Thursday, July 16, 2015

Spotlight on the new release A Lady of Good Family by Jeanne Mackin. A great historical fiction novel. Don't forget to enter the drawing for a $15 Gift Card for Amazon or B&N. The link is below!  

Publisher & Release Date: NAL, June 2, 2015  

Time and setting: 1895-1920, Europe & America

Genre: Historical Fiction

Length: 352 pages

Heat Level: 1 Scorching Hot Flame

Rating: 3.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description:

Raised among wealth and privilege during America’s fabled Gilded Age, a niece of famous novelist Edith Wharton and a friend to literary great Henry James, Beatrix Farrand is expected to marry, and marry well. But as a young woman traveling through Europe with her mother and aunt, she already knows that gardens are her true passion. 
How this highborn woman with unconventional views escapes the dictates of society to become the most celebrated female landscape designer in the country is the story of her unique determination to create beauty and serenity while remaining true to herself.
Beatrix’s journey begins at the age of twenty-three in the Borghese Gardens of Rome, where she meets beguiling Amerigo Massimo, an Italian gentleman of sensitivity and charm—a man unlike any she has known before....

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Vikki’s Musings

I accepted this book from the publisher via Net-Galley in exchange for an honest review. A Lady of Good Family is a glimpse of what the later days of the Gilded Age must have been like in Europe and America. A time of privilege for member of society and the beginnings of the “Nouveau Riche” told in third person narrative by a fictional character to a group of friends in Massachusetts. It is the story of a remarkable woman, Beatrix Jones Farrand, a renowned landscape artist. It covers a visit to the continent to view the famous gardens in the various countries in 1895 and ends in 1920.

While Beatrix explores Borghese Gardens of Rome, she meets Amarigo Massimo, a man different from any other gentleman of her acquaintance. She is drawn to him, but knows he is not the man for her. However, she is young and wants to fall in love, so she encourages a relationship. Will the mystic of this man prove her downfall, or will reason win out?

Beatrix is a fascinating woman who did not let the dictates of society rule her choices or her life. She chose a path very few women in her time would ever follow. She did not marry as a young woman, just to conform to the times where women were not supposed to work outside the home. While she did marry in her mid-life, she chose a man for the reason of mutual companionship and someone who would not expect her to change the way she lived her life. She is well-known for her incredible work designing Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden, the Beatrix Farrand Garden at Bellefield in Hyde Park, New York and Dumbarton Oaks, Washington D.C. to name a few.

While a fictional romantic thread runs through the story, which is very enjoyable and one that could have easily happened during this period of history, it is not the main focus of the book. This is definitely not a romance, even though it does tell of a love story. This story delves into the typical marriages of the times and many of them were not happy ones. It deals with divorce when the dissolution of a marriage created a huge scandal and was always the woman’s fault. It is no wonder Beatrix chose to avoid marriage for so long.

What I struggled with while reading this book was the lack of any explanation of some of the characters in the story. Since it is told through the eyes of Daisy Winters, I also did not become invested in the characters and at times had a hard time following along with the story. While the description of the various gardens is vivid, I did not become enraptured with them either. However, that is because I am not a gardener. I am sure anyone who loves gardening and gardens will enjoy the descriptions greatly.

While I did not find this book to my tastes, it is beautifully written and gave me a marvelous look into an age long past. Anyone who loves history and learning about an era that has not had a lot of attention will enjoy A Lady of Good Family. Happy reading!


 I will never marry, Beatrix thought. Never

She had passed through the first heady years of womanhood, the first balls, first waltzes, first dancing card and house party invitations, quickly discouraging any serious suitor. “My mother,” she had simply explained when any young man tried to call on her a little too frequently. Now that most of those young men had already wed, she felt she could easily avoid the issue permanently.

She jumped up, eager to be away from the table. “I need to walk,” she said to the others.

Still, they might never have met, the Italian and the American.

Beatrix could have walked in the opposite direction, away from the temple. She could have strolled through the rose garden or gone into the casina. But she chose the temple, that eerie replica of pagan passion.

The gardens were full of Americans; the young man who had just been soundly berated by his family lawyer disliked the sounds of their voices, so full of German consonants, not at all soft like his own Italian. The sounds of conquerors, he thought, laden with wealth and greed and taking much of his homeland back with them when they returned to New York and Boston and Chicago. That’s what the visit to his lawyer had been about: selling artworks. 

Empires rise and fall.  He lived in a land of fallen empire. Ahead of him, on the path, was an example of the fall of empire, a group of boys, begging, grimy hands snaking into folds and pockets of passing men and women. They had surrounded a young woman and were practicing their street skills on her.  He saw her face, the terror behind the forced calmness of a tight smile.  He changed direction and headed toward her.

Still, they might never have met. He could have waved from a distance, yelled a threat, driven the boys off with words.  But he kept walking toward her.

Author Bio:

Jeanne Mackin ‘s latest novel, A Lady of Good Family, explores the secret life of gilded age  Beatrix Jones Farrand, niece of Edith Wharton and the first woman professional landscape design in America. Her previous novel,  The Beautiful American, based on the life of model turned war correspondent and photographer, Lee Miller won the CNY 2015 prize for fiction. She has published in American Letters and Commentary and SNReview and other publications and is the author of the Cornell Book of Herbs and Edible Flowers.  She was the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society and her journalism has won awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.  She lives with her husband, Steve Poleskie,  in Ithaca.
A Lady of Good Family is available at Barnes and Nobles, Amazon, and other bookstores.




  1. The author is having issues commenting and asked us to share the following:

    Thanks for hosting! I know gardening isn't everyone's passion. In fact, I sometimes recommend people don't take it up! It can become a true obsession. Landscapes and flowers, though, can be such a lovely way to reflect a state of mind, the condition of the heart. Thanks for your kind words about the writing.

    1. You're welcome. I wish you the best of luck with your book.

  2. I enjoyed learning more about you and your book~I like gardening, too! Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. Replies
    1. You're welcome. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I'm a gardener so this might be more interesting to me than to some others. I probably would enjoy this book...I enjoy strong women.

    1. I highly recommend reading this book since you enjoy gardening. Ms. Mackin's descriptions of the various gardens in the book are wonderful.