Birdie Shehorn, a Knickerbocker Gilded Age daughter and heiress has one dream – to have her novel published under her own name. You see, Birdie has always been a bit of a bluestocking. She prefers to read books and write stories; she even convinced her parents to send her to a fancy girls college to further her education. But now she is being forced into a loveless marriage that will join two of the most powerful New York City moneyed families. However, Birdie’s true love, Eli Montague, is an almost impoverished but titled Englishman who has journeyed to New York City in search of a bride from a affluent family in order to save his own family’s estate. Although he loves Birdie he is bound by duty to marry another through a marriage contract arrange by his mother while he was in military service.
Tenley Roth is a contemporary woman removed from Birdie’s era by several generations. She has been named as the winner of the Gorden Phipps Roth Foundation’s prestigious writer’s award, which catapults this debut novelist into the pinnacle of literary society. On the same night as the foundation’s reception, her live-in boyfriend proposes and slips a spectacular diamond on her finger before she exits the limo. Tenley doesn’t have the opportunity to respond to the proposal before the press notices the ring on her finger and makes the news public. Her publisher is now waiting on her next manuscript, due at the end of July. Tenley’s problem: writer’s block. She feels that as the great-great-granddaughter of the acclaimed Gordon Phipps Rioth her words should flow onto the page. So, when given the opportunity to attend her ailing and estranged mother in Florida she accepts and hopes that the change of scenery will kick start her creativity. Instead, she meets Jonas Sullivan, the man she doesn’t yet know she needs.
Both Tenley and Birdie are bound together by an antique writing desk currently in need of restoration and repair. It is now owned by Tenley’s mother who has agreed to sell it to Jonas, a furniture designer and restoration expert. But Tenley falls in love with the desk believing it will help her break through her writer’s block. Little does she know that this very desk is where Birdie Shehorn was inspired to begin her own creative writing.
The Writing Desk is two love stories interwoven over time: two unhappy young women being pulled by external societal demands. It is in how they each thwart society’s strictures that their true stories lie. I adored the story of Birdie and Eli. It is well crafted and compelling. Tenley’s storyleft me a bit cold. She doesn’t seem likeable and is, perhaps, a bit stand-offish. She really has no true friends as Birdie does.
I found The Writing Desk an absorbing read. Once again Ms. Hauck’s careful attention to detail and finely drawn characters provide the reader with a glimpse behind the scenes of the literary world.
Rating: 4 stars