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A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladiesby Ellen Cooney
Synopses & Reviews
It is 1900 in a small, prosperous Massachusetts town. Charlotte Heath, a lively, independent redhead of humble beginnings, is married to the scion of the powerful Heath family. When, on her first outing after a long illness, she spies her husband, Hays, bending to kiss another woman in the village square, impulsive Charlotte heads her horses straight out of town. Unsure where to go but certain that she wants to leave both Hays and the stifling, if luxurious, life of the Heath household behind, Charlotte makes her way to Boston and checks in at “The Beechmont: A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies,” where she makes another startling discovery: the classy Beechmont is a rather unique institution, where handsome porters make discreet, late-night visits to its all-female clientele. Charlotte finds herself surrounded by a cast of characters that will delight the reader as she settles into life at this reverse brothel: Harry Alcorn, the hotels dashing and prescient proprietor; Miss Berenice Singleton, the bohemian painter who holds a kind of salon in her rooms; the scowling cook, Mrs. Petty, who once worked for the Heaths and is determined that Charlotte not stay on at the Beechmont; the charming and handsome “porter” Arthur, who both gives pleasure and makes trouble; and the venerable lady doctor Lily Heath, her husbands aunt, whom Charlotte is amazed to find among the hotels regulars.
In the midst of a dizzying sexual enlightenment, Charlotte must puzzle out why she really left Hays and why he seems to have left her first. Her task is to determine whether she can forgive him and to discover where, if anywhere, she truly belongs–an adventure that takes her farther afield than she could ever have imagined.
Ellen Cooney has given us a remarkable portrait of a historical moment and an irresistible protagonist. Fresh, high-spirited, and wonderfully seductive in the telling, A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies carries the reader along on a womans unforgettable journey to self-enlightenment.
"Playing out in Boston during the freezing winter of 1900, Cooney's sixth novel (after Gun Ball Hill) has a steamy premise — a proper young lady winds up at a hotel where female guests are visited at night by handsome young men — but an emotionally distant execution keeps titillation to a minimum. Charlotte Heath, married to the youngest son of an immensely wealthy family, has spent her wedded life living with the clan in their imposing ancestral home. After a debilitating illness of unknown origin keeps her bedridden for almost a year, Charlotte finally leaves her room, only to find her husband on the cusp of an embrace with another woman. Without a second thought, she quits her life entirely and seeks out her only friend, the Heaths' former cook, who works in Boston at 'The Beechmont: A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies.' It takes a while for Charlotte to realize what's going on at the hotel, where a whole cast of quirky characters hold court — including a handsome young stud who ultimately breaks Charlotte's heart. The narrative moves dreamlike through a web of Charlotte's musings during her unlikely adventure. Cooney's story compels, but continual flashbacks and reminiscences make the narrative feel bumpy and disjointed." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Fresh, high-spirited, and wonderfully seductive, this irresistible tale follows a woman's search for her true self--a journey that takes her to the most surprising places.
About the Author
Ellen Cooney is the author of five previous novels, most recently Gun Ball Hill. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Glimmer Train, The Literary Review, and Ontario Review, among other publications. She has taught creative writing at MIT, Boston College, and Harvard. She lives in Phippsburg, Maine, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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