“A peek behind the curtain at one of the most remarkable feuds in history: Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Astor’s notorious battle for control of New York society during the Gilded Age.”
Renee Rosen is the bestselling author of historical fiction. Her novels include Park Avenue Summer, Windy City Blues, White Collar Girl, What the Lady Wants and Dollface as well as the young adult novel, Every Crooked Pot. Her new novel, The Social Graces, a story about Mrs. Astor and Mrs. Vanderbilt vying for control of New York society during the Gilded Age, will be out April 20, 2021 from Penguin Random House/Berkley).
Renee is a native of Akron, Ohio and a graduate of The American University in Washington DC. She now lives in Chicago where she is at work on a new novel.
The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab
Nouveau riche vs. Knickerbockers
The Social Graces is a season ticket to an unfolding drama of gilded proportions! Alva Smith from Mobile, Alabama, married railroad millionaire, William K. Vanderbilt, joining the nouveaux riche, new money. Alva Vanderbilt, a new bride in 1875, naively believed her entrance into New York City society was guaranteed.
Caroline Webster Schermerhorn wed William Backhouse Astor, Jr., in 1854. His family wealth from early fur trade and more recently real estate investments, combined with Caroline’s inherited wealth made them Knickerbockers, “old money.” Caroline was now Reigning Queen of Society in 1876.
These two ladies share the lead in this enthralling saga played out in ballrooms, opera houses, and even on the streets of New York City and Newport, Rhode Island. Renee Rosen weaves beautiful gold threads through vividly painted tableaus of dining rooms to seat one hundred, balls attended by society’s “adored” in lavish costumes costing thousands, and homes designed and built with a competitive spirit filled with marble, gilding, and priceless antiques; but mostly pride and boasting.
Between weddings, funerals (followed by two years of mourning) and divorces readers are treated to the ‘social graces’ explained by “Society’s” voice in alternating chapters. This is especially helpful insight into the minds of women and the accepted or expected behaviors of New York’s high society and the Seasons.
As the Gilded Age is coming to a close, Vanderbilt vs. Astor newspaper headlines have moved from the “battle of the ballrooms” to women’s rights; not just those in high society, but for ALL women. The shiny glow cast by the chandeliers, gilded mirrors and Paris gowns dripping with jewels will peak readers’ curiosity and interest in visiting New York’s Fifth Avenue and the “cottages” of Newport. Don those white gloves, set out the fine china and indulge in The Social Graces by Renee Rosen.