Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin, Excerpt and Give Away

The Beautiful American
by Jeanne Mackin



As recovery from World War II begins, expat American Nora Tours travels from her home in southern France to London in search of her missing sixteen-year-old daughter. There, she unexpectedly meets up with an old acquaintance, famous model-turned-photographer Lee Miller.  Neither has emerged from the war unscathed.
Nora and Lee knew each other in the heady days of late 1920's Paris, when Nora was giddy with love for her childhood sweetheart, Lee became the celebrated mistress of the artist Man Ray, and Lee's magnetic beauty drew them all into the glamorous lives of famous artists and their wealthy patrons.  But Lee fails to realize that her friendship with Nora is even older, that it goes back to their days as children in Poughkeepsie, New York, when a devastating trauma marked Lee forever. Will their reunion give them a chance to forgive past betrayals...and break years of silence to forge a meaningful connection as women who have shared the best and the worst that life can offer?



Excerpt One:
"Can you come for tea with me?"  she asked. She hadn't lost her startling spontaneity.  
"I have an appointment," I lied.
"Please.  Just for a few minutes.  I'd love the company.  I just bought a new hat and really don't know if it works or not. I need another woman's opinion."  The hat was just an excuse, of course.
"Okay," I agreed reluctantly.
She laughed with delight. "Okay!" she echoed. "That beautiful American word.  Oh, how wonderful to talk with another American.  Follow me. "
 We dodged between jammed and honking cars, splashing through puddles, to a tea room across the street.  Without waiting for the hostess, Lee took the best available table, by the center window.
"Can't get over the traffic," she said with a sigh. "You take your life in your hands just trying to cross the street. During the war there wasn’t a car in sight, most afternoons. Certainly not at night, during the blackout." 
When she took off her coat and draped it over the chair between us, her perfume tingled in my nostrils, expensive and slightly burning from a note of geranium oil.  The scent of geranium swept me back to Grasse, to the dark mixing room, the shelves of bottles, the locked safe where the formula was kept. Jamais de la Vie was an expensive perfume, still made by the enfleurage method, each flower petal hand pressed into a sheet of lard to capture its fragrance.  Lee was wearing the equivalent of a hundred roses and jasmine flowers.            She leaned closer.  "Were you here for the bombing, or did you go back to the States?"
I still wasn't used to the openness with which some people spoke of those years. For me, they were locked boxes.  I was also taken aback by how much I knew about Lee, and how very little she knew about me.  Friends and family had made sure that, for years, I knew of Lee's doings, her work and travel, her lovers. Obviously no one had thought to give her news of me. But that is the nature of fame, isn't it?  Lee was famous.


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Jeanne Mackin is the author of several novels:  The Sweet By and By (St. Martin’s Press), Dreams of Empire (Kensington Books), The Queen’s War (St. Martin’s Press), and The Frenchwoman (St. Martin’s Press).   She has published short fiction and creative nonfiction in several journals and periodicals including  American Letters and Commentary and SNReview. She is also the author of the Cornell Book of Herbs and Edible Flowers (Cornell University publications)  and co-editor of  The Norton Book of Love (W.W. Norton),  and wrote art columns for newspapers as well as feature articles for several arts magazines.  She was the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society and her journalism has won awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, in Washington, D.C.  She teaches creative writing at Goddard College in Vermont, has taught or conducted workshops in Pennsylvania, Hawaii and New York and has traveled extensively in Europe.  She lives with her husband, Steve Poleskie,  in upstate New York.

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