Book Review – What the Lady Wants by Renee Rosen
November 15, 2015
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 can’t 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 coterie—including Potter Palmer and George Pullman—usher 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 Chicago’s World’s Fair of 1893.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I think Renee Rosen is an outstanding author. I was so excited when I learned of the release of her newest book What the Lady Wants, and this book did not disappoint! Rosen uses her extensive research to create a vibrant backdrop and characters, but it is her writing that creates an engrossing story that you cannot put down!
From the first sentence, you are drawn into the fascinating history of Chicago – not because of the history itself necessarily, but rather the story of Delia and Marshall and how their relationship progresses amidst rapid changes in the city of Chicago during that time. The character development is flawless, and by the end of the novel, you feel as if you have grown up alongside these people your whole life, even the secondary characters. I love that Rosen chose to tell the story from Delia’s perspective, creating a strong, smart female lead during a time when women weren’t considered powerful.
The language Rosen uses to evoke such a strong sense of setting and character make this book special. By page 19, it was already apparent that Delia was a remarkable woman of great strength with this quote: “She knew she couldn’t afford to crumble and something deep inside her solidified. It was as if she could feel her inner core expanding with a force she didn’t know she had.” I love that sense of finding strength during times of struggle when you’re not sure you can survive.
I could share so many amazing quotes that add to the book, but I don’t want to spoil it for you, because this is one you definitely want to read! Not only will you connect with the characters, but you will learn a great deal about Chicago history along the way. Other than a couple of typos in the book, I cannot detail one negative for you. This book is truly a gem!
Have you had the chance to read Rosen’s newest book or any of her others? Which book of hers is your favorite and why?