Guest: Alyssa Maxwell

Edith here, who can’t quite believe it’s almost July! I’m delighted to welcome my friend, name-mate, and fellow historical mystery author, Alyssa Maxwell (no relation) to the blog today! I love her Gilded Newport series, and you will, too. One lucky winner today will win a signed hardcover of the fifth book in the series, Murder at Chateau Sur Mer, which will be out in a month. (I wish I could win!) A bonus for me is that one characters is named Edith.

gildednewport

Here’s the book blurb: Covering a polo match for the Observer, society reporter Emma Cross’s job is to take note of the real players off the field—Newport’s well-bred elite. But the fashionable façade is breached when a woman in gaudy clothing creates a scene demanding to speak to the wife of Senator George Wetmore—until she is escorted off the grounds by the police.  The next morning, police detective Jesse Whyte asks Emma to meet him at the Wetmores’ Bellevue Avenue home, Chateau sur Mer, where the senator’s wife, Edith, has mysteriously asked to see her. Upon entering the mansion, Emma is confronted with a crime scene—the intruder from the polo match lies dead at the foot of a grand staircase.

To avoid scandal, Edith Wetmore implores Emma, a less well-heeled cousin to the illustrious Vanderbilts, to use her reporter skills and her discretion to investigate. When Emma learns the victim was a prostitute—and pregnant—she wonders if the senator was being blackmailed. As Emma peels back layers of deception and family secrets, she may have met her match in a desperate killer who will trample anyone who gets in the way…

I love it! Take it away, Alyssa.

Intertwined Histories

I’m going to tell you a secret, if you promise not to tell anyone. When I decided to write my Newport series, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even know if I could pull off writing a mystery, and although I knew modern day Newport pretty well, I had tons to learn about the city in the Gilded Age.

I was positive about one thing: I didn’t want to fictionalize everything. I didn’t want to write about a city based on Newport, and I didn’t want to write about Newport itself but with fictionalized houses and families. If I couldn’t name actual people and places, what fun would it be?

You see, I felt I had a responsibility to everyone who lives there, and even to everyone who has ever visited Newport. I had to get it right, and I had to be so vivid that readers would say yes, I’ve been there; I swam there, walked there, explored there, etc. Because I understand the kind of hold Newport places on people; I know exactly how it reaches into your heart and makes you part of it. Newport of today is a very international place—at least during the summer tourist season—but the city’s history makes it so essentially and vitally American that Newport belongs to all of us, and those who have lived there or have visited for even a short time, feel a fierce and loving ownership of this very special place. (pictured: Clarke Cook House on Bannister’s Wharf)

ClarkeCookHouse

What do I mean by that? For one thing, there isn’t a period of American history that hasn’t left its indelible mark on Newport. And we literally see that history in its architecture as we move through town—colonial, federal, Civil War, shingle style, the palaces of the Gilded Age, and so on up to current times.

What makes Newport different from many other places is that as times and tastes changed, the old didn’t disappear but remained in use—to this day. It’s true living history, not replicated but alive and vital and constantly changing with each wave of people who pass through. In a way, there’s a bit of all of us in Newport. (Pictured: The Waves, built in the 1920s, now a condominium)

the waves

Then there’s my husband’s family, Newporters for generations back. For them, if for no one else, I wanted to capture the spirit of Newport, especially in my sleuth, Emma Cross—who is independent, determined, proud, hardworking, and gets her strength from the bedrock of Aquidneck Island.

Last summer, we were contacted by a Newport resident who, during renovations of his newly purchased house, came upon two large, framed photographs of my husband’s great great grandparents hidden away behind a wall in his attic. What made this even more exciting was that this house had been built by my husband’s great grandfather’s company, The Manuel Brothers, using materials, such as flooring and woodwork, reclaimed from Bellevue Avenue mansions the company had been hired to demolish. At about the same time, in the 1920s, the Manuel Bros. also demolished a mansion owned by Reggie Vanderbilt, who is a character in the series. What’s more, we believe my husband’s great grandmother, Honora Taylor Whyte, worked as a maid in one of the great houses when she first came to this country from Ireland. My father-in-law and my husband grew up in the same house in the harbor-side Point neighborhood, on same the street where I have set Emma’s childhood home.

manuel brothers

These are just a few examples, but you can see that Newport’s history and my husband’s history is intricately entwined. There could be no fictionalizing the city, or, for me and I think for many readers, the meaning would have been lost.

Readers: Join me for a visit to Newport! Is there a place you’re passionate about? Tell us about it in the Comments and enter for a chance to win a signed, hardcover copy of the 5th Gilded Newport Mystery, MURDER AT CHATEAU SUR MER!

amaxwellpinkAlyssa Maxwell is the author of The Gilded Newport Mysteries and A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries. She has worked in publishing as a reference book editor, ghost writer, and fiction editor, but knew from an early age that she wanted to be a novelist. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain and Ireland fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles of all kinds drew her to the mystery genre. She and her husband make their home in South Florida. She is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the Florida Romance Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Novelists Inc. You can learn more about Alyssa and her books, and find her social media links, at www.alyssamaxwell.com.

