Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Gilded Age

Chances are if you follow this blog you are a reader or writer of genre fiction. Did you know the most popular era of historical fiction is the Gilded Age, the late 1800s? Maybe because it was a period of great change in history—social, economic, and spiritual. Besides, the roots of our modern culture sprouted during that turbulent time.

After the civil war, industrialization exploded in a frenzy of inventions, machines, and transportation. While we often think of this as being the age of wealth with Carnegie, Morgan, and Rockefeller at the top, this wealth created enough decent jobs to create an expansive middle class. Jobs grew so fast, immigrants were welcomed by the shiploads.

Across the sea, Queen Victoria set the agenda for morality, and her subjects became very creative in bending the rules. Appearances became more important than reality.

The Victorians demanded, without exception, elaborate decoration. Hence, the gilded age. Rich detail was everywhere, from the scrollwork of furniture, to wallpaper, to female attire. They couldn’t get enough embellishment on dresses, but the women seemed happy to carry around ten to twelve pounds of clothing.

Thankfully, that’s gone out of style.
Unfortunately, one thing that hasn’t gone out of style is political corruption. Politicians of the late 1800s didn’t even pretend. Party bosses called the shots in most of the big cities, not caring what the press called them.  After controlling national politics since the civil war, Republicans were decimated in the 1884 election. But waiting in the wings was a bombastic man who took advantage of the situation and whose favorite word was bully.

There was much good to come out of the gilded age. Industry, medicine and science advanced rapidly, laying the foundations of life as we know it today, but it had a dark underbelly as well. Greed and corruption are easy to see, but a greater threat to Christianity was Darwinism which got a foothold in the colleges of the day. I’m sure the good people of that era would have been surprised to know at least half of the U.S. population today are secular humanists. The number is probably much larger in Europe where the great churches stand empty.

The setting for my first full-length novel to be released January 7, is smack-dab in the middle of the gilded age. I’m happy to announce it right here, and I pray everyone has a wonderful, happy New Year in 2016. Just think, it's only been a little over one hundred years since the gilded age. 

An idealistic librarian and a troubled cattle baron fight wickedness in high places in 1884 Nebraska.

Carianne Barlow never expected to leave her comfortable Philadelphia townhouse and travel to the wild-west, but when she inherits a fortune, conditions are attached. She must carry out her grandmother’s vision of a western culture center anchored by a library to rival those of the east. Such an undertaking requires political support, and no one is more influential than Rhyan Cason, a handsome cattle baron with the reputation of hardened businessman and rabble rousing lobbyist with a preference for the ladies. Carianne gets on the westbound train with no thought of the treacherous world awaiting her in the little prairie town near Rhyan’s sprawling ranch.

When Rhyan asks her to catalog his library, Carianne jumps at the chance without considering the ramifications. She rejects any romantic notions. Rhyan is known to be a heart-breaker, and his Darwinist views don't set well with her Christian beliefs. But they are thrown together when events take a dangerous turn, and menacing undercurrents run through the town.

Then Carianne learns too late Rhyan is pursued by a sinister enemy determined to destroy everything he cares for, including her. As they get closer to exposing the adversary, they realize he—or she—wants them both dead.


  1. Interesting post. I've read bits and pieces about the Gilded Era, and visited the Newport, RI mansion, but I didn't know it was the most popular era in history. Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to your book.

    1. Hi Linda, thanks for stopping by. I love touring old restored houses.

  2. I was unaware that this is the most popular era. Very interesting post and I look forward to your book. Love it when librarians are featured!

    1. Hi Connie. Speaking for myself, this is about the easiest era to research for historical and there were lots of books published during that time. Those I've written set in Regency and late 1700s were much harder to research.

  3. I can only imagine how that much dress would have felt wearing all day!!
    Your book sounds wonderful! Sinister and menacing undercurrents! my kind of story :)

    1. Thank you, Deanna. I guess that's what they were used to wearing, just glad I don't have to, especially not during the hot, humid summers we have.