Edna St. Vincent Millay: Bohemian poet living at Steepletop in the 1920's with her husband. Constantly searching for her latest muse for her work through lavish parties and scandalous behavior.
Laura Kelley: Seamstress simply trying to survive and make a life for her daughter. Still living in the shadow of her own scandal. Ostracized by the town, despite her talent for fashion and design.
When these women meet, an awkward relationship is formed out of necessity for both of them. Laura needs money and Edna needs inspiration. Despite their social status, the reader slowly learns that the woman aren't really all that different.
I had heard of Edna St. Vincent Millay - probably through a high school English class - but knew absolutely nothing about her before opening the pages. Her free spirit and scandalous lifestyle were somewhat humorous to read about (in fiction), simply because she didn't give one care about what the people in town thought about her and always gave them something to gossip about. She loved her crazy life and made no apologies. Her depression and often manic moods gave a balance to her story, however disheartening.
Edna's desire for Laura just poured off the pages through her dramatic words and outburst. Though her downward spiral was not at all funny, her intensity and flair for drama often came across as humorous... which I loved. Her psychological state was often in question, but her passion for everything she loved was obvious. Robuck achieved that fine balance of allowing the reader to truly get in the head of her character -- even if that character was also real person.
Laura's emotions were honest and beautiful. She spends her days reliving her sin, as no one would possibly let her forget what pain her poor decisions have brought. Her relationship with her sister is broken, the town hates her and refuses to bring her business, and all she truly wants is a happy life for her little girl. Her bitterness is apparent, but the tiny threads of hope she is given from Millay and through Gabriel's character are her saving grace. I loved Laura and was truly rooting for her from the first few pages.
Fallen Beauty was such an interesting look at two characters who, at first glance appear to be polar opposites, end up being very similar in their goals. It was a quick read - one I couldn't put down - and I instantly had to Google Millay to find out more.
When Erika Robuck published Hemingway's Girl back in 2012, I could just tell she was going to be an author that I couldn't get enough of and I was totally right. Her combination of fact and fiction is beautifully done and with each book, has made me want to read more on real life characters she weaves into her fictional stories. Fallen Beauty is her best yet.
Definitely add this one to your TBR pile... and if you haven't read Hemingway's Girl or Call Me Zelda, check those out too. Release date is 3/4/14, so mark your calendars!
Find Erika Robuck on her website or on Twitter at @ErikaRobuck.
Thanks to Penguin for the review copy!