Published by CreateSpace April 2012
On June 25th, 1906, Stanford White, New York City’s leading architect and man about town was shot to death while attending a musical performance at Madison Square Garden’s rooftop theater, a building of his own design and construction. Harry K. Thaw, eccentric heir to a Pittsburgh railroad fortune, had pulled the trigger, marking the final act in a struggle between the two men over Thaw’s young wife, the model and showgirl Evelyn Nesbit. Coined the “murder of the century” by the press, the crime was reported “to the ends of the civilized globe.” BEAUTY POSSESSED is a historical fiction romance novel, based on the actual events of Evelyn Nesbit’s life, leading up to what was referred to at the time as the “Murder of the Century.”
For those who think Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are unique to this generation, the exemplars of a declining society, or worse, the purveyors of a diminished moral sensibility, think again. By her sixteenth birthday, in 1900, Evelyn Nesbit was known by millions for her underage sexuality, sparking an entirely new industry of news and gossip and signaling the beginning of America’s growing obsession with beauty, glamour, celebrity and sex.
As if that were not enough, pleas for clemency by wealthy supporters for Thaw touched off an extended debate over widespread acceptance of a double standard – one for rich Americans and another for everyone else. Sound familiar? Money, power, sex, drugs, jealousy, betrayal, murder, art and Broadway are the ingredients of this true story, as relevant today as it was in 1906.
Historical Fiction with romantic elements
Heat Rating: 2
REVIEW RATING 5 stars
REVIEWED by: Gilda
At age eight, Florence Evelyn Nesbit was the adored child of middle class parents, an angelic beauty who inspired awed glances even at such a tender age. But her father’s death cast the family into poverty. By 1893, a fragile twelve-year-old Florence and her younger brother were reduced to scavenging for coal along the tracks of Philadelphia’s busy rail yard.
The story Ben Lokey tells in BEAUTY POSSESSED is grounded in fact, woven in decadent detail as he unfolds the life of this breathtaking little beauty who is gradually “given” into the care of one of New York’s most wealthy architects Stanford White — by her loving mother. She needed a sponsor and protector, and he needed another little virgin.
As a budding actress, Florence was discovered not only by the press, but by countless suitors, drawn like moths to her flame. But they got it wrong, and transposed her name, so that by the time she was established on the stage, she was simply Evelyn. Or “Kittens”,as Stanford White called her.
“Shall I tell you how I murdered him? How I murdered the man I loved?”
This opening line by Evelyn in the book’s prologue sets the stage for an entrancing tale, woven with well-described characters whose motives and manias we are quite capable of believing. Evelyn loved her Stannie, even once she knew he’d moved on to the next innocent maid. Yet as tenderly as she felt for him, she married another man, Harry Thaw, the multi-millionaire who had already shown his dark derangement adequately enough to send her running. But this was a young woman who’d discovered that being “kept” by a man was her only way out of poverty, and she accepted Harry Thaw, whips and mad ravings and all.
Author Ben Lokey quite cleverly infuses enough detail that we are nicely drawn into each scene, and ascribes just the right dose of virtue and flaw that we can easily understand the arrogance, ignorance, and vulnerability displayed by his cast of characters. Particularly surprising insights come from the mouth of Evelyn. The first time she makes a conscious choice about her future, after letting rich men dictate her comings and goings for several years, we witness her stark realization:
“I reached down into the water, took hold of the plug and pulled it up. At first, the water just seemed to sink, leaving a residue around the inside of the tub. A dirty deed always leaves a dirty residue, even if the deed is meant to cleanse you of the dirt the world has laid upon you.”
Evelyn describes her early self as “… the baby bird finally pushed from the nest, who must henceforth fly completely on her own in a world that seemed to devour little birds.” Both insights reveal how she feels manipulated and managed, never responsible. Yet when all is said and done, her intimate understanding of the man she loved most dearly has a poignant ring. “Stan lay flat on his back, a crimson pool of blood spreading out beneath him. He would have liked the color.” He would have liked the color. What a brilliant commentary from very likely the only woman who ever truly loved the man, the only one who really knew him.
This story leaps from the page, and may well make yet another leap onto the big screen. It’s that good. Immerse yourself in the decadence of the post “Gay Nineties”. Walk the streets of New York City with showgirls and the lotharios who pursued them. Get to know Stanford White, the man who built Radio City Music Hall, Evelyn Nesbit, who went on to vaudeville and silent film fame and lived well into her eighties, and Harry Thaw, a man whose insanity changed their lives forever. Read their story, and read it now. Before it hits the big screen! Five Stars
*** At time of review the digital edition of this title is available for only $2.99 ***
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Gilda is a retired diva who now covets the time she has for reading and writing. Historical mystery/suspense by both new and familiar authors keeps her reading appetite fed yet curiously famished. Immerse her in the time and place of your story with rich detail and lush characters and she will be your fan for life.