By: Lynn Cullen
Format/Source: Advanced reading copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster CA
It is 1845, and Frances Osgood is desperately trying to make a living as a writer in New York; not an easy task for a woman—especially one with two children and a philandering portrait painter as her husband. As Frances tries to sell her work, she finds that editors are only interested in writing similar to that of the new renegade literary sensation Edgar Allan Poe, whose poem, “The Raven” has struck a public nerve.
She meets the handsome and mysterious Poe at a literary party, and the two have an immediate connection. Poe wants Frances to meet with his wife since she claims to be an admirer of her poems, and Frances is curious to see the woman whom Edgar married.
As Frances spends more and more time with the intriguing couple, her intense attraction for Edgar brings her into dangerous territory. And Mrs. Poe, who acts like an innocent child, is actually more manipulative and threatening than she appears. As Frances and Edgar’s passionate affair escalates, Frances must decide whether she can walk away before it’s too late…
I received a review copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The premise of this novel caught my attention; I don’t know much about Edgar Allen Poe–may have read one of his short stories when I was growing up but otherwise I’ve had no other exposure to his work–but this story intrigued me and had me curious about Poe’s life and the course of his literary career and achievements. This novel will be available on September 24th.
Mrs. Poe was a fascinating, riveting read; I could not put it down once I started reading. I felt the author really brought nineteenth-century New York City to life in these pages and the way that society operated. It was especially interesting to read about the literary scene during this period and how the periodicals and publications worked. It’s funny to read how much the literary scene has and hasn’t changed in the last century and a half, the struggle that poets and writers had not only to write but to get published, earn a bit for their work and face the critics.
I do not know much about Poe’s life and his works so it was an interesting perspective and introdcution to his character. It was amusing to read how scathing he can be to his fellow writers and how much he shirked away from the limelight. I always thought him a grim character from what I knew but the author really made him a three-dimensional, flesh-and blood individual. Intense, certainly (especially when it came to Frances), but human with his own shortcomings and baggage.
Edgar and Frances’ relationship was pretty electric in this novel, it was fascinating to watch these two characters slowly gravitate towards each other, struggling to make sense of their feelings and, from Frances’ perspective, figure out what was the right thing to do. Again, I do not know much about Frances Osgood but she felt like a realistic character as well, especially as the reader is watching everything unfold from her perspective. She’s a tough character, especially considering the circumstances she was left with at the start of the novel. Her husband Samuel was not around for much of the novel but I heard enough about him from other characters to dislike him–even when he was trying to make amends.
Poe’s wife Virginia was an eerie character; on the one hand you feel sorry for her and her affliction but on the other hand you can’t help but share Frances’ suspicion that she might be the one behind all those mysterious happenings going on, including her near accidents. There’s a bit of the occult that slips in quietly into the novel, which seemed appropriate not only because one of the main characters is Poe but also because it was such a big thing during this period.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading Mrs. Poe, I think it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re into historical fiction and romance set in the nineteenth century. It also makes me want to check out Poe’s works, particularly his poetry. Since reading this novel, I actually went and read his poem “The Raven” which was mentioned in this novel (rather enjoyed it, it was quite lyrical).