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Confession of a Serial Book Dater: Renée Rosen’s WHAT THE LADY WANTS

My goal is to read 30 books by the end of 2015 (rather than reading the first chapter of each before tossing ’em aside, which has become a bad reading habit of mine).

20893377With this in mind, I picked up Renée Rosen’s WHAT THE LADY WANTS.

(3* books down, 27 more to go)
*I didn’t review the 2nd book. It was Dani Shapiro’s STILL WRITING. It’s a book every writing should read.

Summary: In late-nineteenth-century Chicago, visionary retail tycoon Marshall Field made his fortune wooing women customers with his famous motto: “Give the lady what she wants.” His legendary charm also won the heart of socialite Delia Spencer and led to an infamous love affair.

What I disliked: The novel had a soap opera touch to it: adultery (check), hysterics galore (check), a bitchslap (check), bitchpushes (check), and by the end, because of the rushed pacing, it felt like the story went on a killing spree (check), with characters dropping dead in almost every chapter.

What I liked: I was expecting a historical fiction about Chicago and Marshall Field, but instead I got a swoon-worthy romance between Marshall Field and Delia Spenceer Caton (both historical figures). I enjoyed their blossoming relationship. **SPOILER ALERT!** What initially annoyed me was the plot twist used to justify Delia and Marshall’s affair: her husband ‘conveniently’ turns out to be homosexual and his wife ‘just happens’ to be a psychologically unstable laudanum addict with an “evil streak.” It felt very contrived, especially considering that there isn’t much historical fact backing this plot twist. However, after a few pages, the author managed to smooth out my ruffle feathers. And throughout the book, despite the soap opera, I can say for certain that Rosen is a great storyteller who weaves her words beautifully.

Favorite Passage: “Delia stood back in amazement. She’d never felt so important. This was a man who was respected by all for his tastes and here he had followed her choice. She realized she’d never really been taken serious—listened to—and by a man she respected to this extent. A burst of confidence awakened inside her. She held her shoulders back, standing proud. It was as if Marshal had shone a light on her, allowing her to see her true self.”

I recommend this book if you:

  • want to be swept into the world of glamor, scandal, and shopping.
  • love Rhett Butler, because Marshall Field (in the book) reminded me of him.
  • are going through The Paradise/Mr Selfridge withdrawal.
  • interested in the history of Chicago.

I mildly enjoyed this book, and now I’m leaving it for Joyce Maynard’s AFTER HER or I might try to finish Winston Graham’s POLDARK (I got halfway through then stopped after watching the BBC adaption Ergggg). Hopefully I’ll be able to commit to one, unlike the 3 other books I dropped before picking up Rosen’s What the Lady Wants.

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