Ross, asks him to see what he can do for Constance Wilde, Martin agrees to see her. He becomes convinced that the terrible back and leg pains Constance insists are the result of an accidental fall are in fact symptomatic of her emotional turmoil and denial of her husband’s homosexuality. But the clock is ticking, a quack surgeon, more butcher than healer, is trying to convince Constance that a simple operation to remove a troublesome bone that is pressing against a nerve in her back will cure her completely.

This was a very interesting little novel, I loved the way it used a well-known subject, Constance Wilde, and her situation, as a case study to illustrate the nascent practice of psychotherapy and what it might accomplish against the often barbaric and unfeeling horrors of Victorian surgery and gynecology, a world where doctors believed operating on a woman was no worse than a farmer neutering a pig and that women would flock to a handsome young doctor for the sheer pleasure of the pelvic exam. If you have an interest in Oscar Wilde and his wife or the evolution of medicine I highly recommend this novel.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

How The West Was Worn Bustles and Buckskins On The Wild Frontier by Chris Enss

This is a fun little book for anyone interested in the history of fashion. I've read and reviewed several of Ms. Enss books over the years and I think this is my new favorite. It’s a unique and delightful look at the way people dressed in the Old West where function, out of necessity, took precedence over decoration and calico dresses and denim jeans replaced velvet and silk.

Here we learn about resourceful pioneer women sewing lead shot in their hems to keep their skirts from billowing up immodestly in the prairie wind, and men wearing their colorful blue and cowboys wearing bonnets to keep the sun out of their eyes before the Stetson came into fashion. Distance and slow communication led to a certain backwardness in fashion, and everyone was always eager to know what was being worn in the fashionable East, every issue of the Godey’s Ladies Book that came their way was eagerly devoured and the styles depicted in it copied as best they could.

This slim volume is packed with wonderful vintage photographs and advertisements and also explores the impact celebrities had on the fashions of the day, like Lillie Langtry, Oscar Wilde, Annie Oakley, and Buffalo Bill Cody, and the Madonna or Lady Gaga of her day, Adah Menken who created quite a scandal when she appeared onstage in the role of Mazeppa wearing a “nude” body stocking. And there are stories about the creation of blue jeans and cowboy hats by Levi Strauss and John B. Stetson. Another thing I liked about this book is that it is so well-rounded; it does not focus on one sphere of society, but gives space to the clothing worn by rich and poor, famous and ordinary, cowboys, miners, and Native Americans.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

13 Castle Walk by DeWitt Bodeen

This novel is a thinly veiled fictionalization of one of Hollywood’s most famous unsolved murders. In 1922, director William Desmond Taylor was discovered dead in his home with a fatal gunshot wound in his back. Two famous actresses of the era, Mary Pickford wannabe Mary Miles Minter and popular comedienne Mabel Normand, were rumored to have been romantically involved with Taylor and had their careers tarnished as a result of his murder. Since some of the cast of players and suspects and known associates were still alive at the time it was published in 1975 (the year I was born) all names and many identifiable characteristics have been changed in the novel, but if you know the case it’s still possible to tell who’s who, and even if you don’t know a thing about it you can still enjoy this book for what it is—a novel about an unsolved murder mystery from Hollywood’s silent screen era.

The book begins with Hannah Winters being paroled from prison. The young woman, whom many regard sympathetically, was condemned for the mercy killing of her terminally ill husband. Her parole officer arranged a job for her as a live-in housekeeper/secretary/companion for the eccentric elderly former silent movie queen Jennie Jill Jerard.

Still a lovely blonde from the neck up, after Jennie disappeared from the screen in the aftermath of the scandalous demise of her director, and the only man she ever loved, Andrew Riley Rutherford (the thinly disguised William Desmond Taylor), she became an obese virgin recluse, living in her opulent Hollywood villa at 13 Castle Walk, alone with a succession of housekeepers, her memories, prize-winning rose garden, the perpetual See’s candy box, and her white Persian cat.  Jennie is obviously modeled on Mary Miles Minter whose virtuous image was destroyed after her romantic involvement with or romantic idealization of (depending on what you believe) William Desmond Taylor became public knowledge.  Both the Jennie Jill Jerard of this novel and the real life Mary Miles Minter wore their hair in long golden ringlets a la Mary Pickford, dressed in beautiful lacy Valentine gowns, and had faces you might find on the lid of one of the beribboned candy boxes of the day, and specialized in playing demure, sweet, and pure heroines on the silver screen.

Hannah and her employer instantly hit it off. They quickly become friends, not just employer and employee. And a handsome reporter, who sympathetically covered Hannah’s trial, and also just happens to be curious about the decades old mystery, also comes into their lives, and quickly becomes Hannah’s love interest.

In this novel, taking the place played by the real life Mabel Normand is the fictional Molly Carfax, who is modeled on Mary Pickford. Since Mary Miles Minter and Mabel Normand played different types of roles onscreen, they really could not be seen as rivals, except possibly for William Desmond Taylor’s affections, so this makes a very interesting substitution. In this novel Molly Carfax and Jennie Jill Jerard were both the girls with the golden curls, playing the same kinds of roles, both backed by ruthless, ambitious stage mothers willing to do anything to further their darling’s career. Retired from the movies, Molly lives in her mansion, and her brother, a hopeless alcohol, lives in the guest house with a retired boxer as his caretaker to keep him out of trouble.

Molly’s brother, and Jennie’s occasional costar, Johnny Carfax is also a prime player in this work of fiction. Obviously modeled on immature, hard-drinking party boy Jack Pickford, who lost his beautiful Ziegfeld Follies showgirl bride Virginia Knight (inspired by Olive Thomas) to an inexplicable suicide on their honeymoon.

The past comes back to haunt Jennie when a man, claiming to know the truth about Andrew Riley Rutherford’s death, tries to blackmail her and then is found dead, shot through the back, in her front yard at a time when both she, and her new housekeeper, are getting a fresh start in life, Jennie through an unexpected return to the screen, and Hannah when love comes into her life.

SPOILER ALERT! Because 13 Castle Walk is a rare and pricey book, at the time I’m writing this used copies range from $75 and up, I am going to break my usual rule and reveal the rest of the story. If you don’t want to know the solution to the fictional mystery please skip to the final paragraph.

Gradually the truth is revealed. The blackmailer and corpse in Jennie’s front yard turns out to be a forgotten actor who drifted into a life of obscurity and petty crime after his career fizzled with the advent of sound. Andrew Riley Rutherford was (as William Desmond Taylor was also rumored to be) a discreet homosexual. In this novel he infected Johnny Carfax with a particularly virulent form of syphilis, which he unwittingly passed on to his bride. This led her to take her own life and Johnny, unhinged by grief, took a gun and shot the man he held responsible. Molly Carfax, and her protective mother, covered up the truth, even submitting to blackmail, to protect Johnny.

Overall, this was an interesting but not remarkable read, certainly not worth the high price used copies usually go for, which I fortunately didn't pay. I only have this because of my longstanding interest in the William Desmond Taylor murder case and the lives and films of Hollywood’s Golden Age. If this review has aroused your curiosity, I recommend the highly readable, nonfiction account A Cast of Killers by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick; real life movie director King Vidor became intrigued by the Taylor case and launched his own investigation and this book details it in a lively manner that reads almost like a novel. A Deed of Death by Robert Giroux, though it draws a different and much less dramatic conclusion, also makes interesting non-fiction reading. Both of these can be found at much more reasonable prices than 13 Castle Walk. There are a couple of other fictional treatments of the Taylor murder case which I have, but have not yet read, so watch for those in the hopefully not too distant future.