When guest author Renee Rosen sent me her newest novel WHAT THE LADY WANTS as a thank you, I was touched.
A free book for me? How sweet!
I wasn't sure when I'd get around to reading it as my own editor is tapping fingers, waiting for me to send back my manuscript, and I already had 4 books in my currently-reading-pile. But when I saw the cover - with it's opulent texture and lovely font - I added it to the pile right away. Then, when I had a free moment, I sat down and opened the book to page one.
Page one sucked me right in. Renee Rosen's writing voice is vibrant as well as sensual. It draws the reader in in a way that, before you know it, you're elbow deep into the book and you're not sure where the time went.
WHAT THE LADY WANTS starts off with a hot-as-fire attraction between the main characters amidst the Great Chicago Fire. Being the snob reader I am - and always pressed for time - I wasn't interested in a history lesson and had planned on skipping ahead, but Renee Rosen's historical fiction didn't read as a one. Her characters are so alive on the page, it was like I was there, running with the main character, Delia, trying to find her way through a town ablaze. That, and the scene reminded me so much of Scarlet O'Hara and Rhett Butler trapped in the fiery ball of Atlanta.
And just like GONE WITH THE WIND, WHAT THE LADY WANTS takes on the task of rebuilding. Only rebuilding to the lavish degree. Gowns, balls, elite gatherings. I kept thinking, "WHAT THE LADY WANTS is like GONE WITH THE WIND meets the North." I half expected Delia to invite Miss Scarlet O'Hara over for tea and the latest town gossip. However, the Great Chicago fire was in 1871, just on the brink of the industrial revolution.
Only, it was the revolution of shopping - oddly enough - that WHAT THE LADY WANTS is focused on. I'm not a big shopper myself, but now that I have seen the evolution first hand through the eyes of Rosen's characters - Marshall Field specifically - I see how his vision of giving the lady what she wants is quintessentially the very reason we have shops and malls and "experiences" as we do today. No one thought the way he did and no one valued a lady's opinion like he did either. Not back then.
One reviewer stated that there are contemporary elements to this story that set it apart from other historical fictions, but I disagree that these elements are truly "contemporary." Rather, they are honest. And it is with this honesty that Renee Rosen sets this historical fiction apart from others as she doesn't skip over nor hide these so-called "contemporary" elements that have only been a part of the human experience since the beginning of time. I won't spoil it though -- you'll just have to read the book for yourself!
I actually cried toward the end. You will come to love Renee Rosen's characters so much that you don't want to watch when tragedy strikes. Thankfully you get to cheer along with them when they triumph over all! And the love. Ah, the love... I'm a sucker for Love ;)
WHAT THE LADY WANTS is a grand and magnificent story with characters you'll love to the end.
The fact that I read this book and this book alone until the end makes it 5 stars. I don't usually stay with one book, one voice, one story line unless it's engaging enough to keep me in the mood for more.
So, 5 stars, Renne!
I'm inspired so much, I think I'll be planning a trip to Chicago some time in the future so I can see all the buildings from the book - especially the Lady's Half Mile.
Can't wait for your next novel :)