At first, the story she was going to tell was that of Beatrice Chanler, a success London actress with a troubled marriage who received the Legion of Honor for her philanthropic service during World War. But then Dray discovered a packet of love letters that were not between Chanler and her husband and she knew she would have to start all over.
Ultimately, Dray would write the stories of two more women whose connection through the centuries was the French country chateau of the Marquis de La Fayette, one of the heroes of the American Revolution. And each time, she would set that book aside as more details emerged.
“Chateau is set in three time periods–during the French Revolution, World War One, and World War Two,” says Dray whose previous books include “My Dear Hamilton,”
In each period, there was an extraordinary woman who rose to the occasion. The first was Adrienne Lafayette, the wife of the Marquis de Lafayette. More than a spouse, she was her husband’s political partner and, like him, faced the danger of the guillotine during the French Revolution. The third woman is Marthe Simone, a teacher and writer, who at first wanted to avoid any activities that could put her at risk from the Nazis during World War II but then becomes an active participant in helping hide Jewish children at the chateau.
“She, like the other two women, deserved to have her own book,” says Dray. “But then I saw the importance of telling all their stories in one novel. I was a government major in college and then I went to law school, but I was really only a lawyer for ten minutes. But I’ve always been interested in government as people, this story is about the rise of the republic and the continued survival of the public.”
Writing about the Chateau Lafayette became so much a part of Dray’s every day living that when she saw the castle for the first time she was so nervous she had to have her husband hold the camera.
“All the video I took is very shaky,” she says.
Indeed, she becomes so immersed in her stories that when she was writing “America’s First Daughter,” she found herself speaking with a southern accent. That passion is evident in one of the take-aways she hopes readers get from reading The Women of Chateau Lafayette.
“The Franco-American alliance saved this country three times over,” says Dray. “This book is relevant to those in powdered wigs and those today.”
Virtual event with Stephanie Dray.
When: April 3 at noon
What: Barbara’s Bookstore with Stephanie Dray in virtual conversation with Lauren Margolin “The Good Book Fairy” blogger.
To Register: https://barbarasbookstores.com/event/stephanie-dray/
FYI: The event is free. All registrants receive 10% off book purchase with code ‘EVENT’