The Gin Lovers, volumes 1-6
St. Martin's Press / Oct. 8-Nov. 5, 2012 / $1.99 digital (each volume)*
Set against the turbulent and glamorous backdrop of Prohibition and the rise of the jazz age, The Gin Lovers is a sensual and romantic story of how one high society woman’s passion and courage lead her to love.
It’s 1925, and the Victorian era with its confining morals is all but dead. Unfortunately, for New York socialite Charlotte Delacorte, the scandalous flapper revolution is little more than a headline in the tabloids. Living with her rigid and controlling husband William, her Fifth Avenue townhouse is a gilded cage. But when William’s rebellious younger sister, the beautiful and brash Mae, comes to live with them after the death of their mother, Charlotte finds entrée to a world beyond her wildest dreams – and a handsome and mysterious stranger whom she imagines is as confident in the bedroom as he is behind the bar of his forbidden speakeasy.
Prior to me, the women in my family did not read romance novels. I was not able to pilfer hot-blooded, angst-filled Harlequin Presents or smoldering Kathleen Woodiwiss novels from my mother’s nightstand. Romance novels were not forbidden in our household; I just didn’t have anyone to introduce them to me until high school. No, in my house growing up, it was all about soap operas. Summer vacation meant being able to watch The Young And The Restless and not having to read the recaps in the local newspaper. 9:00PM Friday nights meant Dallas, and at 10:00PM you had Falcon Crest (believe it or not, kids, there was a time in America when women thought Lorenzo Lamas was hot).
I’ve seen a lot of chatter online recently about this new publishing fad towards serial novels—novels released in a certain number of installments on a weekly basis. Looking at my unscientific sampling of this chatter, everybody hates the idea. Well, except for me. I bloody well love it. Why? Because I am an unrepentant sucker for a soap opera. Give me the drama, the angst, the over-the-top goodness and I’ll forgive just about anything short of genocide. And that’s what good serials are: soap operas.
Jamie Brenner’s six-part serial, The Gin Lovers, has the added benefit of taking place in early 1920s New York City. I adore this time period in American history. It’s the first time we had an honest-to-goodness, media-fueled, youth culture. Young people in the marketing driver’s seat, thanks to the automobile, Prohibition, timeless fashion labels like Chanel, and one of the few true-blue American art forms, jazz music. Without the 1920s flapper culture you have no Flower Power, no Studio 54, no Madonna, no Britney Spears, no Rhianna. It’s also an exceedingly interesting time in terms of women’s history, which Brenner exploits to excellent effect.
Charlotte Delacorte is a woman who married a man who was everything her mother wanted for her. While her father frittered away their family’s fortune, William Delacorte is old money, blue-blood New York. He’s perfect; that is until cracks start forming in their marriage. With the death of her barracuda mother-in-law, it is expected that Charlotte will pick up the mantle of Victorian society. Yet all around her, including in the form of her own sister-in-law Mae, women are living the high life, have more independence than ever, and are shaking off the shackles of a repressed Victorian ideal that their mothers crammed down their throats. Charlotte soon finds herself in Mae’s orbit, meets a sexy speak-easy jazz-loving man, discovers her husband is keeping a number of secrets from her, all while trying to find a way to break free, to escape, to live the life she wants to live.
The author fleshes out her story by adding an array of interesting secondary characters. Besides Mae being an utterly scandalous flapper, she’s also a lesbian in love with an ambitious cocktail waitress. There’s the flamboyant former madam turned speak-easy owner, Boom-Boom, along with the dour, proper Amelia Astor, whose sole purpose in life seems to be taking Charlotte down several notches. There’s also an Irish butler who I am more than ready to run away with, except for the small matter that he’s a fictional character and therefore not real.
Minor detail that.
This serial isn’t a romance so much as it is a good, old-fashioned, potboiler. Yes, there is sex, but I’m hard pressed to even consider this genre fiction even using the broadest definition. No, it truly is a soap opera, just on paper and not being projected on any sort of screen. It won’t be for everybody, but this reader —the one who would call home from college to talk to Mom about what happened on Y&R, who sat on the living room floor and gasped when J.R. Ewing called his wife a slut, who literally set her watch every Monday night to watch Melrose Place—it was just as addicting.
*The Gin Lovers e-serial release schedule:
- Volumes 1-2: October 8, 2012 ($1.99)
- Volume 3: October 15, 2012 ($1.99)
- Volume 4: October 22, 2012 ($1.99)
- Volume 5: October 29, 2012 ($1.99)
- Volume 6: November 5, 2012 ($1.99)
- The Gin Lovers print edition: February 12, 2013 ($14.99)
Check out the covers for all 6 volumes!
Wendy the Super Librarian also blogs at WendyTheSuperLibrarian.blogspot.com. So dig that library card out of your pocket and head for the stacks.