Dollface: A Novel of the Roaring Twenties
NAL / November 5, 2013 / $15.00 print, $7.99 digital
America in the 1920s was a country alive with the wild fun of jazz, speakeasies, and a new kind of woman—the flapper.
When Vera “Dollface” Abramowitz captures the attention of two high rollers, a handsome nightclub owner and a sexy gambler, she enters w a world filled with bootleg bourbon and money to burn. Vera thinks her biggest problem is choosing between them, until the truth comes out…
Her two lovers are really mobsters from rival gangs during Chicago’s infamous Beer Wars, a battle Al Capone refuses to lose – shattering Vera’s life and sending Chicago hurtling toward one of the most infamous days in its history, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
The most delicious aspect of jazz-age novels is that they offer the perfect setting for passion-seeking, independent heroines who get themselves into a whole lot of trouble.
Renée Rosen’s Dollface offers just that kind of complex, fascinating leading lady with Vera Abromowitz, an eighteen-year-old, newly independent young woman living with her best friend in 1924 Chicago. Vera, an only child, was raised to be a nice Jewish girl in Brighton Park. But any hope that she would have a normal life was dashed when she was four years old, the year her father’s body was found behind a saloon: “His head, hands and feet were missing. Butchered like an animal.” The murder, an act of organized crime, cast a pall of fear over her entire childhood.
But by the time she was fifteen, Vera was ready to spread her wings: “I was sick of being too afraid to live. That’s when I got busy, making up for lost time. There was a newfound freedom in acting daring and bold, taking risks and seeing what I could get away with.” At seventeen, Vera walked into a barbershop to take her first step towards the flapper look that embodied female liberation:
As I walked inside the men looked up from their newspapers, puzzled. They snickered, muttered and puffed on their cigars when I sat in the empty chair, telling the barber to cut my waist-length hair to my chin. When I got home that day, my mother said I looked like a boy and wouldn’t talk to me for the next two days.
Vera is a romantic, but her definition of happily ever after is far from the traditional life her parents tried to give her: “Getting married and settling down —if that was all a girl had to look forward to, then cash me out now. I wanted to get married and have a family someday, but I planned on having a lot more fun an excitement before that happened.” And yet that idea of fun absolutely included the idea of romance. “Where was my leading man? That’s what I wondered.”
Vera gets more than she bargained for when she finds not one leading man, but two. First is slick, charming Shep Green. Shep can open any door, pay any bill, and has a knack for making Vera feel like a princess instead of a hardscrabble girl making twenty dollars a week as a typewriter: “He was everything I’d been looking for. He was charming, successful, exciting, and charismatic. But more than that, he made me feel good about myself. No one else had ever treated me as if I mattered, as if I deserved to be pampered and looked after. “ Most importantly, he makes Vera feel secure: “I never felt safe, never felt protected, always burdened with worries and fears—both real and imagined.” It’s Shep who gives her the nickname “Dollface.” There’s just one small catch: Shep is a gangster. But Vera has a way of justifying this inconvenient detail:
I told myself not all gangsters were thugs and criminals. Some of them, like Al Capone, were practically celebrities. Some might argue that gangsters were useful people to know as long as you stayed on their good side. So what if Shep rubbed eblows with some bad sorts every now and again? He wasn’t the only one. Especially in Chicago.
And yet, when the hypothetical violence gets real very quickly one
afternoon, she tries to distance herself from Shep. Luckily, there is a another man waiting in the wings: dashing night owl Tony Liolli. Tony knows his way around a speakeasy: the first time they meet, he saves Vera from getting busted in a raid. When she distances herself from Shep, she falls into Tony’s arms:
Tony and I started kissing and we steamed up the windows good and fast. He had perfect lips, and he knew what to do with them, too. His kisses alone got me fired up. Even Shep’s kisses never traveled down my legs, making my insides quiver just like this. Just being in Tony’s arms did something to me. I felt safe and sexy and I craved him. I’d never felt that kind of desire before.
But Shep isn’t the type of man who takes no for an answer. An unending barrage of phone calls and flowers proves impossible to ignore, and despite her resolve to stay away from organized crime, she caves:
I couldn’t concentrate at my desk and instead shuffled through the cards that had arrived with each delivery: I miss you, Dollface. I need to see you, Dollface. Each one tugged a little harder at my heart. In spite of how I felt about him being a gangster, I couldn’t deny how much I missed him. And I was touched. Nobody had ever pursued me like this before. Shep Greene almost had me believing I was worth the chase.
Before she knows it, Vera is involved with both men. But soon, Vera goes from having all the choices in the world, to having fate make some very big decision for her. And the girl who craved safety finds herself living the most dangerous life imaginable.
In Vera Abrambowitz, author Renée Rosen has a created an unforgettable heroine who is both universal, and uniquely of her time period. She is a jazz-aged Marjorie Morningstar, and like her classic predecessor, Vera takes readers on a journey through love, life, and the perils of wanting it all.
Learn more or order a copy of Dollface by Renée Rosen, available November 5, 2013:
Jamie Brenner is the author of the 1920s novel The Gin Lovers (St. Martin’s Press). Her latest release, writing under the name Logan Belle, is Now or Never (A Last Chance Romance). She is the author of the erotic romances Miss Chatterley, The Librarian (Pocket Star/Simon & Schuster) and the trilogy Blue Angel (Kensington.) For more please visit www.jamiebrenner.com or follow her @jamieLbrenner.