Mark Twain’s last decade roars with intrigue and yearning as Lynn Cullen brings our attention to his complicated relationship with Isabel Lyon, his personal secretary who has been long overlooked. A great read for fans of Z and The Paris Wife. Cullen illuminates the darker, outermost corners of Samuel Clemens’s later years, the caged lives of his daughters, his dying wife, and a woman ‘Mark Twain’ was never meant to love.
Is it true that Edgar Allan Poe cheated on his tubercular, insipid young wife with a lady poet he’d met at a literary salon? Cullen makes you hope so. The man who wrote of “the bells, bells, bells” deserved a little euphony. This tale is told from the point of view of his likely lover, Frances Osgood, and Cullen makes her warm and sympathetic. When Frances first meets Poe, she and her two daughters are living in New York at the home of Eliza and John Russell Bartlett (the lexicographer who compiled the Dictionary of Americanisms) while her philandering husband is off gallivanting with his wealthy conquests. Poe extols Mrs. Osgood’s poetry in public, and after their own gallivanting begins, they publish love poems to each other in The Broadway Journal — pseudonymously, but nobody is fooled. Succumbing to Poe’s pursuit, Frances frets over his notoriety and her reputation: “I had never been so cherished, so valued, so worshiped by a man.” But is her lover a “guilt-ridden man-beast, capable of murder,” as his foes and his fiction suggest, or is he the “respectful, loving mate” of her soul?
…escorts you into the glittering world of New York City in the 1840s, when poets were celebrities and the admission of emotions–like silk gowns and glossy beaver hats–were a luxury…A bewitching, vivid trip into the heyday of American literary society.
Nevermore shall you wonder what it might have been like to fall deeply in love with Edgar Allen Poe … Mrs. Poe nails the period.
A page-turning tale … Readers who loved Paula McLains The Paris Wife will relish another novel based on historical scandal and romance.
A sympathetic and ironic rendering of a literary genius.
A compelling tale of ill-fated love . . . rich with period detail and suspense.
Part romance, part mystery, part biography, this fictional reenactment of the mistress of Edgar Allan Poe escorts you into the glittering world of New York in the 1840s, when poets were celebrities and the admission of emotions—like silk gowns and glossy beaver hats—were a luxury. When we meet Frances Osgood, her husband has abandoned her. Day to day she tries to peddle her poetry to various editors, while struggling to keep up social pretenses and raise her two daughters. A chance meeting with Poe at a literary salon draws her into a not-so-healthy relationship with both him and his much younger, very ill wife—the latter of whom recognizes Frances as a credible threat to her marriage and tries to combat it with friendship. Enter a pompous, untalented editor name Griswold who sets his sights on Frances, and what you’ve got is a tale that boils down to the most universal yet riveting themes: affection and obligations versus the most profound kind of love, a meeting of the minds. Will things work out? Not to spoil the plot, but consider “The Raven.” The dark, ominous bird knocks at the door and the poet mutters, “On the morrow will he leave me, as my hopes have flown before.” A bewitching, vivid trip into the heyday of American literary society.
Cullen’s (The Creation of Eve; Reign of Madness) latest novel is a fictitious, yet historically based tale of a dark and delicious romance doomed from its start. Edgar Allan Poe, his wife, and his lover come to life among a cast of eccentric and notable figures from the mid-1800s American literary scene. Dark and brooding, Poe is a rising star in New York after the publication of his poem “The Raven.” He forms a connection with struggling writer Frances Osgood, and they fall into an illicit love affair. Their love is passionate and true, but a cloud hangs over the couple as they dodge not only gossip but also the moral implications of their actions. Meanwhile, Mrs. Poe, a seemingly sweet young woman dying from consumption, is possibly masking a vengeance more dangerous than anyone can fathom. VERDICT Cullen has crafted a beautifully heartbreaking story filled with emotional twists and turns. Yes, it’s dark, but so was Poe, and readers can expect a page-turning tale exposing the transgressions, antics, and heroics behind a literary icon. Literary fiction fans and readers who loved Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife will relish another novel based on historical scandal and romance.
The Raven, The Tell-Tale Heart—these scary pieces by Edgar Allan Poe stirred the emotions of the literary ladies of his time. But in 1845, Poe stirred up gossip, too, with his attention to Frances Sargent Osgood, a poet deserted by her philandering husband. Poe’s deathly ill, 23-year-old wife (his first cousin, whom he married when she was 13) seems to be suspicious. Taking advantage of letters and published poems, imaginative historical novelist Cullen (Reign of Madness, 2011) cleverly spins a mysterious, dark tale told by Mrs. Osgood about the long-ago intrigue, with just enough facts to make it believable. Celebrities like Louisa May Alcott, Walt Whitman, and John Jacob Astor make cameo appearances. Others-the creator of graham crackers, the author of Bartlett’s Quotations, Horace Greeley-also step in for a fun romp through history. As the story unfolds, we’re left to wonder if Mrs. Poe is Edgar’s Mr. Hyde, or is Poe himself the villain? It’s enough to make the teacups rattle.