The Harlot’s Pen
Claudia H. Long
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Release Date: Feb 1 2014
San Francisco in the roaring 20s-- After World War I, San Francisco is a wild town. Abandoned by her lover, Violetta is swept up in the new, freer ways and becomes America's first "embedded journalist." She joins a brothel that caters to San Francisco's most powerful men in order to write her epic story on the conditions of working women. But federal agents looking to clamp down on both vice and workers' rights don't take kindly to her modern views. Shorter dresses, fair pay for women, and the dark and frightening worlds of sex and politics teach Violetta the lessons of a lifetime.
A Table for Two
Guest Post by Claudia H. Long
Which character from your novel would you want to have dinner with? Why?
A table for two, a darkened room, jazz wafting through the air. Swirling golden whiskey in a short glass, I raise a toast to Spanish Kitty, the madam of the finest brothels in all of San Francisco and Sonoma. The year is 1920, and our bootleg whiskey is the finest that the speakeasy can provide, special reserves for only its most discerning customers. And Spanish Kitty is certainly that.
Her black hair—discreetly touched up with a little dye from Doc's pharmacy, but that's their little secret—is done in an elegant twist that ropes around and is fastened with a red rose. Her dress isn't of the latest fashion, those waist-less dresses are not for her voluptuous figure. No, she is wearing a white lace blouse that scoops low across her bounteous cleavage, and a tight black skirt that shows every curve.
I, on the other hand, am indulging in the latest mode, suitable as it is for my slender build. It's a daring knee-length, drop-waisted, pleated ecru silk number, with silver trim at the square neck and hem. It's sleeveless and in the warm El Verano evening I'm enjoying the breeze, tinged with cigar smoke, that comes in from the open back door.
The waiter brings us rare chops and she cuts into her meat with gusto. I lean back a little, watching her as she savors the juices. "I'm a sybarite," she says smiling as she washes her steak down with another sip of the golden hooch. "There's no pleasure I deny myself."
Her glance darts sideways and she smiles, nods, as the kingpin of politics grins in her direction. He hurries over. As a journalist I have been dying to get an interview with him but his office lackeys bar my way at every step. Here he is willingly sauntering to our table, and Spanish Kitty is the draw. I would spring into action, begin badgering him with questions, but I observe Spanish Kitty and realize she can lure him in any time she wants, just as she has lured every powerful man in California to her "resort", simply by being herself.
It is Spanish Kitty I want to be dining with tonight. "I was born to a whore, and had my first man at thirteen," she tells me. "I washed away the pain with a swig of gin, and went on to the next one. By the time I was fifteen I had saved enough money to run away to San Francisco."
"Was it better there?" I ask.
She laughs shortly. "Not on the wharves, with the stinking, rough sailors who'd beat you and take back their fee when they were finished with you. Not in the cribs, where you'd share with another girl and have to give over your first five dollars every night to the thug who guarded the door. But I was an enterprising young thing, and I was lucky too. Lucky to be born beautiful."
I nod. She is indeed beautiful. "And when I had enough money I opened my first house. I didn't eat, many days, because I used the money to make everything top quality. It's quality that counts. Quality brings quality, and only the finest was good enough for the gentlemen I wished to entertain."
"It worked," I say.
"It worked," I say.
She looks around at the restaurant. "If I do it, it works. I make sure of that. Pleasure is the reward for planning, endless work and luck. And now, if you don't mind, we will have another glass of this fine Scotch whiskey. And allow me to introduce you to my friend the governor."
In 1904, my father, Judge Ebenezer Stone, ruled that California Dressmaker, the largest sweatshop in the west, pay its female workers the same for piecework as it paid the men.
That, Gold tells me, is life.
Whenever I first looked at the title, my first thought was "Oh, no. They're not glamorizing the sex trade again, are they?" And the answer is no! This book left me wide-eyed after reading it. There are so many issues between the two covers of this book. It's nearly as educational as it is enjoyable.
This book isn't heavy on the romance, nor should it be. The sprinklings of it through the book are perfectly placed and regulated. The story of Violetta's is not rosy and perfect. But there is love to be found for her in the strangest of places. The ending of the book left me happy for her and the twists and turns of her life. I very much enjoyed following Violetta's story.
The sheer amount of history and detail that fill the pages is undeniably fascinating. As you follow with Violetta's story, the author educates you. It is not in an overbearing way. It's more of an opening of your eyes to the life of women during the tumultuous war for equality. I was in awe of Claudia's skill with threading such a compelling and captivating story through such a troubled time. She is beyond talented. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this inspiring book. You won't regret it!
**I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Claudia H. Long and RBTL Book Tours.
About the Author:
Claudia H Long writes fiction when she isn't mediating messy legal disputes. She has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and as a change she recently tried to take up belly dancing. Luckily, she is a better mediator than she is a dancer, by far, but her real love is writing fiction.
The Harlot's Pen, her first venture into the roaring 20s, is a Devine Destinies book, an adventure in embedded (literally!) journalism and the rights of working women in the world's oldest profession. Claudia is also the author of Josefina's Sin (Simon & Schuster 2011). The Duel for Consuelo, which follows on Josefina's Sin, will come out in late Spring 2014 with Booktrope.
Claudia has two grown children, and lives in Northern California with her husband and far too many animals.