For most of us, February means the last pass through winter, highlighted by Groundhog Day, the Superbowl, and Valentine’s Day. But otherwise, as CS Lewis said, “Always winter but never Christmas.” So how can we beat the winter blues that inevitably set in this time of year?
With a great story.
And at She Reads this month, we’ve got one for you, and by one of our own no less!
THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS is a romp through New York in 1930. Populated by gangsters and crooked politicians, society ladies and dancers, this story is nothing like your day-to-day life and yet… you will find the three women mentioned in the title strangely recognizable. At the center of this book is a real-life missing judge, Joseph Crater, who to this day has never been found. What happened to him the world may never know. But author Ariel Lawhon has cleverly re-imagined what might have happened if three women in his life really did know… but for their own reasons chose not to tell.
We invite you to join us this month to hear from Ariel, co-founder of this site and the mother of four little boys she fondly refers to as ”The Wild Rumpus,” about how and why she wrote the book, and how she balances writing, reading and life with her passel of sons. Snag a copy of the book (signed copies are available at Parnassus Books in Nashville and Foxtale Book Shoppe in Atlanta–both stores are happy to ship) and join us in discussing this great story. You might just forget how cold it is outside.
In celebration of the true events that inspired this novel, we have a special giveaway this month. One book club will receive five copies of THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS and a set of commemorative shot glasses so you too can participate in the famous toast found in its first pages. (See the entry form below for details)
* * *
They say behind every great man, there’s a woman. In this case, there are three. Stella Crater, the judge’s wife, is the picture of propriety draped in long pearls and the latest Chanel. Ritzi, a leggy showgirl with Broadway aspirations, thinks moonlighting in the judge’s bed is the quickest way off the chorus line. Maria Simon, the dutiful maid, has the judge to thank for her husband’s recent promotion to detective in the NYPD. Meanwhile, Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city’s most notorious gangster, Owney “The Killer” Madden.
On a sultry summer night, as rumors circulate about the judge’s involvement in wide-scale political corruption, the Honorable Joseph Crater steps into a cab and disappears without a trace. Or does he?
After 39 years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a plush leather banquette at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked affairs and the judge’s favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella orders two whiskeys on the rocks—one for her and one in honor of her missing husband. Stirring the ice cubes in the lowball glass, Stella begins to tell a tale—of greed, lust, and deceit. As the novel unfolds and the women slyly break out of their prescribed roles, it becomes clear that each knows more than she has initially let on.
With a layered intensity and prose as effervescent as the bubbly that flows every night, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is a wickedly entertaining historical mystery that will transport readers to a bygone era with tipsy spins through subterranean jazz clubs and backstage dressing rooms. But beneath the Art Deco skyline and amid the intoxicating smell of smoke and whiskey, the question of why Judge Crater disappeared lingers seductively until a twist in the very last pages.
* * *
Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (whom she calls The Wild Rumpus, except on the days when she calls them The Barbarian Horde–if you ever visit her you’ll know why). Her novel, THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS, is based on the still-unsolved disappearance of a New York State Supreme Court Judge and was published by Doubleday this week. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart, that marrying her best friend was the best decision she ever made, and that a good nap can cure all ills. And coffee. She really, really believes in coffee.