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In her fun very readable Windy City Blues (Berkley 2017; $16), Chicago author Renee Rosen again takes another slice of the city’s history and turns it into a compelling read.
Rosen, who plumbs Chicago’s history to write such books as Dollface, her novel about flappers and gangers like Al Capone, and What the Lady Wants which recounts the affair between department store magnate Marshall Field and his socialite neighbor, says she and her publisher were racking their brains for her next book which encompassed Chicago history.
“She suggested the blues,” says Rosen, who didn’t have much interest in the subject.
But Rosen was game and started her typical uber-intensive research.
“When I discovered the Chess brothers, who founded Chess Records, I fell in love,” she says, noting that when researching she was surprised about how much she didn’t know about the subject despite her immersion in Chicago history for her previous books. “I thought this is a story.”
“As part of my research, I drove the Blues Highway from New Orleans to Chicago,” she says. “I also met with Willie Dixon’s grandson and with Chess family members.”
Combining fact and fiction, Rosen’s story follows heroine Leeba Groski, who struggling to fit in, has always found consolation in music. When her neighbor Leonard Chess offers her a job at his new Chicago Blues label, she sees this as an opportunity to finally fit in. Leeba starts by answering phones and filing but it soon becomes much more than that as she discovers her own talents as a song writer and also begins not only to fall in love with the music industry but also with Red Dupree, a black blues guitarist.
Windy City Blues was recently selected for Chicago’s One Book project, a program designed to engage diverse groups of Chicagoans around common themes. Rosen says she is very honored to be a recipient.
“I put my heart and soul into this book,” she says. “I think it’s a story with an important message. In it are lessons of the Civil Rights movement, what it was like for Jews and people of color along with the history of the blues and the role of Jews in bringing the blues to the world. After all, as the saying goes: Blacks + Jews = Blues.”
A beautiful Hollywood star; a handsome rich prince. It should have been perfect. But, of course, it wasn’t.
The surprising–and unprecedented–news that Harry and Meghan have withdrawn from the Royal Family last month stunned the globe and spurred conversations about individual pursuits versus familial and sovereign duty. It makes one wonder what if Grace Kelly had been able to break away from royal life and pursue her own dreams once she became disillusioned with her life as a Princess? The comparison is apt. Both Meghan Markle and Grace Kelly, two American actresses who made headlines when they married international Princes and gave up their careers and financial independence to serve their royal subjects.
That’s why the timing could not be more perfect for the release of THE GIRL IN WHITE GLOVES (Berkley 2020) by Kerri Maher). The novel is a vivid reimagining of the exhilarating and sensationalized life of Princess Grace of Monaco from the acclaimed best selling author of The Kennedy Debutante. Maher takes us into the inner life of an almost mythical female historical figure. Luminescent with golden hair and blue eyes, Golden Globe- and Oscar-winning actress, Princess—and fiction’s newest “it-girl”—Grace Kelly. was the favorite of many directors including Alfred Hitchcock. She was also the epitome of class.
The picture of perfection on paper, in the history books and from the public’s perspective, Grace Kelly’s life appeared as pure fantasy. A spectacular beauty from a prominent Philadelphia family, her dreams of becoming an accomplished actress came true and she was a star in many mediums—stage, television, and film.
But Kelly gave it all up when she assumed the role of a real life princess after marrying Prince Ranier of Monaco in a magnificent wedding ceremony. Becoming a Princess may be every young girl’s fantasy., but neither fame nor royalty (as Meghan Markle might have discovered) is as charming as it seems, and Kerri Maher takes a closer look at the woman behind the headlines in THE GIRL IN WHITE GLOVES. This compelling novel provides insight into this real-life Cinderella story: the good, the bad, and the not-so-happily-ever-after.
As for Grace, she knew what people saw. She was the Cinderella story. An icon of glamor and elegance frozen in dazzling Technicolor. The picture of perfection. The girl in white gloves.
