Cover Crush: The Social Graces by Renee Rosen

The Social GracesPaperback, 400 pages
Expected publication: April 20th 2021 by Berkley

The Cover: I love the background image, colors and the ladys’ hats! This cover definitely gives you the glamorous upper crust feel to it.

The Story: You know how I said above, “This cover definitely gives you the glamorous upper crust feel to it?” While we go see the gilded age as glamorous and such, more times than not, it wasn’t.  Not to put a damper on things here. Let’s get back to the story.

I’ve said this many times before that I love stories taken place during the Gilded Age and Especially New York!

I’m highly interested in this story on several scores and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this book! -Stephanie Hopkins

About the Book:

The author of Park Avenue Summer throws back the curtain on one of the most remarkable feuds in history: Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Astor’s notorious battle for control of New York society during the Gilded Age.

In the glittering world of Manhattan’s upper crust, where wives turn a blind eye to husbands’ infidelities, and women have few rights and even less independence, society is everything. The more celebrated the hostess, the more powerful the woman. And none is more powerful than Caroline Astor—the Mrs. Astor.

But times are changing.

Alva Vanderbilt has recently married into one of America’s richest families. But what good is money when society refuses to acknowledge you? Alva, who knows what it is to have nothing, will do whatever it takes to have everything.

Sweeping three decades and based on true events, this is a gripping novel about two fascinating, complicated women going head to head, behaving badly, and discovering what’s truly at stake.

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The Secrets of J.P. Morgan’s Private Library

By Nancy Bilyeau

On March 27, 1902, leading architect Charles McKim had an appointment to see John Pierpont Morgan in Manhattan. Any time J.P. Morgan beckoned, people came running. He was the most powerful banker in America, the financier of railroads and the U.S. Steel purchase. That day McKim was astounded—and excited—to learn that Morgan wanted him to design a new building but not an office or bank. It was to be a private library to hold the banker’s overflowing collection of rare books, ancient treasures, sculptures, and paintings.

The library was planned for next door to Morgan’s house on Madison Avenue and 36th Street, McKim learned. As for its design, this was to be no simple collection of rooms to house books and other valuables. In his voracious collecting of valuables, Morgan seems to have seen himself as a Medici prince. So his library reflected that: McKim was hired to design an Italian Renaissance wonder built with Italianate marble, its rotunda boasting ceiling frescoes painted by Harry Siddons Mowbray that were fit for a cathedral.

1. Pierpont Morgan's StudyMorgan had so much to house there. He collected Old Masters paintings and sculptures, tapestries, Regency furniture, bronzes, jewelry, armor, metalwork, illuminated manuscripts, Gutenberg bibles, ancient Babylonian cylinder seals, and medieval metalwork with gold.

And then there were the books. He bought Charles Dickens’ original manuscript of A Christmas Carol, with the author’s revision notes in the margin. Morgan owned the sole surviving manuscript of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Henry David Thoreau’s journals, Thomas Jefferson’s letters to his daughter Martha, and rare letters to Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte.

One of his most cherished acquisitions was the Lindau Gospels. Its importance was suggested by the designation it held: M1.  The gospels were written by monks in the 9th century and the jeweled covers were considered the finest treasures of the Carolingian age. The way Morgan acquired it was significant. His scholarly nephew, Junius Spencer Morgan, sent a telegram in code to him in July 1899 saying that the Lindau Gospels, in the possession of the Earl of Ashburnham, could be purchased, and the British Museum could not meet the asking price. “Morgan could: he paid 10,000—nearly $50,000—for something that would be valued at millions if it came on the market a century later,” wrote Jean Strouse in Morgan: American Financier.

6-Pierpont-Morgans-LibraryJunius Spencer was also the person who told the banker about a prospective librarian: a young brilliant woman named Belle da Costa Greene, who was then working at the Princeton University library. Once she came to work for Morgan at his library in 1906, she took charge and not only cataloged his acquisitions but helped him pursue new purchases.

Morgan loved his private library so much that he spent most of his time there instead of the bank office at 23 Wall Street. He worked out of his study, also known as the West Room. As Herbert Satterlee, Morgan’s son-in-law and first biographer, later recalled, “No one could really know Mr. Morgan at all unless he had seen him in the West Room. This was because the room expressed his conception of beauty and color in varied and wonderful forms.” The study had an antique wooden ceiling, stained glass windows, and red damask silk covering the walls.

