This 2007 publication of Signet, a division of Penguin Group, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014, is a typically excellent paperback novel by a veteran historical novel writer.
|The cover of this well-read paperback shows some of the characters and hints at the opulent surroundings on Newport. Milt Gross photo.|
It tackles the wealthy residents of Newport, RI in the late 1800s with their strengths and weaknesses. The weaknesses include most of the wasteful, often-illegal but usually within the law activities of those very wealthy.
The first paragraph reads, "In the years between the Civil War and the twentieth century, America experienced astonishing change and growth. Railroads and the telegraph joined the oceans; the Atlantic cable joined the continents. Giant steam engines, printing presses, looms and Bessemer converters shifted the base of the nation's economy from farms to factories. History calls some of the legendary capitalists who made it happen "the robber barons," because the progress they created along with great personal fortunes carried a high price: laws ignored or broken; judges and legislators bribed; big city political clubs organized into engines of corruption."
Newport was their summer playground with its grand mansions, fancy and expensive carriages and decorated teams of horses, and ferry and private schooner service to New York City.
Romance between Prince, a poor commoner, and the wealthy Jenny create the tension of the tale, which includes muggins, threats, and all the frustrations imaginable to block their relationship.
Standing out in my imagination was a carriage race on the gravel roads of Newport, described in detail, and ending in a wreck. One of those scenes you don't put down until it's finished.
Much of the story is description, of the mansions, clothes, and activities of the wealthy. Typical of that action, "Prince heard a light tread on the stairs. "One thing at a time. You don't have to watch this. I guess I'd rather you didn't."
A key in the lock was immediately withdrawn. Orlow strode through the foyer to the reception parlor, not winded or perspiring, immaculate as though his day had begun only moments ago. "Curious damned business, the door open_____"
He saw Prince and the revolver, framed by the middle of the three windows.
Orlov stood his lacquered stick in a tall Japanese jar, perched his black silk hat on the gold knob. He plucked out his monocle.
"All the way from Rhode Island?"
"Yes, sir. Believe it."
Whatever tension or fear flooded up in Orlov, he was expert at hiding it. He let his monocle drop on its dark green ribbon. He jerked the neat points of his folded handkerchief from his breast pocket and wiped his lips, his forehead.
"You insignificant piece of shit. How dare you invade my home? Harass my wife? I'll deal with you, but not here."
The click of the cocking hammer arrested him in midstride. Prince held the revolver in his right hand....."
You may guess what's about to happen. To make sure you're right, read the book.
This book, priced at $9.99 inside the cover, $2 or $14.68 hardback on Amazon.com, depending on which ad you read, and $9.99 for Kindle, is well worth the price.
To travel back in history to a time of prosperity and shameful behavior of the very wealthy with great descriptions of Newport and the activity taking place, get your copy and read it.
I highly recommend it.
Much better than sleeping through all those awful TV ads.
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at email@example.com.
Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013