But behind the lens, beyond the panoramic views of glistening Mediterranean azure, she knows the truth. The sacrifices it takes for an unappreciated girl from Philadelphia to defy her family and become the reigning queen of the screen. The heartbreaking reasons she trades Hollywood for a crown. The loneliness of being a princess in a fairy tale kingdom that is all too real.
Hardest of all for her adoring fans and loyal subjects to comprehend, is the harsh reality that to be the most envied woman in the world does not mean she is the happiest. Starved for affection and purpose, facing a labyrinth of romantic and social expectations with more twists and turns than Monaco’s infamous winding roads, Grace must find her own way to fulfillment. But what she risks—her art, her family, her marriage—she may never get back.
Kerri Maher is the author of The Kennedy Debutante, which People magazine described as “a riveting reimagining of a true tale of forbidden love,” and This Is Not a Writing Manual: Notes for the Young Writer in the Real World under the name Kerri Majors. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and founded YARN, an award-winning literary journal of short-form YA writing. A writing professor for many years, she now writes full time and lives with her daughter and dog in a leafy suburb west of Boston, Massachusetts.
Praise for THE GIRL IN WHITE GLOVES
“The stunning and very human story of a beloved icon…. Full of nuance and poignancy—this novel is gorgeous.”— Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Queen’s Fortune
“[A] fascinating, deeply researched novel of the extraordinary Grace Kelly … establishes Maher as a true force in biographical fiction.”—Beatriz Williams, New York Times bestselling author of The Golden Hour
Class Mom meets Small Admissions in MINOR DRAMAS & OTHER CATASTROPHES, a wryly-observed debut about the privileged bubble that is Liston Heights High–the micro-managing parents, the overworked teachers, and the students caught in the middle–and the fallout for each of them when that bubble finally bursts.
A former teacher, Kathleen West keeps us amused and amazed in her book about the social stratas on an upper middle class high school where some parents (think Lori Loughlin) will stop at very little to make sure their children achieve what they see as success.
Isobel Johnson can’t stand helicopter parents like Julia Abbott, a stage mom whose world revolves around interfering in her children’s lives. Julia resents teachers like Isobel, who effortlessly bond with students, including Julia’s own teenagers, who’ve been pulling away from her more each year.
Isobel has spent her career in Liston Heights side-stepping the community’s high-powered families. But when she receives a threatening voicemail accusing her of Anti-Americanism and a “blatant liberal agenda,” she realizes she’s squarely in the fray. Rather than cowering, Isobel doubles down on her social-justice ideals, teaching queer theory in AP American Lit. Meanwhile, Julia, obsessed with the casting of the winter musical, inadvertently shoves the female lead after sneaking onto the school campus. The damning video goes viral and has far-reaching consequences for Julia and her entire family.
With nothing to unite them beyond the sting of humiliation from public meltdowns, Isobel and Julia will find common ground where they least expect it, confronting a secret Facebook gossip site and a pack of rabid parents in a suburb where appearance is everything.
Perfect for readers who loved the novels of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger, Laurie Gelman’s Class Mom and Amy Poeppell’s Small Admissions.
A teacher for twenty years in the Minneapolis school system, West brings her experience to a novel set in a small, privileged suburban high school that explores all sides of the teacher/parent equation: the good, the bad, and the truly outrageous. MINOR DRAMAS & OTHER CATASTROPHES is a wryly-observed story about two women: Isobel, a beloved teacher whose “unconventional” teaching methods and in-classroom politics ruffles some parents’ feathers and puts her job in serious jeopardy; and Julia, a helicopter parent who becomes the subject of a viral video when she has an altercation with a student on school grounds. MINOR DRAMAS & OTHER CATASTROPHES combines heartfelt humor with thoughtful insights into the modern challenges facing students, parents, and teachers.
Tuesday, February 11, 2020
Lake Forest Book Store
Talk & Signing
662 N Western Ave.
Lake Forest, IL 60045-1951