I am delighted to welcome Alyssa Maxwell here today.
Escape with Alyssa Maxwell to the world of The Gilded Newport Mysteries…
In the Gilded Age New York’s wealthiest escaped the heat, grime, and yes, pestilence of the city’s summer months by loading up their steamships with those priceless objects they simply couldn’t live without and making a mass pilgrimage to bright, breezy, seaside Newport, RI. They brought carriages and servants and countless trunks and even their safes, packed with jewels and important documents. They bought the best land, built palaces, and claimed as their own the finest Newport had to offer. They turned a sleepy, artsy village into the posh summer resort. The men sailed their yachts and rode horses and played golf and tennis. The women held teas and parties and balls, married their daughters to rich, powerful men, and wore a different gown from House of Worth, Paris, for each daily activity – mornings at home, social calls, promenading, carriage riding, tea, supper….
I’ll bet you’re thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot of research to do. Must be hard.” To which I say, “No way, I love it!” Digging around in the past is my way of stepping into a time machine and escaping from whatever has me gritting my teeth in the present. And sometimes that’s a lot! Or maybe it’s a past life thing. Whatever it is, I’ve always been this way and some days I’d much rather be there than here.
The truth is, I sometimes spend way more time researching than I need to. But how to stop oneself from poring through the Metropolitan Museum’s collection of Worth Gowns? For instance, there are these two:
Do these not make your heart beat faster? Can’t you imagine the feel of that lustrous, embroidered silk against your skin? I literally gasped out loud when I first saw them. I covet! And you can bet I used them in describing dresses worn by my sleuth, Emma Cross, and her friend, Grace, to a ball in Murder at Beechwood, the third book in my series, which is still a work in progress. Rest assured there are plenty more drool-worthy masterpieces where these came from in the Museum’s database, and one can easily while away a good hour or two without even realizing it. Ooh, here’s another, in glorious gold:
Obviously I can’t help myself. But don’t even get me going on the shoes, handbags and jewelry women wore during the Gilded Age! Seriously, don’t!
Are these not exquisite?
Unfortunately, I also discovered the website of the American Carriage Association. I say unfortunately because here again, I can become lost studying styles and details. Here’s one I imagine my sleuth driving, though hers wouldn’t be quite so shiny and new:
Her wealthy Vanderbilt relatives would probably drive something more like this:
Oops, did I say drive? I meant chauffeured around town in. Emma’s aunt Alice is forever telling her it isn’t seemly for her to be driving her own rig. Does Emma listen? Of course not! Sometimes a girl’s just got to get where she’s going, and she doesn’t have time to wait around for someone else to drive her. Like when she gathering clues to solve a murder.
I believe I mentioned yachts? For that there’s the New York Yacht Club website. The NYYC set up a satellite headquarters in Newport in 1894, paving the way for future Americas Cup Races to be held there. Wouldn’t it be awesome to be sitting in the shade at, say, The Breakers or Marble House, watching those majestic vessels cutting through the waves?
Bet we could fit lots of trunks filled with gowns, shoes and jewelry on that ship! Not to mention a complete staff to see to our every need and desire.
Sailing to Europe might have been the thing to do in fall and spring, but when summer came around Newport was definitely the place to be. Who needs Europe anyway when your house looks like this:
This is the world I love to spend my time in. It’s my own comfy gilded cage, my haven and my escape.
Thanks for escaping with me today! If you’d like to spend more time in Newport’s Gilded Age, no problem! Stop by my website where there’s lots to see, including an excerpt from book one in the series, Murder at the Breakers. Here’s where to find me online: http://alyssamaxwell.
You can also explore:
Metropolitan Museum – House of Worth: http://www.metmuseum.org/search-results?ft=house+of+worth&x=0&y=0
The American Carriage Association: http://www.caaonline.com/
New York Yacht Club: http://www.nyyc.org/
The Preservation Society of Newport: http://www.newportmansions.org/
(All pictures provided by Alyssa Maxwell.)
About Alyssa Maxwell
I began a love affair with the city of Newport while visiting friends there back in my high school days. Time and again the harbor‑side, gas‑lit neighborhoods drew me back, and on one of those later visits I met the man who would become my husband. Always a lover of history, I found that marrying into a large, generations‑old Newport family opened up an exciting world of historical discovery. From the graveyards whose earliest markers read from the seventeenth century, to original colonial houses still lived in today, to the Newport Artillery Company whose curator for many years was my husband’s grandfather, Newport became a place of fascination and romantic charm. Today, my hubby and I reside beneath the palms and bright skies of Florida, but part of my heart remains firmly in that small New England city of great historical significance. The first in the Gilded Newport Mysteries, Murder at the Breakers, AVAILABLE TODAY!! to be followed by Murder at Marble House in October of this year.
Murder at the Breakers
(A Gilded Newport Mystery)
A Brand New Series
Historical Cozy Mystery
Kensington Books (March 25, 2014)
Published by Kensington Publishing Corp.
Trade Paperback: 304 pages
E-Book File Size: 1188 KB
Nook: ISBN-13: 9780758290830
Newport, Rhode Island, August 1895:
She may be a less well-heeled relation, but as second cousin to millionaire patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt, twenty-one-year-old Emma Cross is on the guest list for a grand ball at the Breakers, the Vanderbilts’ summer home. She also has a job to do—report on the event for the society page of the Newport Observer.
But Emma observes much more than glitz and gaiety when she witnesses a murder. The victim is Cornelius Vanderbilt’s financial secretary, who plunges off a balcony faster than falling stock prices. Emma’s black sheep brother Brady is found in Cornelius’s bedroom passed out next to a bottle of bourbon and stolen plans for a new railroad line. Brady has barely come to before the police have arrested him for the murder. But Emma is sure someone is trying to railroad her brother and resolves to find the real killer at any cost…
What an awesome debut!!!
Emma Cross inherited much more than Gull Manor from her Aunt Sadie. She inherited her wit and her spunk as well. Her parents have traveled abroad to follow their own dreams and left her to handle everything on her own. Using the small annuity left to her by her Aunt and the wages she earns writing about social events for the local paper she keeps up what she can at Gull Manor. She really is not Cornelius Vanderbilt’s niece. She is actually his second cousin “twice or thrice removed” but she calls him Uncle because she could never call the shipping magnate or his wife by just their first names. They invite her to parties, try to watch over her and hope to find her a suitable husband even though that is the furthest thing from her mind. She is very independent and has little fear of anything and seems to be wise beyond her years. She is a wonderful protagonist. I was engaged by her story immediately.
The author introduces us to many wonderful characters, the local Vanderbilt’s of course, Emma’s step brother Brady, her “cousin” Neily, Nanny, who has been at Gull Manor forever, Emma’s maid, Katie, Officer Jessie Whyte, and Derrick “Anderson”. I look forward to getting to know more about all of them and their stories in future installments.
What I really loved about this book is that while the story is fictional it is based on fact. A party similar to the one in book actually took place. The author used her research to craft a mystery that was interwoven into a story of a family most of us are familiar with on some level, maybe not back to 1895, but they were one of the riches families in American history.
The mystery was a good one too. Emma was not afraid to keep digging and observed many things the local authorities either missed or ignored. She was not afraid to ask the hard questions even when those questions put her own life in danger. She also found an unexpected ally.
There was so much I loved about this book. It takes us back in time to a slower lifestyle when visiting meant harnessing up the horse to the buggy and traveling down a dirt road going house to house or manor to manor.
This is definitely an author to watch. I can’t wait for Murder at Marble House (A Gilded Newport Mystery) out September 29.
Thanks to the author I have 2 copies to give away!
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”