The Gilded Age of America is one of my favorite time periods to read about. This is probably due to the fact that I grew up near NYC and also made frequent trips to the mansions in Newport, RI owned by the billionaires of that era. The amount of wealth that was thrown around in those days is truly astounding. To see the ostentatious nature of some of the landmarks of that era are mesmerizing: houses with elaborate ballrooms, private tea gardens, marble EVERYTHING, etc etc – you get the idea. When Lev Raphael approached me about reviewing Rosedale in Love, a historical fiction novel taking place in the Gilded Age, you can imagine my immediate acceptance!
The time is 1905, and America is booming. Considered the first real decade of consumerism and materialism, Americans were spending their hard-earned money in droves. At the center of this madness in New York City is Simon Rosedale, a Jewish financial wizard who has big plans to break into the elite upper-class society that controls everything there is to control in the city. However, not having any beneficial family ties, and feeling slightly outcast due to his faith, Rosedale sets his aim on marriage as his way in to this exclusive club. Enter Lily Bart, a down-on-her-luck member of this aristocratic society who has recently been fodder for the tabloids. Rosedale sees a way in via Ms. Bart. She’s hurt enough socially that she just might take the plunge with Rosedale. But would she really marry someone like Rosedale? Would this make the gossip go away, or would it intensify even further? Add into this mix Florence , Simon’s cousin who is secretly head over heels in love with Simon and you have one hell of a love triangle.
The biggest compliment I can give this novel is that Raphael’s writing style makes you feel as though you’re reading a classic literature novel. Raphael’s cast of characters are crisply written with exquisite vocabulary that made me enthralled with the world and people he had created. Not all of his characters are original creations though! If the name Lily Bart sounds familiar to you, it’s because she is the main character from Edith Wharton’s novel The House of Mirth. Rosedale in Love is a fantastic companion piece to The House of Mirth both in style and story.
As I mentioned before the characters of the novel are quite enthralling. I can guarantee that you will have strong reactions (both good and bad) to each of the characters; I spent most of the novel wanting to smack Rosedale into seeing that Florence was right in front of him, while simultaneously wanting to give Florence the courage to be more assertive in trying to win Rosedale’s heart. I emailed Lev upon completing the novel, asking him to please write a sequel because I wanted more of their story told. (I’m not sure I’ve convinced him yet, but I’ll keep trying!)
The plot of the novel fascinated me, as it gave you a view of the gilded age from the perspective of a Jewish man. You get a taste of how vain and superficial society was back then. Even though Simon was making all of these men millionaires, it was too much to have him come for dinner or even attend one of their grand balls. Their inability to accept him on the grounds of his religious background is utterly pathetic, made even more pathetic by the fact that this type of rejection still goes on today. For some people the plot might move a bit slow, but I enjoyed all of the attention paid to details both big and small. The descriptions of the clothes and buildings are perfectly done, giving the reader the feeling of being transported into the novel.
So, if you’re interested in the history of the Gilded Age, or just want to become immersed in an amazing land of power, money, and intrigue, I highly suggest diving in to Rosedale in Love. You definitely won’t leave without being supremely entertained.
5 out of 5 Stars
This is my thirty-seventh completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge