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Paperback Details
  • 03/2020
  • 9780578229102 B083F492T5
  • 322 pages
  • $14.99
Naked Truth or Equality, the Forbidden Fruit
Carrie Hayes, author
NEW YORK CITY, on the eve of the Gilded Age. Spiritualist TENNESSEE CLAFLIN is smart, sexy and sometimes, clairvoyant. But it's her sister VICTORIA WOODHULL who is going to make history when she becomes the first woman to run for President of the United States. It starts with the seduction of the richest man in America. Then they'll take New York and the suffragist movement by storm, because together, Tennessee and Victoria are a force of Nature. That is until their backstabbing family takes them to court and their carefully spun lives unravel out in public and in the Press. The dazzling ascent of two brilliant women, is told in shifting points of view as their promise is undermined by their rivals, their family and even themselves. Based on a true American Herstory comes a riveting tale of intrigue, lust, and ambition. This is the fight for sexual equality.
Reviews
Hayes fleshes out the scandalous lives of sisters Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee “Tennie” Claflin in this debut dramatization of Gilded Age history. Victoria and Tennie, born into a family of con artists, work as mediums and spiritualists to ingratiate themselves with wealthy clients, using those connections to become publishers and stockbrokers. Jealous family members threaten them with blackmail, and their activism for women’s suffrage and muckraking earns them the ire of powerful people, leading to their arrests for criminal libel and sending pornography through the mail.

Hayes’s fertile imagination transforms the historical truths at the heart of this story, enlivening the clash of emerging feminism against the oppressive moral politics of the late-19th-century United States. As the first female presidential candidate, Woodhull is the more recognizable name, but Hayes focuses on Tennie’s doomed romances with business magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt and newspaperman James Gordon Bennett. Vanderbilt’s son William alternately lusts after and despises Tennie, while moralist Anthony Comstock practically twirls his mustache as he plans to arrest the siblings for publishing a story about the adulterous behavior of revered preacher Henry Ward Beecher. They also clash with Beecher’s sister Harriet Beecher Stowe, who was diagnosed with hysteria and takes umbrage when Woodhull questions her decision to have her daughter’s clitoris removed to prevent the condition.

As the sisters gain and lose their fortunes, Hayes illuminates the casual corruption and cronyism that marked the early Gilded Age. She has found a fascinating chapter in history to explore, and Victoria and Tennie are compelling protagonists: fiercely determined, morally ambiguous, and deeply complicated. Readers with an interest in first-wave feminism, New York history, and detailed storytelling will enjoy mining this debut, which nicely sets up a sequel.

Takeaway: Fans of historical fiction featuring morally ambiguous women will eat up this tale of sisters determined to make their own way in Victorian New York.

Great for fans of Marge Piercy’s Sex Wars, Barbara Goldsmith’s Other Powers, Lois Beachy Underhill’s The Woman Who Ran for President.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: -
Editing: A
Marketing copy: B

Kirkus Reviews

An informative and engaging tale of shifting morals in the Victorian era.

Formats
Paperback Details
  • 03/2020
  • 9780578229102 B083F492T5
  • 322 pages
  • $14.99

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