One of the best parts about writing my recent book, Deceived by Desire, was the opportunity to delve into the rich history of Newport, Rhode Island’s, Gilded Age. Growing up in the town next door to Newport, the Gilded Age mansions, known as summer cottages to wealthy capitalists with the last names of Vanderbilt and Astor, were a big part of our lives. School field trips to one mansion or another were a regular thing. Our senior prom took place at Mrs. Astor’s Beechwood. Of course, when you’re a child or teenager, you don’t realize how fortunate you are to grow up in a place where such treasures attract millions of visitors each year.
In Deceived by Desire, I had the chance to go back in time to Newport’s gilded past and delve into the routines and traditions of turn-of-the-century summers in the city by the sea. Women ran the show in Newport during July and August, mostly because their wealthy husbands were working in New York during the week. There were three hostesses, in particular, who could make or break a society wife hoping to receive invitations to all the best parties. Sometimes it could take years for a wife to gain the approval of this triumvirate. Other times, approval never came.
In the book To Marry an English Lord: Tales of Wealth and Marriage, Sex and Snobbery by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace, I found the best descriptions of the daily routine in Newport, which began each morning with a ride down exclusive Bellevue Avenue in a phaeton, the carriage with the lowest sides that allowed for the ladies’ costumes to be viewed by others, followed by ladies’ swimming at Bailey’s Beach. Incidentally, Bailey’s is still in existence today as an exclusive club and is one of Newport’s more popular summer destinations.
During the morning rides, there were intricate rules about who was allowed to nod to whom and who should lead the progression. The parade would end at the Newport Casino, where the women would watch tennis matches on grass courts that are now part of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, discuss the prior night’s parties, and exchange gossip.
After a swim, the ladies would change once again for lunch on one of the steamer ships in the harbor, where they might or might not have been joined by the gentlemen who were in attendance during the week. In the afternoon, the women might adjourn to the polo fields to watch a match before heading home to change clothes once again for the afternoon promenade on Bellevue Avenue.
In the late afternoon, the women would return to their homes for a light tea before dressing for the evening’s events, which could include anything from a dance at the casino to a house party to a débutante ball. This daily routine required hundreds of outfits, as it was unheard of to be seen twice in the same ensemble.
On the weekends, the husbands and other gentlemen would hop on the Fall River Line, the steamships that conveyed passengers between New York and Newport, to join their wives and family members in Newport. The steamships provided the best way to get to Newport, which is located on an island, and, thus, not accessible by the railway system that had become the preferred way to travel by that time.
The Gilded Age in Newport and elsewhere began to wane with the advent of the income tax and other financial constraints that put a crimp on the lavish excesses previously enjoyed by the upper class. Many of the houses built during that time, including The Breakers, Rosecliff, Marble House and The Elms, have been preserved in spectacular fashion and are open to the public.
Find out more about the Newport’s historic properties and landscapes and the Preservation Society of Newport County at newportmansions.org, and read Deceived by Desire at marieforce.com/deceivedbydesire.
About Deceived by Desire
From New York Times best-selling author Marie Force comes a glittering tale of star-crossed romance set amid the lavish mansions and decadent lifestyles of early twentieth-century Newport, Rhode Island. But even in an age of great fortune, the heart has its own idea of true riches . . .
Wealthy American industrialist Aubrey Nelson has invited the Duke and Duchess of Westbrook to visit his family’s Newport seaside “cottage” for the summer. With his parents’ departure from New York delayed, Aubrey’s mother sends him ahead to oversee preparations for their guests. But when he arrives, he’s surprised to find the house and staff in disarray.
With much to do and little time, Aubrey comes to rely on the housekeeper, a lovely young Irish woman named Maeve Brown. And when he also finds himself confiding in Maeve about more personal matters, he tells himself it’s merely their close proximity that draws him to the compassionate, hard-working beauty. Yet when he suspects Maeve is in danger, Aubrey realizes his feelings for her have grown much deeper than they should have. For what will his mother, who dreams of a society match for her son, have to say when she arrives to discover he’s lost his heart to a girl of the working class?
About the Author
Marie Force is the New York Times best-selling author of more than seventy contemporary romances, including the Gansett Island Series and the Fatal Series from Harlequin Books. In addition, she is the author of the Butler, Vermont Series, the Green Mountain Series and the erotic romance Quantum Series. Her books have sold nearly nine million copies worldwide. Her goals in life are simple: to finish raising two happy, healthy, productive young adults, to keep writing books for as long as she possibly can, and to never be on a flight that makes the news. Please visit her online at MarieForce.com and on the social platforms below.