Her Mother’s Secret
Leonora (Leo) East has been running her father’s pharmacy business in Sutton Veny when World War I finally ends. In her spare time, she experiments in making women’s cosmetics even though she is well aware most people think it is shocking for ordinary women to wear lipstick and mascara; that they are “only for actresses and ladies of the night”. But as the world moves into a new era, Leo is determined to prove that younger women will demand the right to use such beauty products and eventually they will be acceptable.
When the Spanish Flu sweeps through the town with tragic consequences, Leo decides to take up a friend’s suggestion and follow her dream in New York. While en route, she meets handsome store-owner, Everett Forsyth, who steals her heart, although circumstances will conspire to drive them apart, and both are forced to make compromises.
The novel is at its best where we follow Leo’s challenges in developing her business and marketing her products with the help of famous individuals such as the Morgan sisters, but the layers of subterfuge behind the “secret” are too far-fetched to be believed. Plus there are similarity/stereotype problems with four of the other main characters: two charismatic and wealthy men, both with positive personalities who are pitted against a couple of spoiled and nasty, manipulative women who are difficult to tell apart. The later chapters featuring Everett’s ballerina daughter Alice also have some credibility issues.
After enjoying the author’s earlier title set in the same era, A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald, this novel was a disappointment for me personally, although it is sure to still find favour with others who enjoy lush and extravagant romances set against the glamour of the Roaring Twenties.