Beatrice Goodwin left Manhattan a duchess and has returned a divorcée, ready to seize control of her fate and the family business. Goodwin’s Department Store, once the pinnacle of fashion, has fallen from favor thanks to Dalton’s, its glamorous competitor across the street. But this rivalry has a distinctly personal edge…
For Wes Dalton, Beatrice has always been the one—the one who broke his young heart by marrying a duke, and now, the one whose cherished store he plans to buy, just so he can destroy it. It’s the perfect revenge against a family who believed he’d never be good enough for their daughter—until Beatrice’s return complicates everything…
While Goodwin’s and Dalton’s duel to be the finest store in Gilded Age Manhattan, Beatrice and Wes succumb to a desire that has only deepened with time. Adversaries by day, lovers by night, both will soon have to decide which is sweeter: winning the battle or thoroughly losing their hearts…
Maya: Thank you for the wonderful review and for inviting me to chat! Like the other books in my Gilded Age Girls Club series, An Heiress To Remember is inspired by the amazing historical women I discovered in my research. They were women who were bold and who pushed the boundaries while also supporting each other. It’s also inspired by my love of shopping 😉
Dabney: I loved that your protagonists were older and experienced. What’s the most fun part about writing heroes and heroines who’ve already been around the block a few times?
Maya: While Beatrice Goodwin is not old by today’s standards, she is older for a heroine in a historical romance—she’s 36! Wes is also a similar age. It was so fun to write Beatrice experienced some of the Terrible Fates young romance heroines are warned of. As a result, she’s fearless in her words and actions.
I think this level of experience that “older” characters have adds tremendously to their romance: They know firsthand how love isn’t always easy, they’ve experienced heartache and while they’ve experienced the downsides, they’re still willing to risk getting hurt (again!) and opening their hearts to love. I would love to read and write more characters like these!
Dabney: But, for me, the very best part of the story was the dueling department stores. You must have done eons of research on Gilded Age retail. Tell me some of the most interesting things you learned.
Maya: The dueling department stores was so. much. fun. And this was the golden age of department stores—forget about strip malls and shopping malls we know today. These were massive, multi-story buildings the size of a city block. They were palaces of innovation—fixed prices, beautiful displays, off the rack clothing. They also included experiences and services like art galleries, post offices, places for ladies to lunch, and CHILD CARE!
But the single most interesting thing I learned is that the department store was tremendously empowering to women. First, it provided a safe and respectable place for women to go outside of their homes. At the time, there weren’t public places a woman could safely go to socialize with other women. After all—her place was in the home. In appealing to women as customers, it gave them purchasing power. It also provided respectable employment to women, which gave them an opportunity for independence. It’s layers of empowerment.
Second, the neighborhood in NYC where these department stores were located was known as the “Ladies Mile” and it was the first area where it was okay for a respectable, middle-class woman to be seen on the street without a chaperone. Once they were out, once people became accustomed to women traveling alone, they could push the boundaries of where a woman could go. Literally.
Of course, a lot of this applies only to middle and upper class white women. Servants were always allowed to run errands. But when all women were allowed to travel freely and unchaperoned on the streets it helped lessen class distinctions and increase mobility for all women.
Here are some links for further research:
Dabney: You and I have spoken in the past about how romance novels and, by extension, women’s issues lack respect. In AHtR, you used shopping to elucidate the lives of the women of the time. Why did you make that choice?
Maya: As I mention in my author’s note, one of the things I had fun with in this series was taking “girl stuff” that didn’t get a lot of respect and finding the meaning and power in it. So, dresses with pockets or lipstick or shopping. I start with something I’m curious about and then do some research and after my initial research on shopping, women’s empowerment (see above) and department stores I was fascinated and knew it would be a fun and interesting world to set a romance.
I think a lot of these things we dismiss (and don’t respect) are because we don’t know their full history or really consider their full implications. See above about shopping, for example. We can laugh and make jokes about silly women loving to shop but that behavior and stores that catered to it radically transformed the world and is the engine of capitalism. So maybe it’s worth taking a second look at, and taking seriously
These are things that also give many women pleasure (I know, some women hate shopping, many of us don’t wear lipstick, etc) and I think it’s important to validate things that give us joy and pleasure. Whether it’s a romance novel or a lipstick or trip to the mall.
Dabney: In your epilogue, you write about whether or not your leads do or don’t have children. Why?
Maya: Semi-spoiler alert: While Wes and Beatrice absolutely get their HEA, I don’t clarify if they have children or not. I have often felt an unspoken pressure to add a million babies to my HEAs and epilogues—especially in historical romance, I think we want to see that the heroine lived through childbirth.
But I know from experience that trying to conceive can be a heartbreaking struggle for many people and that sometimes that pleasant escape of a romance can be tinged by that baby-filled HEA that seems so out of reach. I also know a few happily and unapologetically childfree people. So this particular HEA is for them.
Dabney: I’ve always thought of you as one of romance’s biggest feminist champions. I see Beatrice and her friends as wildly feminist. Readers often complain that “modern” values don’t belong in historical romance but I felt that all your characters’ choices rang true for the world they live in. Can you talk a little about that?
Maya: We could totally debate whether modern values belong in historical romance; it’s a very interesting conversation to have. But in this particular instance, the “modern” values in my Gilded Age Girls Club series are absolutely accurate to the historical time period of the novels.
Many of the characters in this series—especially the women—are based on the real lives of real historical people. Not just the framework of their lives, but the experiences and motivations. In the course of my research, I have seen how regularly and loudly 19th century women called for equal pay and equal rights, including the right to have custody over their own children, own their own property after marriage, or the vote. They called out double standards between men and women—why could men be alone on the streets without ruining their reputation and not women, for example? Many recognized that marriage as constructed was a bad deal for women—it made them legally dead in the eyes of the law. Many women activists spoke up about these injustices and worked tirelessly to change them.
One could argue that I go into my research with a distinctly modern feminist lens or agenda and that I am looking for facts and examples that confirm my point of view. There would be truth to this. But this is what we all do when we approach the study of history. This is what people do when they write history. And when they judge history. The task of us researching is to be aware of the lens we’re looking through. There are lots of truths and there was probably no simpler time.
Dabney: Is this the last of this series? If so, what’s next?
Maya: An Heiress To Remember is the last in my Gilded Age Girls Club series but I’m currently at work on some more historical fiction. Can’t wait to share more about it soon!
AAR has a paperback copy of this book we’ll send to one lucky (in the US) reader. Make a comment below to be entered into this drawing!