Blog Book Tour | “The Secret Life of Mrs London” by Rebecca Rosenberg

Posted Thursday, 15 February, 2018 by jorielov , , , , , , , 11 Comments

Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva using photography (Creative Commons Zero).

Acquired Books By: I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours whereupon I am thankful to have been able to host such a diverse breadth of stories, authors and wonderful guest features since I became a hostess! I received a complimentary copy of “The Secret Life of Mrs London” direct from the author Rebecca Rosenberg in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I was interested in the premise behind this novel:

My first entrance into Biological Historical Fiction was prior to becoming a book blogger – it was when I read the back-story about Mrs (Charles) Dickens in the beautifully conceived novel Girl in a Blue Dress. At the time, I was mesmorised by how realistically the story-line flowed and how wonderfully intricate the novel revealled the finer points of how Mrs Dickens had much more to give than what she personally felt she had in self-worth. Another critical entry in this section of Literature for me was Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald of which I had the happenstance to read as an ARC – the narrative clarity of Zelda’s voice inside this novel was incredibly layered! I still think about my readings of this novel – as I spread it out over several months, savouring the respite I had outside it but hungry for more insight into Zelda’s life all the same. It is a haunting account truly of one woman’ spiral and her journey back to ‘self’ out of the chaos of health issues which were never fully addressed until the very last chapter of her life. It’s beyond tragic how Zelda never felt she realised her own artistic merit in the literary world and how suppressed she had become as a writer due to her overbearing husband whose ego would not allow him to admit her writerly strength of voice.

Over the past four and a half years, I’ve encountered quite a large number of entries of Biological Historical Fiction – each in turn giving me such an incredibly humbling experience as I held close to the whispers of truth etching out of the lives by the living persons who had lived these lives I was now attached to through the renditions the writers had given them in their novels. When I read the premise about Mrs London and how her life intersected with the Houdini’s – there was a moment in my mind as I contemplated the plot itself wherein I felt I heard an echo of Zelda’s life. Of two women who were caught inside a marriage which was not the healthiest of relationships for them nor was it a marriage built on love or trust. They were each caught into a cycle of living which worked against them and in part, this is why I wanted to read Mrs London’s story. I wanted to know how she worked through the anguish of living in Jack’s shadow but also, how she dealt with the absence of having a husband who appreciated her and held her interests in his own heart.

In regards to Jack London – although I have an omnibus of his stories (in hardback) which my family gave me as young girl, there was something about his stories which put me off reading them. I could say the same about Dickens, too. When it came to disappearing inside either of their stories a part of me ‘held back’ interest despite the fact they both had concepts of stories I felt I would have loved reading. And, in turn, I came to know them better through their film adaptations than I did in their original canon of release! Uniquely enough. The two which stood out to me were White Fang and A Christmas Carol – which of course, remain two my favourite films of all time. The latter of which I consistently seek out as they re-invent the wheel every so many years in how to properly explore the story & the message within it.

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Blog Book Tour | “The Secret Life of Mrs London” by Rebecca RosenbergThe Secret Life of Mrs London
by Rebecca Rosenberg
Source: Author via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

San Francisco, 1915. As America teeters on the brink of world war, Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, wrestle with genius and desire, politics and marital competitiveness. Charmian longs to be viewed as an equal partner who put her own career on hold to support her husband, but Jack doesn’t see it that way…until Charmian is pulled from the audience during a magic show by escape artist Harry Houdini, a man enmeshed in his own complicated marriage. Suddenly, charmed by the attention Houdini pays her and entranced by his sexual magnetism, Charmian’s eyes open to a world of possibilities that could be her escape.

As Charmian grapples with her urge to explore the forbidden, Jack’s increasingly reckless behavior threatens her dedication. Now torn between two of history’s most mysterious and charismatic figures, she must find the courage to forge her own path, even as she fears the loss of everything she holds dear.

Genres: Biographical Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Women's Studies

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Find on Book Browse

ISBN: 9781542048736

Published by Lake Union Publishing

on 30th January, 2018

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 348

In retrospect, after re-reading my review, I realised I needed to add the flames to this review, as I felt the sensuality and sexuality explored in the story was on the higher end of what I am comfortable about finding in either Romance or Historical Romance novels. I also felt in this story, the subject was threaded throughout the context of the novel and re-highlighted to the point where it nearly felt like it was the main focus of the story rather than on the dynamics of the who the characters were outside their boudoir exploits.


Published By: Lake Union Publishing

Formats Available: Trade Paperback, Audiobook and Ebook

Converse via: #HistFic, #HistoricalFiction + #JackLondon

About Rebecca Rosenberg

Rebecca Rosenberg

A California native, Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where Jack London wrote from his Beauty Ranch. Rebecca is a long-time student of Jack London’s works and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian London. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is her debut novel.

Rebecca and her husband, Gary, own the largest lavender product company in America, selling to 4000 resorts, spas and gift stores. The Rosenbergs believe in giving back to the Sonoma Community, supporting many causes through financial donations and board positions, including Worth Our Weight, an educational culinary program for at-risk children, YWCA shelter for abused women, Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center to provide performances for children, Sonoma Food Bank, Sonoma Boys and Girls Club, and the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home.

