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.