 

 

66 thoughts on “Guest: Alyssa Maxwell

  1. Why have I not read these already? Thanks Edith, for the introduction. I’ve signed up for Alyssa’s newsletter and will start the series ASAP! I visited Newport years ago and the memories of those great houses remains vivid.

  2. I’ve never been to Newport but if I had to choose a place to go back too, it would be Alaska. There are so many places to see and so much to do. It was hard to choose an excursion because the choices were so numerous.

  3. What a great post Alyssa, and I really enjoyed the ‘find’ for your hubby’s family. I don’t think I am quite that passionate about any one place. I have very fond memories of the smell college town I lived in when I was little and have relished chances to go back. Thanks so much for the chance to win!
    JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com

  4. This is an excellent series , I can’t wait for the newest installment ! My family loves to get together and travel to Chicago . We go to the museums and art galleries, walk the Lake Shore and find a new restaurant to try each time . It never gets old ! kathambre@yahoo.com

    • I would like to visit Cuba some day. Speaking of hidden pictures, when I was a kid my parents opened up a wall beside our fireplace to expand the living room a bit, and discovered a map of Cuba marked with the route someone had taken on vacation in the fifties, before Castro took over. We wondered why they had hidden it away.

  5. Hi Alyssa. Your book sounds like great fun! I’m an old Marbleheader who has been entranced by sailboat races since I was a child, especially after discovering the America’s Cup 12 meter races out of Newport. Newport – terrific setting for a book!

  6. What a wonderful find those hidden photographs were! I first saw Newport with my sister, a few years ago. We didn’t have a lot of time, so we took a tour of the Breakers. What I remember best is how very ordinary the bathroom plumbing was, in the midst of such opulence. (BTW, I recently gave a book talk at the Newport Public Library–they have a good genealogy/local history collection, if you haven’t already discovered that.)

  7. I toured the Newport mansions many years ago and have fond memories. I’m excited to learn of this series! My favorite place to return to is San Xavier del Bac Mission in Tucson, AZ. Too bad it is on the other side of the continent, but I manage every few years.

    • I’ve been to New Mexico but not Arizona. I’d never been to the desert before and it was a bit like being on the moon. I thin Arizona is greener, though. I’d like to travel west again.

  8. Thank you, Wicked Cozies, for having me today! And thank you to everyone who has stopped by so far! There have been some interesting places mentioned so far, a couple I’ve been to. I’m a bit late getting here, not because I slept in, lol, but because I was at my Tai Chi class earlier. Tai Chi helps keep me grounded and fit so I can put in those long hours at the keyboard. Writing is a labor of love, though.

  9. I haven’t been to Newport yet. It sounds fantastic though! I love going to Charleston, South Carolina. There’s so much history and so many neat things to see and do. My boys also love the beach. It’s the best of both worlds!

  10. Those photographs are a terrific find. I’ve not visited Newport, but it is on the list of places to see, though I feel like I’ve been there through your books. Im not really passionate about any one place except home. We lived in Atlanta for a couple of years, and I could not wait to come back to Texas just because its home. Thank you for the chance to win. This is one of my favorite series.

    • You’ve got some wonderful ties to Newport! I would love to visit there and see all the wonderful “Cottages” and just soak up the history. I’m pretty passionate about Washington, D.C.. I lived there for four years (one without a car-it has great public transportation), and it has so many wonderful, hidden gems along with all of the more touristy places. You can never be bored there ~

      • Another place on our list of spots we’d like to explore more. My husband and have both been there, but never long enough to really enjoy it. I think I could spend a couple of weeks just wandering through the Smithsonian museums.

  11. What a wonderful book discovery! I lived on Aquidneck Island for over 8 years, and just loved it! Obviously, when you live in a resort area, everyone who comes to visit wants to see Newport and the mansions. We were especially popular the summer of the last America’s Cup Race in Newport! Still own the house that was built about 1820 as the farmhouse to a manor house that burned down a long time ago, and renovating that house, learned a great deal about historic preservation. With this introduction, I know what is going to the very top of my TBR pile, as it is summer. Thank you so much.

    • It’s our sincere hope that when we retire, we might be able to spend part of our year somewhere on the island. It doesn’t have to be Newport, because Middletown and Portsmouth are beautiful as well. I remember that last America’s Cup. It was so exciting to be in Newport for that! I remember sitting outside at the Black Pearl and getting radio updates, and everyone cheering.

  12. I must admit, I haven’t started this series yet, but I’ve heard such great things about it. Newport is a place I’d love to visit, but since it’s on the other side of the country from me, it will probably have to be in the pages of a book like this one.

