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What the Lady Wants (2014)

por Renée Rosen

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15214181,875 (3.84)2
Fiction. Literature. Romance. Historical Fiction. HTML:In late-nineteenth-century Chicago, visionary retail tycoon Marshall Field made his fortune wooing women customers with his famous motto: Give the lady what she wants. His legendary charm also won the heart of socialite Delia Spencer and led to an infamous love affair.
 
The night of the Great Fire, as seventeen-year-old Delia watches the flames rise and consume what was the pioneer town of Chicago, she cant imagine how much her life, her city, and her whole world are about to change. Nor can she guess that the agent of that change will not simply be the fire, but more so the man she meets that night...
Leading the way in rebuilding after the fire, Marshall Field reopens his well-known dry goods store and transforms it into something the world has never seen before: a glamorous palace of a department store. He and his powerhouse coterieincluding Potter Palmer and George Pullmanusher in the age of robber barons, the American royalty of their generation.
But behind the opulence, their private lives are riddled with scandal and heartbreak. Delia and Marshall first turn to each other out of loneliness, but as their love deepens, they will stand together despite disgrace and ostracism, through an age of devastation and opportunity, when an adolescent Chicago is transformed into the gleaming White City of the Chicagos Worlds Fair of 1893.
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Mostrando 1-5 de 14 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Enjoyable and informative
  Carrieida | May 23, 2021 |
Scandal. It seems human beings have always been fascinated by scandal, especially when it happens to famous or wealthy people. And there were fewer scandals at the time in Chicago as big as the decades long extra-marital affair between department store owner Marshall Field and wealthy socialite Delia Spencer Caton. Renee Rosen takes this affair and weaves a romantic and tragic story around it in her novel, What the Lady Wants.

When the novel opens, 17 year old Delia (Dell) Spencer, daughter of a wealthy dry goods purveyor, is attending a ball celebrating the opening of Palmer House in Chicago just as the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 starts. It is here that the young woman will first meet Marshall Field, her father's rival, a married man twenty years her senior, with whom she becomes completely intrigued and he equally intrigued by her. Despite the devastation of the fire, which wipes out rich and poor alike, Field rebuilds his store, turning it into the famed department store that bore his name. And while he rebuilt his store into something grander and visionary, his personal life and marriage continued to be unhappy. Dell meanwhile is reacquainted with Arthur Caton, eventually marrying the wealthy young man only to quickly realize that their marriage was not destined to be happy for reasons beyond her control. But she plays at the frivolous and unfulfilling life of a rich woman as expected by society even as she continues to be conscious of and attracted by Marsh. Eventually their mutual attraction cannot be stopped, the two of them embarking on an affair that causes their respective spouses to react quite differently and sets Chicago society on its ear.