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my review of the secret life of mrs london:

As I began reading about Mrs London, the curious nods I felt her life mirrored to Zelda were materialising in front of me: the husband prone to jealousy, the couple who lust after each other, the friends’ who take residence in their lives and the yearning of writing stories which will produce the income to live the life they envision for themselves. Even then, after seeing these parallels there is one more still to observe: Mrs London like Zelda is a writer! Yet, similar to Zelda, Mrs London felt her husband short-changed her, leaving her rife with feelings of uncertainty as he made her feel she was ‘less’ somehow in his eyes and thereby, able to be left without the remorse of abandoning her for some foolishness he felt was more important.

I hadn’t realised she was his typist and editor, though it makes sense as this is another thing she shares with Zelda – both wives worked tirelessly behind the scenes of their infamous husbands whose literary careers were all the rage during their generation. Mrs London had a lot to contend with as she was the sole motivator to inspire Jack to write – to keep him invested in what he wrote and to keep a watchful eye on his progress therein. For she was the only who told him he ought to be paying attention to the stories whilst she found ways of seeing into his writings where something might lack clarification. In essence, she was both a sounding board and an editor to her husband’s writing career even if her own could not be pursued with equal passion. For Jack was not the most celebratory person in acknowledging the efforts on behalf of his wife (herein this reminded me of Zelda, too). They were each others’ worst nightmare in many regards – as they lived so passionately, they were not entirely committed to each other as they should have been. They both had flights of fancy outside their vows and they both strayed towards seeking approval and love in equal measures from others who could provide something the other lacked in themselves. Or at least this is how it appeared – in some ways, I wondered if it was all a habit they had endured rather than a motivation they each shared to keep in their lives. They were not the most forthcoming in that regard – they each held their thoughts close to their hearts.

I wasn’t quite sure how to take Aunt Netta as part of me wondered if she might have given her niece the complete wrong advice about how to live one’s life. It is true, she embraced the ‘free love’ mindset (Netta not Mrs London) to the point of where she did not truly commit to any one but engaged in what pleased her most. Mrs London on the other hand had it harder – her path wasn’t as black and white as Netta’s nor as easy to put into proportion; for Mrs London was constantly tempted but she kept remembering why adultery was against her principles. There is a bit of a tightrope and fine line here – of owning your own tendencies but also, the commitment you had given to your spouse. I was unsure if even Mrs London knew at this point in time if she would ever not wander outside her marriage if the right man came along and gave her a good reason for why she should.

By the time the Houdini’s entered their lives, the London’s were still dealing with the loss of their house (still being constructed and yet taken by flame) and the fragility of their marriage marred by her infidelity which Jack predicted all along would happen. In some ways you can see why she made the choice she had – she was not unlike Zelda who had gone through life making choices in the heat of the moments she was living without caution to consequence but then, on the surge of finding how those choices were affecting her continuity; her security of place and position, that’s when she recoiled the most and sought forgiveness.

Houdini himself was quite the cad – his wife was his stage partner but he had a roving eye himself. He immediately knew he wanted Mrs London on the stage with him not her husband as he had eluded too. Perhaps, he saw something in her she did not want to acknowledge was a part of her – a woman who would compromise her marriage if the right someone would influence her heart with the affections she always sought out of her husband. Her conflict was only surely to grow as one can’t hide the secrets for long especially if they are blighted by the repercussions few want to admit are possible.

The Houdini’s apparently have their own coveted secrets – as Mrs London finds out from Bess in the ladies room. Shortly thereafter you see how complicated their lives were – of how one broken marriage (Jack’s first) led into the second (where we meet Charmian) with the hardship of having to deal with an ex-wife in order to see his children (two daughters) who miss him dearly. It is here, we see Jack in a different light and where we start to see how Mrs London feels trapped by Jack but isn’t quite ready to admit this to herself. She went into the marriage with open eyes – after all, she was pursuing a man who was already married but afterwards? You gather the thought she all but regretted how much of a pursuit she laid in to gain his trust and win his affection. She was not entirely happy with her choices but how to extract herself from the man who claimed she was his muse was another thing altogether. It takes gull too to pass off a child from another man to your husband and if you read between the time-lines, I believe that’s exactly what Mrs London intends to do.

Bess and Mrs London bond over commiseration – as they both have suffered the ills of womanhood in different ways. They find they can turn to each other, confide things they never dare speak aloud elsewhere and find their husbands are not so very different from one another. It is here, we see them vulnerable and without confidence; as each of them has a lot to weigh on their souls. They find sisterhood and trust at a point in their lives neither though they’d have either to hold onto as the rest of their lives seemed to be spiralling away from what they could control.

