My Notorious Life by Madame X | Kate Manning

My Notorious Life by Madame X by Kate Manning is the fictionalised account of the story of a midwife and abortionist in the Victorian era.

Notorious Life Manning‘In the end, they celebrated. They bragged.
They got me finally, was their feeling.
They said I would take my secrets to the grave.

They should be so lucky.’

Axie Muldoon, the headstrong daughter of Irish immigrants, forced to beg for pennies as a child on the brutal streets on New York City, grows up to become the most successful – and controversial – midwife of her time.

‘Saved’ from poverty by a well-meaning philanthropist, Axie is sent West with her brother Joe and her sister Dutch. But the kindness of strangers is short-lived and soon Axie returns to the city of her birth, separated from those she loves but determined to one day reunite her family.

When she is taken in by a Manhattan doctor Axie learns the craft that she will live by – and later fight for. As a purveyor of ‘lunar tonic for the relief of female complaints’ she rises from the gutter to the glitter of 5th Avenue high society, and discovers that the right way is not always the way of the church or the law, and that you should never trust a man who says ‘trust me.’ But what if that man is an irresistible risk-taker with a poetical Irish soul?

As Axie’s reputation grows she finds herself on a collision course with the crusading official who would be the righteous instrument of her downfall. It will take all of her power to outwit him and save both herself and those she loves from ruin.

This is a very powerful and often disturbing book.

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The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell | William Klaber

Lobdell KlaberThe Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber is an intersting look at gender and sexuality through the fictionalised account of a real life.

One day in 1855, Lucy Lobdell cut her hair, and put on britches.  She did it to earn men’s wages, but the changes went far beyond anything she had imagined.  The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell, available in June 2013, is the account of Lucy’s extraordinary foray into the world of men and her inward journey to a new sexual identity.  It is her promised memoir, as heard and recorded a century later by William Klaber, an upstream neighbor.  Lucy promised to write a book about her “adventures in male attire,” but that book was never found.  Instead, more than a century later, author William Klaber received the gift of a satchel filled with letters and other documents concerning Lucy’s life.  Recognizing the historical importance, Klaber set out to do justice to a piece of forgotten Americana—to tell the story of what happened to Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell once she changed into pants.

Lucy Ann Lobdell was a real woman who dressed as a man in order to find work and a better life.

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A Spear of Summer Grass | Deanna Raybourne

A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourne is a mainstream/romance set in 1920’s africa.

Paris, 1923 

The daughter of a scandalous mother, Delilah Drummond is already notorious, even amongst Paris society. But her latest scandal is big enough to make even her oft-married mother blanch. Delilah is exiled to Kenya and her favorite stepfather’s savannah manor house until gossip subsides. 

Fairlight is the crumbling, sun-bleached skeleton of a faded African dream, a world where dissolute expats are bolstered by gin and jazz records, cigarettes and safaris. As mistress of this wasted estate, Delilah falls into the decadent pleasures of society.  

Against the frivolity of her peers, Ryder White stands in sharp contrast. As foreign to Delilah as Africa, Ryder becomes her guide to the complex beauty of this unknown world. Giraffes, buffalo, lions and elephants roam the shores of Lake Wanyama amid swirls of red dust. Here, life is lush and teeming-yet fleeting and often cheap.  

Amidst the wonders-and dangers-of Africa, Delilah awakes to a land out of all proportion: extremes of heat, darkness, beauty and joy that cut to her very heart. Only when this sacred place is profaned by bloodshed does Delilah discover what is truly worth fighting for-and what she can no longer live without.

This can be a difficult novel.

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