This is very much a love story between Dell and Marsh and much less of the story of his founding of Marshall Field's department store. With the narrative centered on Dell, the reader sees all of the action from her perspective so there's more insight into her marriage and her deep love and obsession for Marsh, her appreciation for his genius, and the impact their affair had on her life as a society matron than there is on his feelings about any of it. The time period is very thoroughly evoked; in fact, early on there's a bit of an info dump feeling to the narrative. Certainly major historical events happened in Dell's lifetime, the Great Fire, the Haymarket Incident, and the Chicago World's Fair and each of these drove the narrative to greater or lesser degrees but some of the information given on these events still sits awkwardly in the story. The novel is both historical and biographical fiction and while it is definitely engaging, keeping the reader turning the pages, it is also a bit uncomfortable to know that Rosen created stories for Arthur and Nannie that reflects badly on them given that they were real human beings about whom not that much is known purely for narrative tension. These invented stories certainly make Dell and Marsh's long love affair more forgivable and understandable than it might be otherwise. Dell's position, in spite of her charity work, very much highlights the essential uselessness of women in the eyes of high society, especially a woman who did not have children, and this position, and the repeated tragedies and nastiness that Dell suffers despite her incredibly privileged life, will evoke sympathy for her. Her hero worship of Marsh, though, gets rather old and one-note. Marsh himself stays far more enigmatic than Dell here. This novel's reader would do well to remember this is fiction but it can also be pure, fun escapism. ( )
  whitreidtan | Mar 4, 2021 |
Having grown up in Illinois for the early part of my life - traveling to Chicago and shopping at the Marshall Field Store was special for me. I read this book over 2 days time. I found it to be a good and fun read. But then it had meaning for me. I have stayed at the Palmer house several times over the past 4 years and must say I loved my stay there each time. The Palmers and Marshall Field were part of the Chicago elite. Give the book a try - if you find you don't like it - then stop reading it. ( )
  JanicsEblen | Jul 7, 2018 |
Definitely a 4.5 read and a favorite for sure! I'm a sucker for department store stories and Marshall Field & Co is about as storied as they come so I was pretty excited to read this one. Delia and Marshall had a more than 30 year affair and it wasn't until both their original spouses had expired that Delia became "Mrs. Field". The story of a long romance between the young woman and the man many years her senior reminded me of A Triple Knot by Emma Campion (I read it last year). There was a lot that took place over the span of the story and I won't spoil it but I do think Arthur Caton and Nannie Field are two of the more interesting characters featured. I admit to not being a bit sorry when Nannie's storyline concluded & considering she was the first Mrs. Field and had a legitimate claim to post a grievance about, that took some doing. Arthur's story was just heart-breaking and poignant. I did tire a bit of Delia's shaking & apprehensiveness over being shunned by the socialite circuit. This spanned years and I felt that as she was carrying on her affair as pretty much public knowledge she shouldn't have expected any other, she shouldn't have cared nor should she have craved those two-faced bitter chicks phony attention for a minute. Still, this was a very good and long look at some very interesting characters and there are also great descriptions of the Chicago fire, beautiful homes and the various iterations of Marshall Field's stores over time. If you're a fan, Selfridge even features into the story here and I enjoyed that as well.

I'd definitely recommend this one to historical fiction fans, department store story fans and just anyone looking for a good weekend read. ( )
1 vote anissaannalise | Feb 28, 2018 |
I need to find something to cleanse my literary palate. This book was dreadful, and if I weren't reading it for my book club, I'd never have finished it.

The writing is stiff and pedestrian, lots of stilted dialogue and mental musings. But the content is even worse.

This is an historical novel based on the affair between Marshall Field and Delia Spencer Caton. In writing historical novels, one doesn't, of course, expect the same sort of accuracy as in biography or history. One does expect honesty about the major aspects of the characters' lives, and that the author will not invent things that are contradicted by what is known about the characters. Rosen, however, just makes stuff up because she feels like it.

To move the plot along, she sticks Delia on the Board of Lady Managers for the 1893 Columbian Exposition (she wasn't), and compresses the 10 months between Arthur's death and Delia's marriage to Field down to one month (for no apparent reason).

Those, however, are minor distortions compared to other inventions.

On no evidence whatsoever, she has made Delia's husband a) a closeted homosexual, b) who is in love with Field, c) but nevertheless acquiesces in Field and Delia's affair (which, according to her, they carried on in Caton's home). Also on no evidence, she turns Field's wife into a laudanum addict who violently attacks Delia, causing her to have miscarriage. She then consigns Nannie Field to an insane asylum (does the same for Arthur Caton - must be her way of getting people out of the way).

This book is just vile.
  lilithcat | Apr 17, 2017 |
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Fiction. Literature. Romance. Historical Fiction. HTML:In late-nineteenth-century Chicago, visionary retail tycoon Marshall Field made his fortune wooing women customers with his famous motto: Give the lady what she wants. His legendary charm also won the heart of socialite Delia Spencer and led to an infamous love affair.
 
The night of the Great Fire, as seventeen-year-old Delia watches the flames rise and consume what was the pioneer town of Chicago, she cant imagine how much her life, her city, and her whole world are about to change. Nor can she guess that the agent of that change will not simply be the fire, but more so the man she meets that night...
Leading the way in rebuilding after the fire, Marshall Field reopens his well-known dry goods store and transforms it into something the world has never seen before: a glamorous palace of a department store. He and his powerhouse coterieincluding Potter Palmer and George Pullmanusher in the age of robber barons, the American royalty of their generation.
But behind the opulence, their private lives are riddled with scandal and heartbreak. Delia and Marshall first turn to each other out of loneliness, but as their love deepens, they will stand together despite disgrace and ostracism, through an age of devastation and opportunity, when an adolescent Chicago is transformed into the gleaming White City of the Chicagos Worlds Fair of 1893.

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