Jody here! Today I have the privilege of hosting fun and delightful author, Jen Turano! She has a new release this summer, In Good Company. I asked her to give us some of the inspiration behind her book which RT says is “Infused with humor, a healthy dose of romance and even a little mystery.”
Please join me today in welcoming Jen Turano! (And be sure to check out TWO awesome giveaways at the bottom of this post!)
Society, Snobbery, Newport, and…Miss Millie Longfellow…Oh My!
By Jen Turano
Because I write during the Gilded Age (think post-Civil War until the beginning of World War I,) I normally set my books directly in New York City because that is where the truly socially inclined preferred to reside.
However, with In Good Company, I just couldn’t resist moving all of the characters to Newport, Rhode Island for the summer because . . . it quickly became the place to summer right after Mrs. Caroline Astor, or The Mrs. Astor as she preferred to be addressed, bought a quaint little “cottage” there in 1881 and named it Beechwood.
When I first ran across a mention of Beechwood while doing research for another book, I willingly admit the whole “cottage” notion intrigued me. Try as I might, I simply could not see the far too proper Mrs. Astor fanning her face on a summer day while sitting on the front porch of a rustic dwelling.
Imagine my surprise when I purchased a book on Newport, flipped it open, and discovered that Mrs. Astor’s idea of a cottage and mine were at complete odds with each other. Beechwood is a mansion, replete with ocean views, manicured yards, and staffed with an army of domestics, as are all of the other “cottages” that march along Bellevue Avenue – the avenue of choice if you’re in the know.
Further research revealed that while it was incredibly difficult to gain entrance into any of the New York City society events, getting invited to so much as a picnic in Newport if you weren’t from respectable, which means old, money was downright impossible.
The nouveau rich would arrive in Newport for the season, rent or buy one of the mansions there, and would then twiddle their thumbs all summer long, hoping that someone, anyone, would invite them to come out and play. A few of these naïve creatures would even go so far as to plan balls, send out invitations, hire on extra staff and fancy chefs, and then . . . stand at the door to greet guests who never arrived.
Newport, I realized, was a place I had to set a book, and what better character to send to this land of snobbery and excess than Miss Millie Longfellow – a nanny with an unfortunate propensity of getting dismissed from her positions far too frequently, and . . . a young lady who’d grown up in an orphanage far away from wealth and society rules.
Letting Millie experience The Reading Room, where there was no reading done and women weren’t allowed, to The Newport Casino, where she was invited to play a rousing game of lawn tennis, to Bailey’s Beach, where…no, never mind about that beach. Millie was not invited to dip so much as a single toe in the most exclusive beach in Newport.
However, toe dipping was permitted for a common girl at Easton’s Beach. But, instead of taking her there, I allowed her to make use of a private beach, owned by a delightful society lady by the name of Mrs. Abigail Hart – a society lady who just happens to have matchmaking on her mind at all times of the day and night.
When Abigail produces an old-fashioned bathing machine – inspired by a few old pictures I found in yet another research book, I then had the perfect setting to create a bit of a romantic scene, one that placed Miss Millie Longfellow in close quarters with Mr. Everett Mulberry – one of society’s most eligible bachelors, and a gentleman who just happens to be Millie’s employer.
There were so many other places in Newport that I longed to have Millie visit, but since my editor would have been slightly dismayed if I’d handed her a book with four-hundred pages, I had to content myself with being happy with the spots I was able to highlight, knowing that Newport will definitely be a setting I return to in the future.
Thank you, Jen, for the fascinating glimpse into the lives of the wealthy during their summer season at Newport. My how bathing suits (especially for women!) have changed over time! I can’t help but wonder what those people would think if they visited Baily Beach (or any beach) today!
As promised Jen is doing TWO giveaways:
1. To win a copy of In Good Company, fill out the Rafflecopter entry below.
2. To enter Jen’s “In Good Company Giveaway” where you can win a $150 gift card and lots of other prizes, click HERE for the entry form.
To enter the “In Good Company Giveaway” go HERE!