  13. I love Château sur Mer. My favorite of the mansions. I also love the Cliff Walk and the library. I’ve picked up some great secondhand books there. Let’s see, what else? The church overlooking the harbor & its mid-day organ concerts. The restaurants on the waterfront. The flower show at Rosecliff.

    • You’ve definitly names some of our favorites, too. One of my favorite moments last time I was in Newport? Meeting a fellow Sister In Crime at my booksigning at the Mansions Store! I’m so glad you came in and said hello, sister!

  14. I love this series! I actually brought the first 2 on a trip last summer to… NEWPORT! It made it even more magical. I feel the same way about Ireland – particularly a little town called LaHinch. It’s completely magical and has such a rich history!

  15. Welcome to the Wickeds, Alyssa. My introduction to Newport came when college friends moved there (see Vida Antolin-Jenkins, above). We were in Boston, so it was easy to visit, especially since we all had little kids. I love Chateau Sur Mer and am really looking forward to this book.

  16. My favorite place is Gatlinburg, TN in the Smoky Mountains. I have been there at least a dozen times. Love it! I also love Alyssa Maxwell’s books. Can’t wait until this one is available. I already follow her on Facebook and newsletter.

    • My husband and I were lucky enough to visit Gatlinburg several years ago. What a beautiful area! We did a bit of hiking and really enjoyed the amazing views from our cabin. We mean to go back one of these days.

  17. I just realized I haven’t chimed in on my favorite places, even though I’ve been tracking these great comments all day. I grew up camping in Sequoia National Park in California and it’s still one of the places closest to my heart. Clean fragrant air, huge ancient trees, clear freezing stream, densely starry nights – all of it. Newport, however, is one place I have NOT been, and it’s on my list. Now that my son lives near Providence, it might actually happen. Thanks for visiting us today!

    • You really should go! And Sequoia National Park is someplace we’d like to see. Our daughter is moving out to San Francisco, so now we have a reason to finally see California. I’m especially interested in wine country. 😉

      • Oh, and I forgot to comment on the popularity of the name Edith in the Gilded Age. There were many! One of my favorites, besides Mrs. Wetmore (and her daughter, who was quite an independent woman for her time) is Edith Phelps Stokes, another independent-minded woman who refused to marry until she was 29 and very much in love. She helped make kindergarten part of the public education system in this country. John Singer Sargent painted Edith and her husband, but made Edith the central focus of the portrait, and did a revolutionary thing in painting her in ordinary street clothes, rather than a formal gown. Caused quite a stir.

  18. Looking forward to this book and love Emma’s household. Enjoyed reading your husband’s family history . I love San Francisco and go every chance I can and now days by Ferry from Vallejo. I have a son in the City and one who works in the City and they plan day trips for me Places my mom remembers from the forties, Hidden Staircases,, a musical or a museum or just walking till I drop.

    • Exciting! Our daughter is moving out there soon. She’ll be living in Oakland, but we definitely plan to play tourist in San Francisco. I love my fellow Sleuth in Time Nancy Herriman’s Mysteries of Old San Francisco, so I’ll be on the lookout for the historical places she mentions in the books.

  19. I used to travel a lot and did visit Newport with the basic tour of the Breakers. I loved England, Scotland, Switzerland and southern Germany. But also Canada and most of the US. I like history as well as mysteries so really enjoy your series.

  20. My favorite place is Charleston, South Carolina or wherever I am at the moment. Can’t wait to read this series by a favorite author.

  21. This is a wonderful series! I have never been to Newport, but it’s definitely on my list of places to visit. I’ve been to the Biltmore Mansion in Asheville NC and I would really like to tour the homes in Newport. The Gilded Age is a fascinating era and I enjoy reading about it.
    diannekc8(at)gmail(dot)com

  22. This is one of my favorite historical mystery series. The author has a great way of writing about every detail of the time period. I love that about this series.

  23. I tend to write very short reviews, but I DO post them on both Goodreads and Amazon. Hardbacks (and even paperbacks) tend to be read faster as I can read them in bed and don’t have to download using my limited data. I tend to stay within 20 miles of home except for rare visits to doctors or outreach ministries.

  24. How cool that your husband’s family history relates so closely to this historic town. I love reading about the gilded age there through the eyes of your heroine. It gives us a glimpse into a glamorous past.

  25. I don’t have much opportunity to travel, so most of mine is done through books. Doing so has given me a whole list of places I’d love to visit (Newport included), but in the meantime, I enjoy exploring the Louisville area and some of the close by cities when I can.

  26. I’m just popping in to thank Edith and the rest of the Wickeds for hosting me yesterday! I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s comments, too. The winner of Murder at Chateau Sur Mer is DianneKC, who has been notified by email. Thanks everyone!

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