We wish there were more historical romances set in the Gilded Age. RT’s Lizzie Poteet gives readers a refresher of the era that was full of Robber Barons, fancy mansions and much more. Then Lizzie speaks with author Laura Lee Ghurke whose new novel, Wedding of the Season, is set during the period. And don’t miss your chance to read an excerpt of Wedding of the Season at the end of the post!
I love historical romances. But when I take a look at my bookshelf, I have the occasional medieval, a couple of Westerns, a shelf of Regencies and maybe even a few Civil War or Revolutionary era novels. I have a thousand and one historical novels, but there is one time period I don’t have: the Gilded Age. And really that’s quite a shame. The Gilded Age was an era of both opulence and destitution, the perfect setting for a romance novel.
For a brief history refresher, the Gilded Age is an age in American history just at the turn of the century (into the 1900s). It was characterized by both extreme wealth and extreme poverty in America. Referred to as “gilded” by Mark Twain, the era represents a faux golden age when industry made families like the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers and Carnegies incredibly wealthy. But industry also created a large divide between the Haves and the Have-Nots. Factory strikes were common as men and women often worked sixty-hour weeks without health benefits or other labor restrictions. There was a push for urbanization and an influx of immigrants from overseas looking for work in the big cities of America. For women, the Gilded Age was also a time of great social change. More women than ever were attending places of higher education and women were also begining to fight for the right to vote.
To illustrate the potential of the era as an excellent setting for romances, here are some interesting facts from the time:
- Wealthy industrialists and the society leaders (aka “Robber Barons”) got rich quick often with charges of corruption surrounding them.
- Technology electrified the population with widespread use of railroads and telephones.
- Cities across America boomed as the first skyscrapers went up around the country.
- Caroline Astor ruled high society in New York City with “the Four Hundred” much like Lady Jersey presided over the ton.
- Lucy Hayes was the first First Lady to have a college education.
With so many possibilities in this era, it is surprising there are so few romances set their novels here. Author Laura Lee Guhrke, however, has set her new series during this glittering age. So we went to her for her opinion of the era. She explains:
“For my Abandoned At The Altar trilogy, I felt the Gilded/Edwardian Age was the perfect setting for the strong, independent heroines of these books. After all, their wedding plans go awry, they are heartbroken, humiliated, or in one case, abused in marriage, and these women have to pick up and go on. At that time, women were fighting for the vote, for marital rights, and sometimes, for divorce. Each heroine has a car, and in each book, that automobile works as a symbol of the heroine’s independence and freedom. The Edwardian Age was one of tremendous change, innovation and upheaval, which to me, was the perfect backdrop for these women.”
And for my part, I agree! You can read an EXCERPT from Laura Lee Guhrke’s new Gilded Age romance below. I am sure you will love this time period as much as I do.