Read the archived chatscript from Renee Rosen’s November 22, 2013 session of #litchat here.
At the same time as the women’s suffrage movement in the United States gained momentum, another powerful caucus of women found voices in the temperance movement. In 1920 women got the vote and sales of alcohol were prohibited. As the prohibition era dawned, a new breed of businessman emerged along with a fierce modern woman, and the Jazz Age was born. With the hand of a swank bartender, Renee Rosen blends these Roaring ‘20s ingredients into a heady cocktail of power and possession in her novel, Dollface.
Vera Abramowitz comes of age in the midst of this new era and does what most pretty and ambitious girls of any age would do. She leaves home. Her mother, forced by the murder of her husband by the notorious Black Hand, is the first and only woman to run a Chicago meatpacking plant. She has done her best to raise Vera as a good Jewish girl, despite the stigma of the feedlots and slaughterhouses. In the heart of Chicago, Vera and her lifelong friend Evelyn share a room in a cheesy women’s rooming house. Spending their days pounding out letters among a sea of typewriters for an insurance company, Vera and Evelyn live for the evenings when they swap clothes and accessories with the other girls to extend their meager wardrobes, and then drink and dance in speakeasies until the early hours of morning.
When Vera meets two distinctly different, yet vocationally similar men, she’s drawn into a world of glamour, intrigue, wealth and excitement. Everything she always wanted. Everything her mother warned her against. Shep, a good-looking Jewish man, adores her, pursing her with lavish gifts and promises to take care of her every little thing. Tony, a passionate Italian, ignites a fire within that she is unable to control. It concerns her that they’re both deep into rival Chicago gangs, making their living from the illegal sales of alcohol, but not enough to flee the lifestyle it offers. Within this triangle, Vera must answer the age-old dilemma, “Is love enough?”
Soon the world of speakeasies and liquor runs, revenuer raids and dirty cops explode around her, forcing Vera to make choices that violently affect the lives of those dear to her. In the aftermath, Vera draws from a well of strength fed by her circumstances and spiked by her past. The novel circles back for a bittersweet finish as Vera recognizes that love is enough after all.
From the author’s website: As clichéd as it sounds, Renée is a former advertising copywriter who always had a novel in her desk drawer. When she saw the chance to make the leap from writing ad copy to fiction, she jumped at it. A confirmed history and book nerd, Renée loves all things old, all things Chicago and all things written. A graduate of American University in D.C., Renée has contributed to many magazines and newspapers, including Chicago Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, Complete Woman, DAME, Publisher’s Weekly and several other now sadly defunct publications. She is the author of Every Crooked Pot and Dollface, A Novel of the Roaring Twenties. She lives in Chicago where she is currently working on a new novel, What The Lady Wants coming from Penguin/NAL fall 2014.
Follow Renee Rosen on Twitter: @ReneeRosen1.