In 1910, scandal rocks upstate New York when Dr Horace Daniels is convicted of accidentally killing a woman when performing an abortion. Six years later, his beautiful, wilful daughter Melanie is facing a future as an "old maid." Eager to escape, she allows herself to be seduced by James, a traveling salesman. They elope to New York City. Melanie discovers that James is not what he seems. She meets his other lover, Gladys Dumbrille, a Broadway actress. When James disappears, Melanie decides to make her way as an actress. She and Gladys' lives become intertwined in ways neither of them could have expected. This story takes the reader from the deep woods of the Adirondacks to the bright lights of Broadway
This story is set in Upstate New York in the year 1916, where nineteen-year-old Melanie Daniels has to live down the fact her doctor father has been convicted after an abortion he performed resulted in the woman’s death. The impression the author gives is of a rather naïve girl, but perhaps all young women in this era had a less worldly view on life so Melanie might have been quite typical.
Melanie has to endure the criticism of Muller’s Corners, the small town who holds her responsible for her father’s actions. Angry with her family, her neighbours and her life, Melanie decides to branch out on her own.
Like most people, Melanie doesn’t always make the best choices so when the enigmatic James comes into her life, she doesn’t ask him enough questions. She travels to New York with him where he, inevitably, abandons her. She befriends an even more impressionable actress who becomes pregnant by James and who then decides she needs an abortion.
The author doesn’t spare the reader in her graphic, lesson teaching experience of abortion either, which illustrated how dangerous such procedures were in this era when they were done by unqualified back street practitioners in abysmal conditions.
Melanie discovers the Broadway Theatre world, where life delivers some hard lessons. She learns no one is going to come to her rescue, so she has to protect herself, or be prepared to clean up her own mess, something we all find out in whatever era in which we are born.
The author brings early 20th Century America to life in this novel, along with the rigid attitudes towards women which are changing, if slowly, and bobbing your hair is considered radical. The moral of the story being women should always take charge of their own bodies and not expect a man to do so – because he won’t.
The plot did take a while to get going, but the writing is smooth and well crafted, and I enjoyed the descriptions of the early 20th Century theatre life in New York.
I received an e-copy version of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Anita Davison also writes as Anita Seymour, her 17th Century novel ‘Royalist Rebel’ was released by Pen and Sword Books, and she has two novels in The Woulfes of Loxsbeare series due for release in late 2014 from Books We Love. Her latest venture is an Edwardian cozy mystery being released next year by Robert Hale.