An intriguing, memorable debut, this historical novel offers numerous puzzles, startling revelations, and a rich cast of characters. Cohen depicts the social and theatrical hierarchy of Gilded Age New York with remarkable accuracy.
Mario Alfieri, the world’s most acclaimed opera tenor, settles in the city well in advance of his highly anticipated season with the Metropolitan Opera. Unexpectedly, the townhouse he intends to purchase comes with an occupant: Clara Adler, a lovely, mentally distraught, invalid Jewess. Instantly smitten, he is determined to rescue and cherish the delicate, clinging young creature, and succeeds–only to suffer a startling setback on their wedding night. The sheltered Clara, equally adoring, strives to be worthy of her position, yet is haunted by her spouse’s well-deserved reputation for philandering.
Scurrying in the background, desperate to destroy the newlyweds, is the lustful, amoral Thaddeus Chadwick. The attorney knows the secrets behind the mysterious death of Clara’s millionaire guardian, who left her penniless, and knows the damning facts about her relationship with a murdered relative, and will stop at nothing to bring her down.
Cohen’s protagonists–the vital, sensual, self-aware Alfieri, and his increasingly scandalous bride–respond to their individual and joint crises in surprising and interesting ways. Her superior and skillful prose, coupled with effective use of detail, raises this tale far above mere melodrama.