Love on a Dime

Published June 12, 2011 by myliteraryleanings

Love on a Dime by Cara Lynn James

Overview (from http://www.bn.com):

In age of elegance and excess, Lilly Westbrook longs for a love both true and eternal.

Newport, Rhode Island, 1899, is a place of shimmering waves, sleek yachts, and ladies of leisure. Of opulent mansions that serve as summer cottages for the rich and famous. Home of railroad magnates and banking tycoons–dashing young men and the women who aspire to marry them.

But it’s not the place for lady novelists. Especially not those who pen disreputable dime novels. This poses a problem for Lilly Westbrook, because that’s exactly what she does.

No one in Lilly’s social set knows she pens fiction under the nom de plume Fannie Cole. Not her family or the wealthy young man about to propose to her. And especially not Jackson Grail, the long-lost beau who just bought her publishing company…and who stirs her heart more than she cares to admit.

But Lilly must put aside her feelings and follow the path that will maintain her family’s social stature and provide the financial security that everyone is depending on.

Now Lilly faces a double dilemma. Can she continue to protect her secret identity? And will she have the courage to choose the man who will risk it all just to win her heart?

My Review:

As you may have guessed, I selected this book mostly because it was one of Barnes and Noble’s Free Friday offerings.  Hey, I am on a budget here and my appetite for good fiction is insatiable.  Although most of the book takes place in the year of 1899, as advertised, the book begins with a prologue from 1893.  I know, I know there’s not much difference but I just want to make sure that everyone is aware of it.

Unlike some of the other books from previous Free Fridays, the concept of this one intrigued me write away.  My first thought was, “I’ve heard of dime novels before but I can’t remember what they are.  Maybe I should look it up.”  And I resolved to do just that but I never did- at least not until after I had already read the book.

I liked this book so much that I also decided that I want to read one of these novels someday.  I want to know how they read and what they are like.  They intrigue me.  In my view, this is the mark of a good historical fiction novel that it makes you want to know more of the time period that it covers.  I had never heard of a novel written about this subject before- dime novel writers- and as an unpublished novel writer- the idea fascinates me.

Anyway, I digress, back to the book.  The book opens with Lilly Westbrook preparing the love of her life, Jackson (Jack) Grail, to ask her father for her hand in marriage.   Although Jack has no doubts about wanting to marry Lilly, he worries that her parents will find him unsuitable for her.  It turns out that his fears are not unfounded.  While waiting to speak to Lilly’s father, he overhears a conversation about that very subject between Mr. and Mrs. Westbrook.

“Mr. Westbrook sighed.  ‘No, my dear.  You’re absolutely.  He’s not suitable, though I do like him.

“’I do as well.  And now he’s as finely educated as our own George.  But he would have to strike it rich quickly in order to court Lilly,’ Mrs. Westbrook added.  ‘And that’s highly unlikely.’”

Feeling like a fool for even imagining that Lilly’s parents would ever consent to their marriage, he flees the house, never bothering to ask for her hand, and in spite of Lilly’s protests that she can work on her father’s heart.

In 1899, we reencounter Lilly, just as she is about to reencounter Jack- in a seaside Rhode Island town where her family often spends their summer holiday amongst the upper echelons of society.

We discover that:

  1. She is being courted by Harlan Santerre despite her current status as an old maid
  2. Her world is rocked by Jack’s return and the idea that she might still have feelings for him and…
  3. She has a secret life as a dime novelist, via the pen name Fannie Cole, which would ruin her family’s reputation if it anyone uncovered it.

As the story continues, Lilly must deal with the resurfacing of her feelings for Jack- feelings which she thought she had buried, as well as gambling debts and martial problems that her brother George puts her in the middle of, and being blackmailed by the author of “Talk of the Town,” a local gossip rag that threatens to out her as the infamous Fannie Cole.

Though she tries to banish them, her feelings for Jack intensify.   And as the new owner of the company that publishes Fanny Cole’s dime novels, Jack begins to suspect that Lilly is Fanny Cole puts pressure on her to go public to save the company and help him turn a profit.  This makes Lilly suspicious of his intentions and renewed interest in her.

Perhaps she should give up her ambitions and marry Harlan Santerre.  It would solve most of her family’s problems.  Harlan has offered George a good job at his firm and her family is thrilled at the thought of having him as son-in-law.  Or she could continue to write her novels and hope that Jack’s offers to help are genuine and not merely served by his self-interest.  This is her dilemma and the story of Love on a Dime.

As a postscript I am listing some websites for those who want more information on dime novels.  I read a lot of interesting facts here.  They are:

http://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/dp/pennies/home.html

http://www.ulib.niu.edu/badndp/chap1.html

http://www.bookrags.com/history/dime-novels-sjpc-01/

Enjoy.

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