Brains and Beauty
by Jeanette Watts
GENRE: Historic Fiction
Regina Waring seems to have it all. A loving husband, a successful business, and the most expensive wardrobe in town. But nothing is what it appears to be. Her husband is critical and demanding, the business teeters on ruin, even the opulent wardrobe is a clever illusion.
Regina’s life is one long tiptoe through a minefield; one wrong step and her entire life is going to blow up and destroy her. Attempting to hold it all together, she appeases the husband, dresses the part, and never, never says what she is really thinking. That would get in the way of getting things done. And, if there’s one thing Regina did really well, it was getting things done.
Enter Thomas Baldwin. Young and handsome and completely off limits, Regina is smitten at first sight. Then, to her great astonishment, he slowly becomes her best friend. He’s the one person in her life who never lets her down. Torn between her fascination with him and her desire not to ruin a marvelous friendship, she tries to enjoy each moment with him as it comes.
If only that were enough.
Regina pounded the pavement from bank to bank, begging, taking out loans, laying awake night after night trying to figure out how she was going to keep everything afloat. As Tom had said, times were hard, businesses were failing daily.
Regina’s businesses would not have been among the ones in danger – if only Henry had seen fit to give her the benefit of the doubt. But eight years of marriage and one successful business arrangement after another meant less to him than the chemistry of male bonding.
As with every crisis she had faced thus far in her life, Regina gritted her teeth, and looked for the lesson to be learned. This time, she concluded that no one really listens to what you have to say. Telling people not to do something is pointless. They will do what they want. The people you trust most will let you down. Her parents had. Her husband had.
When Lucy returned from the ladies’ cloakroom, Regina excused herself and went in. After she’d deposited her cloak and retrieved her fan, she stared blankly at her reflection in the long mirror.
Her youngest sister Abigail was the cleverest seamstress in the States. Having a good dressmaker was a special sort of secret weapon. The more prosperous she looked, the less anyone would suspect how desperately close to ruin the Waring empire was.
She forced herself to smile and lifted her chin a little. “Attitude is everything, my girl,” she told herself. “Go in like a queen, not a pauper. Men will do favors for queens much more eagerly than they will for beggar girls. Abi can make you look like a queen; your job is to act the part.”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Jeanette Watts only lived in Pittsburgh for four years, but in her heart, she will always be a Pittsburgher. She missed the city so much after her move to Ohio, she had to write a love story about it.
She has written television commercials, marketing newspapers, stage melodramas, four screenplays, three novels, and a textbook on waltzing. When she isn’t writing, she teaches social ballroom dances, refinishes various parts of her house, and sews historical costumes and dance costumes for her Cancan troupe.
Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Brains-Beauty-Jeanette-Watts-ebook/dp/B017NEZ0P0/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1449863350&sr=8-4&keywords=brains+and+beauty
The most interesting things she learned while researching her book
Some of my favorite research, and the most interesting history I delved into, got left “on the cutting room floor!”
In my original draft of Brains and Beauty, when Regina’s best friend dies in childbirth, she embarks on a mission to bring information about birth control to the women of Johnstown. It turns out there was a fair amount of information on the subject. A book by Charles Knowlton called The Fruits of Philosophy; or The Private Companion of Young Married People was published in 1832. It was republished in England by Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant in 1876. They were tried in court for obscenity in 1877; of course the ensuing scandal made the book popularly in demand.
Getting your hands on the book was tricky, however, because the Comstock Laws, enacted in 1873, made it a crime to use the post office to send “obscene materials” through the mail. That included erotica, sex toys, contraceptives, or abortifacients – or any information pertaining to any of the above. A medical textbook containing a chapter about the female reproductive system was considered obscene. In Washington DC, it was a misdemeanor to sell, give away, or possess an “obscene” publication. Half the states in the union had similar laws, some including the possession of obscene materials like contraceptives, as well as information.
All these laws were in response to the Voluntary Motherhood movement. Yes, it means pretty much what it sounds like. The idea was motherhood could be voluntary, not involuntary. Women wanted to space out their children, to have 6 or 8 children instead of 10 or 12. Women wanted to survive to see their children grow up, instead of dying in childbirth.
The rhetoric on both sides is all too familiar today. Instead of Anthony Comstock, we have the “Center for Medical Progress.” It’s Planned Parenthood these days, instead of voluntary motherhood. They didn’t call it the war on women in those days – they called it “a woman’s sphere.” Women were supposed to stay at home with the children and leave the outside world to their menfolk.
It breaks my heart – all of it is so obviously relevant to us today. BUT – who is going to buy a 638 page book from a currently unknown author? My first book, Wealth and Privilege, was 400 pages, and agents all told me it was too long. Having a 638 page sequel is just too long. So I had to start cutting. There are still hints of my heroine’s activism, but just hints. Sadly, there just wasn’t room for her disastrous tea party in Johnstown where my heroine tried to get the matrons of Johnstown society to help her, or her meeting with Samuel J. Tilden (reformist governor of New York, the man who got elected president in 1877, but didn’t end up president, because of some shady dealings in Florida…) to lobby for the repeal of the Comstock Laws.
Next time, I’ll pay more attention to the word count while I’m happily typing away.