Much of Morgan’s collection of books was stored in the main library room. The walls, reaching to a height of thirty feet, were lined floor to ceiling with triple tiers of bookcases fashioned of bronze and inlaid Circassian walnut. Above were ceiling frescoes, many of them showing astrological figures. Morgan was a member of the mysterious Zodiac Club in New York, which never had more or less than twelve members. Morgan is believed to have met with astrologers as well as psychics.

Another remarkable feature of the main room was two secret winding staircases that allowed people to move between the levels of bookshelves and balconies. Two staircases, concealed behind bookcases at the corners of the room, could only be revealed by pulling a certain lever.

And this was but one of the secrets contained in J.P. Morgan’s sumptuous, magical private library…

Article written by Author and Editor Nancy Bilyeau

********

Nancy BNancy Bilyeau is the author of the historical thrillers “The Blue” and “Dreamland” and the Tudor mystery series “The Crown,” “The Chalice,” and “The Tapestry.” She is a magazine editor who has lived in the United States and Canada.

In “The Blue,” Nancy drew on her own heritage as a Huguenot. She is a direct descendant of Pierre Billiou, a French Huguenot who immigrated to what was then New Amsterdam (later New York City) in 1661. Nancy’s ancestor, Isaac, was born on the boat crossing the Atlantic, the St. Jean de Baptiste. Pierre’s stone house still stands and is the third oldest house in New York State.

Nancy, who studied History at the University of Michigan, has worked on the staffs of “InStyle,” “Good Housekeeping,” and “Rolling Stone.” She is currently the deputy editor of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the Research Foundation of CUNY and a regular contributor to “Town & Country” and “Mystery Scene Magazine.”

Nancy’s mind is always in past centuries but she currently lives with her husband and two children in New York City.

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The Ghost of Madison Avenue 4 F3From the author of The Blue and the Joanna Stafford trilogy—a compelling mystery set in the faded glory of New York’s Gilded Age.

In this unforgettable story, bestselling author Nancy Bilyeau takes readers to J. P. Morgan’s private library in December 1912, when two very different people haunted by lost love come together in an unexpected way.

Helen O’Neill, part of a tight-knit Irish-American family in the Bronx, is only too happy to report to work at the spectacular private library built on Madison Avenue by millionaire financier J. P. Morgan. The head librarian, the brilliant and beautiful Belle da Costa Greene, had hired Helen away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art after she witnessed Helen’s unusual talent with handling artifacts.

Helen soon discovers the Morgan Library is a place like no other, with its secret staircases, magical manuscripts, and mysterious murals. But that’s nothing compared to a person Helen alone sees: a young woman standing on Madison Avenue, looking as if she were keeping watch. In learning the woman’s true link to the Morgan, Helen must face the pain of her own past. She finds herself with a second chance at happiness—if she has the courage.

From the author of The Blue, the Joanna Stafford trilogy, and the soon-to-be published Dreamland, set in 1911 Coney Island, comes The Ghost of Madison Avenue, a story both thrilling and moving.

Praise for Nancy Bilyeau’s Fiction

“Nancy Bilyeau’s passion for history infuses her books”
—Alison Weir, bestselling historian and novelist

On The Ghost of Madison Avenue:

“The Gilded Age splendors of the Morgan Library come to life in this wonderful, warm-hearted tale of Christmases past, present, and future. Bilyeau weaves a wealth of gorgeous period detail into her ghost story of old New York, delivering genuine chills, family drama, and poignant romance with equal skill. A gorgeous holiday treat!”
—Mariah Fredericks, author of Death of a New American

On Dreamland:

“This fast-paced, engrossing novel from Bilyeau … gives readers an up-close and personal view of New York’s Gilded Age”
Library Journal, starred review

“Beautifully written and impeccably researched, Dreamland is a rollicking ride.”
—Fiona Davis, author of The Chelsea Girls

“A marvelous book!”
—Ellen Marie Wiseman, author of What She Left Behind

On The Blue:

“Definitely a winner!”
—Kate Quinn, author of The Alice Network

“Fascinating”
—Ian Rankin, international bestseller

On the Joanna Stafford Trilogy:

“All the ingredients of the best historical fiction … will satisfy even the most ardent mystery fans.”
—Deborah Harkness, author of A Discovery of Witches

“Bilyeau deftly weaves extensive historical detail throughout, but the real draw of this suspenseful novel is its juicy blend of lust, murder, conspiracy and betrayal.”
Oprah Magazine

Saturday Sunday: Book Collage & Lost Love

Book Art Nancys book

Author Nancy Bilyeau sent me a galley copy of her novella, The Ghost of Madison Avenue and the cover inspired me to create a mix media digital collage for the cover. I started reading the story Thursday night and I was so engrossed in the story, I read late into the night. What a perfect time to read this hauntingly good story.

My background choice for the collage comes from my own picture of a denim rag rug I sewed this week. The textures are digital stars and I felt they added a mysterious feel to the cover. Be sure to get your copy of this fabulous story on Amazon! My review coming soon! -Stephanie Hopkins

A Christmas Novella in Old New York

In this compelling and poignant story, bestselling author Nancy Bilyeau takes readers to New York City’s Morgan Library in December 1912, when two very different people haunted by lost love come together in an unexpected way.

Helen O’Neill, part of a tight-knit Irish-American family in the Bronx, is only too happy to report to work at the spectacular private library built on Madison Avenue by millionaire financier J. P. Morgan. The head librarian, the brilliant and beautiful Belle da Costa Greene, had hired Helen away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art after she witnessed Helen’s unusual talent with handling artifacts.

About Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau is the author of the historical thrillers “The Blue” and “Dreamland” and the Tudor mystery series “The Crown,” “The Chalice,” and “The Tapestry.” She is a magazine editor who has lived in the United States and Canada.

In “The Blue,” Nancy drew on her own heritage as a Huguenot. She is a direct descendant of Pierre Billiou, a French Huguenot who immigrated to what was then New Amsterdam (later New York City) in 1661. Nancy’s ancestor, Isaac, was born on the boat crossing the Atlantic, the St. Jean de Baptiste. Pierre’s stone house still stands and is the third oldest house in New York State.

Nancy, who studied History at the University of Michigan, has worked on the staffs of “InStyle,” “Good Housekeeping,” and “Rolling Stone.” She is currently the deputy editor of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the Research Foundation of CUNY and a regular contributor to “Town & Country” and “Mystery Scene Magazine.”

Nancy’s mind is always in past centuries but she currently lives with her husband and two children in New York City.

Book Review: Golden Hill by Francis Spufford

Golden HillGolden Hill

A Novel of Old New York

by Francis Spufford

Scribner

General Fiction (Adult)

New York, a small town on the tip of Manhattan island, 1746. One rainy evening in November, a handsome young stranger fresh off the boat arrives at a counting house door on Golden Hill Street: this is Mr. Smith, amiable, charming, yet strangely determined to keep suspicion shimmering. For in his pocket, he has what seems to be an order for a thousand pounds, a huge sum, and he won’t explain why, or where he comes from, or what he is planning to do in the colonies that requires so much money. Should the New York merchants trust him? Should they risk their credit and refuse to pay? Should they befriend him, seduce him, arrest him; maybe even kill him?

My thoughts:

I was thrilled when I picked up this book to read and review. It seemed to have everything I have been looking for in a story. Male protagonist, an early New York setting, intrigue, and a mystery of a man no one knows and everyone is talking about him. When people meet him he is intelligent and speaks eloquently but gives very little of himself away. Meanwhile, as he waits for his “thousand pounds” to be legitimized-if you will-he meets many interesting people and gets himself into some trouble.

The major points in the story for me was the beautiful prose, brilliantly drawn characters and time and place of the story. However, I will have to say as I got further into the book the prose was getting to be too much and it seemed to take away from the plot and my eyes started to gaze over somewhat.  To me there are too many unnecessary prose in the book that did not enhance the story-line however “literary” people might find Golden Hill.

Overall the plot needed to have more substance and to be fleshed out more. Having said all this, I am rating this book three stars and five stars for the cover.

I obtained a review copy of Golden Hill through NetGalley from the publishers for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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