on July 11th 2017
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
Tenley Roth’s first book was a literary and commercial success. Now that her second book is due, she’s locked in fear. Can she repeat her earlier success or is she a fraud who merely found a bit of luck?
With pressure mounting from her publisher, Tenley is weighted with writer’s block. But when her estranged mother calls asking Tenley to help her through chemotherapy, she packs up for Florida where she meets handsome furniture designer Jonas Sullivan and discovers the story her heart’s been missing.
Born during the Gilded Age, Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of the old money Knickerbockers. Yet her life is not her own. Under the strict control of her mother, her every move is decided ahead of time, even whom she’ll marry. But Birdie has dreams of her own. She wants to tell stories, write novels, make an impact on the world. When she discovers her mother has literally destroyed her dreams, she must choose between submission and security or forging a brand new way all on her own.
Tenley and Birdie are from two very different worlds. Yet when Tenley discovers Birdie’s manuscript, their lives intersect. Birdie’s words help Tenley find a way home. Tenley brings Birdie’s writing to the world.
Can two women separated by time help fulfill each other’s destiny?
~~Reviewed by Monique~~
THE WRITING DESK is a fabulous book which revolves around the lives of two women authors from New York City: Birdie, at the start of the twentieth century, and Tenley, today.
Tenley Roth, of the illustrious Roth literary family, had a hit with her first book, which was based on her personal experiences, but she doesn’t that for her second book. However, Tenley has the writer’s block from hell: three months before her deadline, and she has still not written one word. She fears she owes her success to her last name. Her best friend suggests a change of scenery, and instead of following her fiancé to Paris, Ten opts to take care of her mother, Blanche, with whom she has had almost no contact in twenty years: Blanche has cancer and asked Tenley to help her. Ten is plagued by doubts of all sorts, and she wonders if she is a fraud, she doesn’t know what she wants to do when she grows up, and she’s nearing thirty. THE WRITING DESK is in her mother’s home in Florida, and Ten hopes that the desk will give her the inspiration that has deserted her.
Birdie Shehorn knows exactly what she wants: be a writer, and marry whom she wants, but in 1902, it’s not that easy. She doesn’t care if her mother’s aspirations for her are to become the next Mrs. Astor. But Birdie’s mother is adamant: Birdie must marry the man most likely to help her reach the higher echelons of New York’s high society, and love doesn’t come into the equation. Unfortunately for her, Birdie loves the impoverished Elijah Percy, Earl of Montague, but he must marry someone else to save his family from financial ruin. Birdie doesn’t even remotely like the man her mother has chosen for her, and Elijah is dashing, charming, a man of honour, everything Alphonse Van Cliff is not.
Tenley and Birdie aspire to the same career, but their outlooks vary as greatly as their circumstances. Both women face societal pressure, and their mothers are important players in their lives. I appreciated the care with which Ms. Hauck delineated the various characters’ personalities, and made them so compelling to watch, and grow.
Rachel Hauck has a rare talent: the stories are one century apart, and it is remarkable how Ms. Hauck tailors the writing style and the dialogues to each, so the tone feels entirely authentic in both. What is even more striking is that the flow between the eras is seamless. The author also knows just when to stop and pick up with the other story; it kept me interesting, and wanting more, but I was never disappointed when the narrative shifted to the other protagonist. It was fascinating to look at the various hurdles faced by authors, whether personal or with the publishing process. I liked how Ms. Hauck chose to progressively reveal clues and connections between the stories; I felt it heightened the suspense, and the author discloses only so much as to pique my curiosity and make me even more eager to read the rest. And towards the end, the tension became almost unbearable as there was an exceptionally bold plot twist, the sort where you know what would happen in real life, but will never, ever happen in a book. And I was utterly and completely shocked! The ending is spectacular: everything was neatly wrapped up in the way I hoped, and Ms. Hauck didn’t take the easy way out. THE WRITING DESK is simply smashing!
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book.