Divisiveness. Chutzpah. Seduction. Politics. Opression. Spirituality. Gender relations. Betrayal. Healers-vs-scam artists. Fortitude. Dismay. Against all odd battles. Fighting the good fight. Just like the plight of humanity today, the historical and excellently well crafted novel, NAKED TRUTH OR EQUALITY, THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT by Carrie Hayes has it all. ***** INDIE READER
Hayes has found a fascinating chapter in history to explore, and Victoria and Tennie are compelling protagonists: fiercely determined, morally ambiguous, and deeply complicated. BOOKLIFE
Hayes writes with such care and authenticity, the reader will likely be unsure where the history ends and the fiction begins. KIRKUS REVIEW
Naked Truth or Equality the Forbidden Fruit is a rich, balanced, and deftly written story that is as moving as it is entertaining. *****READERS FAVORITE
I thought this novel was brilliant from start to finish. It is fresh, it is vibrant, and the story is one that has been waiting to be told.***** COFFEE POT BOOK CLUB
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.
Plot: This lush and immersive novel seamlessly blends history and fiction to the lives of early feminists Tennesee and Victoria Claflin.
Prose/Style: The prose is fine and lively, with a style and tone appropriate for the era of focus. Cogent references and descriptions further show the author’s investment in writing with historical verisimilitude.
Originality: With its convincing setting and electrifying characterizations, Hayes offers a uniquely engaging work of historical fiction.
Character Development: Hayes’s protagonists are authentic, compelling, and show a refreshing degree of agency and moral complexity. Readers will relish reading about famed figures from the past and their connections to one another, while Hayes’s Victorian New York backdrop is a showstopper.
Date Submitted: June 27, 2020
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, Victoria 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 Victoria 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.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B
***** FIVE STARS Regardless of where many think a woman's sole place and situation must be, in the historical novel NAKED TRUTH: OR EQUALITY THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT by Carrie Hayes, two irrepressible sisters are determined to carve out their own positions in this world.Considering that in all the years of existence America has yet to have a female president, the issues explored in Carrie Hayes’ historical novel NAKED TRUTH: OR EQUALITY THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT are quite timely. In an era when women are expected to follow the law though not yet allowed to vote on what laws include, and women are legally subject to the whims of any husband who ‘owns’ them, historically true life sisters Tennesse Claflin and Victoria Woodhull wantonly challenge the repressive status quo by publishing their own newspaper, opening a stock brokerage firm, and aiming to have Victoria become the first woman running for the top political position in the land.Supported by a wealth of photographic illustration and real life newspaper clippings of the time, NAKED TRUTH is imaginative fiction based on fact at its best. Around 1868, stage craft, hypnotism, mesmerism, spiritualism, the concerns of the haves and the have nots, hidden and blatant corruption, suffragettes, racism, sexism, and each type of activism such societal currents spawn all run rampant, with many people sure the time for radical change has come, while others equally vehement that the nation can only benefit from social mores continuing to remain the same. It is an explosive era, with appearances by noted figures such as Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony, Harriett Beecher Stowe, and conflicting passions richly depicted from: “It is an insult to the entire mass of women in the United States if Negroes, Chinese, and every description of ignorant and brute male foreigners are granted suffrage while women remain excluded from that right” to “When women, because they are women, are hunted down through the cities of New York and New Orleans; when they are dragged from their houses and hung upon lamp-posts; when their children are torn from their arms, and their brains dashed out upon the pavement….then they will have an urgency to obtain the ballot equal to our own.” All the more riveting because the details are based on truth.Divisiveness. Chutzpah. Seduction. Politics. Oppression. Spirituality. Gender relations. Betrayal. Healers -vs- scam artists. Fortitude. Dismay. Against-all-odds battles. Fighting the good fight. Just like the plight of humanity today, the historical and excellently well-crafted novel, NAKED TRUTH: OR EQUALITY THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT by Carrie Hayes has it all.~C.S. Holmes for IndieReader
Hayes tells the story of two real-life pioneering feminists in late 19th-century America in this debut historical novel.
In 1868 New York City, the Claflin sisters are fraudulent mediums at the height of the Spiritualist movement—a time when the public is desperate for contact with deceased loved ones. However, the pair has bigger plans. For example, Tennessee Claflin—who pretends to be a half-naked ghost during a seance—would much rather work as a stockbroker. Their parents, who are longtime con artists themselves, beg for the sisters to perform one last ruse: a magical and sensuous “healing” regimen on a wealthy mark. The target: Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the richest men in America. Tennessee succeeds in becoming Vanderbilt’s lover, which grants her access to the upper echelons of wealthy New York society. Her married older sibling, Victoria Woodhull, has plans of her own; after adopting the philosophy of “Social Freedom”—which rejects both marriage and religion—the increasingly political Victoria plans to be the first female candidate for the presidency of the United States. To do so, she’ll need to win the support of members of the growing women’s suffrage movement. But when the sisters’ family brings a case against Victoria’s husband, the siblings’ futures are thrown into jeopardy. Hayes’ prose successfully evokes the elegant language of the era in which it’s set, even when discussing the secret and the unpleasant, as when Tennessee notes that “she can only assume that what has plagued her is indeed the French disease. Scars of Venus, courtesy of a devil who gave her the scaling which crawls across her hips, down her inner thigh with an itch, something fierce.” The book is based on a true story, and Hayes writes with such care and authenticity that the reader will likely be unsure where the history ends and the fiction begins. There are a few places where the narrative becomes a bit overcrowded, but for the most part, the author delivers a novel that presents a lifelike portrait of two remarkable (and remarkably modern) women, and an immersive dive into a colorful era’s scammers, activists, and elites.
An informative and engaging tale of shifting morals in the Victorian era.
***** FIVE STARS Naked Truth: Or Equality, The Forbidden Fruit is a work of fiction in the historical and interpersonal drama sub-genres and was penned by author Carrie Hayes. Written for mature audiences, the work contains some usage of explicit language, sexual situations, and moderate violence. Set in the late nineteenth century on the cusp of the Gilded Age, this uplifting and dramatic work takes us through the early feminist movements made by a pair of incredible sisters in a novel based on some real-life events. As Victoria and Tennie move through life’s struggles, their incredible spirit and passion to make history as strong, powerful women endure despite the betrayals of friends and family, and the odds stacked against them by New York City’s traditional ways.Author Carrie Hayes has crafted a highly engaging read, which balances a strong character-led story with a wider conceptual view of empowerment and gender rights. Fans of city history and feminist movements will enjoy seeing the sisters make their stand against the traditions of New York society at the time, and the work is peppered with intelligent references to characterize the period and the context in which they do so. I particularly loved the dialogue, which brought the unique personalities of the two women forward, especially when they spoke with one another, but also set the age of the period perfectly. A snapshot of equality history with plenty of twists and turns in its plot, this is a work of fiction that both entertains and educates, and overall I would highly recommend Naked Truth to readers of historical fiction everywhere.