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Two girls, Pearl and Ginevra, grow up in the singular moment known as the Gilded Age in Newport, Rhode Island--one lives above the stairs, the other below. These two young women must decide who they want to be in this world, and survive what it takes to get there...even if it includes murder.
Surrounded by Astors and Vanderbilts, Pearl fills her days with teatime and shallow friendships, yearning for something more. A chance meeting with Mary Cassatt sparks in her a secret desire to be an artist, a "new" woman. Meanwhile Ginevra, fresh off the boat from Italy, finds her own dreams out of reach as she joins the unwelcoming household as a servant and seamstress.
Kindred souls, the girls become fast friends but must keep their friendship hidden from Pearl's controlling and social-climbing mother. Each summer, they meet in a hidden spot beneath the weeping beeches to talk of art and life, their struggles to break the barriers of their lives, and to draw inspiration from the writings of Lucy Stone.
But before long, the realities of adulthood begin closing in on them. Accepting a "suitable" marriage proposal, Pearl tries her best to fit into her new role, while Ginevra begins to harbor feelings of jealousy and resentment. The two young women must decide who they want to be in this world, and survive what it takes to get there...even if it includes murder.
Going behind the façade of this glittering era, Gilded Summers is a gripping, richly detailed story of friendship, prejudice, and life-altering choices. The novel will appeal to fans of Downton Abbey and The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood.
Gilded Summers, beautifully written by Donna Russo, perfectly captures the dichotomy and similarity of women in the Guilded Age in Newport, Rhode Island. Pearl and Ginevra, seemingly so distant in terms of their upbringing, social status and life circumstance, discover that they both yearn for a life determined by their own passions, not the confines of their birthright. The unlikely, yet heartwarming bond between servant and debutant shatters the notion that social status defines or limits deep friendship. Theirs is a story of defiance, determination, passion and self truth. WIth the glorious coastal location set amid spectacular and lavish "summer cottages", the author's gift of stunning description captures the essence of beautiful Newport. Those familiar with the area will deeply appreciate the historical information of Newport woven into the pages. In this era of celebrating and recognizing strength in women, Gilded Summers, and author Russo, remind us that this strength, though overshadowed in years past, has been a driving force throughout the ages.