What the Lady Wants

Written by Renee Rosen
Review by Tamela McCann

Delia Spencer Caton is a woman with a unique lifestyle from the late 1880s on: Married to one man, she carries on a fairly public affair with another for approximately thirty years. Not only is this unheard of for the times, it’s an anathema in her high society Chicago circle, especially when the man in question is Marshall Field (yes, that Marshall Field). Beginning with the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, we follow Delia as she marries Arthur Caton, a wealthy heir for whom she feels great affection but not really romantic love. When she meets Marsh Field, a man twenty years her senior, Delia is drawn to him in ways she could not have imagined, though both are married. Risking everything, Delia embarks on a path of passion that ostracizes her from society; yet she remains loyal to Arthur and continues to love him as well. Through tragedy and triumph, Delia remains committed to the two men, forming her own definition of family.

While this is a work of fiction, the story of Delia Caton is based on fact, though the author admits to filling in the blanks with her imagination when there is no record to be found. Delia’s an anomaly in her social set, but her dedication to her family and friends remains constant throughout her life. I was captivated by the telling of Delia’s tale; it was as though the author gets inside Delia’s head and gives plausibility to her thoughts and actions. Rosen’s fictional take on this fascinating woman is engaging and thought-provoking, and I can definitely recommend it for its attention to detail and the larger than life characters who actually lived.