Jack in this novel comes across as cold and calculating – similar to how I felt Hemingway was to those in his life. Fitzgerald was as well but somehow, I think him and Zelda truly did love each other – they were combustible and explosive – two artists who had become captured by each others’ synergy and thereby had trouble finding the ways to be mortal. In regards to Mrs London and Jack? I have the feeling neither one of them was meant for each other and neither of them truly loved as love was meant to be shared. There is something off between them – something a bit untoward and unflattering because it is almost like they push each other past where they should toy with each others’ affections. They are each others’ worst enemy to where happiness cannot linger long in their lives because they do not belong in each others’ souls. They vex each other to the point of absurdity and when they finally come back together – it’s in the heat of an illicit moment of passion with the false assurance of lovers who aren’t truly apologetic about what drew them apart.

I had trouble sorting out the title – as there was nothing secret about Mrs London – not her life, her choices or the causal way in which she tried to denounce her carnal reflexes to seek love outside her marriage despite her fierce refusal to acknowledge her Aunt Netta was right about some women are not meant to be tied to a man; at least not in marriage. It is a difficult story to resolve in your mind because of how all four of the main characters (ie. Mrs London, Jack, Houdini and Bess) are struggling against each other to find their truer natures and their more authentic selves.

On the historical writing styling of rebecca rosenberg:

I read the end papers whilst I was still in the opening bridge of the novel – generally I read the extras behind the novels I’m reading before I begin them but this time round, I delayed seeking them out. Within them,I learnt what was truth and what was fiction as it pertains to the novel at hand, and in many ways, I am thankful I learnt which way was up before embarking into a deeper part of the text itself as it lends a more crucial eye on what truly occurred vs what happened only in Ms Rosenberg’s imagination. Likewise, one thing I found comforting about how she anchoured this to the London’s directly is by prefacing the Chapter pages with quotations from Jack’s writings.

Ms Rosenberg wrote a very sensually-focused account of Mrs London’s life as at the heart of how she’s painted in this novel, is a woman who is sexually free to live through her desires and the passions of her heart. She taps into the wanton thoughts of a woman who never truly understood her own motivations nor why she was unable to find herself willing to trust her own innate instincts in life. She was at war with herself in many regards – all of which plays out in the narrative which remains accurate to the generation the London’s and Houdini’s lived inside.

Meanwhile, the harder truths about what pushed Houdini to find a way to out maneuver himself through his acts and his intense addiction to defying death – whilst putting his health in danger of expiring early – sets the background for where both couples intersect with one another. However, despite the allure of sorting out the ‘truth behind the fiction’ of how two fiercely artistic men in their own rights had strong women behind them who were struggling with their own personal demons – I must say what muddled my enjoyment of following in their footsteps was the sombering realities of their lives. It is hard to read because of how alarmingly brutal some of the scenes are to read – brutal in the emotional disparity and the unyielding manner in how all the characters were equally motivated to succumb to their own sensual fantasies of where they could curb reality if only for a partial escape to where they could feel freer together than they were apart. In this, Ms Rosenberg succeeded with her vision for Mrs London and all the events which led to have her life criss-crossed through the heartache of misguided passion.

A note about the lovely enclosures:

I am thankful to Ms Rosenberg for enclosing a few surprises for me – the bookmark was my marker as I read her novel, the calling card makes a lovely mini-poster of the cover art and I liked how she crafted her own personal notecards as well to reflect the artwork itself.

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This blog tour is courtesy of: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

The Secret Life of Mrs London blog tour via HFVBTs
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2018 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge badge created by Jorie in Canva.

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “The Secret Life of Mrs London”, book synopsis, author photo & biography of Rebecca Rosenberg and the tour badge were all provided by HFVBTs (Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours) and used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded by codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna, 2018 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2018.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Thursday, 15 February, 2018 by jorielov in 20th Century, Adulterous Affair, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Bookish Discussions, Charmian London, Creative Arts, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Disabilities & Medical Afflictions, Disillusionment in Marriage, During WWI, Equality In Literature, Grief & Anguish of Guilt, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Inspired By Author OR Book, Jack London, Life of Thirty-Somethings, Mental Health, Multi-cultural Characters and/or Honest Representations of Ethnicity, Psychological Abuse, Realistic Fiction, Self-Harm Practices, Taboo Relationships & Romance, the Nineteen Hundreds, Vulgarity in Literature, Women's Fiction, Women's Health, Women's Rights, Women's Suffrage, Writer, Zelda Fitzgerald

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11 responses to “Blog Book Tour | “The Secret Life of Mrs London” by Rebecca Rosenberg

    • Thank you for stopping by, Ms Davida and sharing your thoughts with me! :) If you take a chance on reading this one and blog about it – I’ll have to remember to look for it on your lovely blog! I’ll be visiting with you soon! One reason I’m enjoying the #HistFic Reading Challenge this year is getting to interact with new bloggers who *love!* this genre as much as I do! Happy travels in the blogosphere and I hope you’ll find a soon to be beloved new story!

    • Hallo, Hallo Jenn,

      Ooh, my! Your in for a special treat then!? If you want to find more Biological HistFic to read, do spend a few minutes in my Story Vault – you’ll find I love wandering around this particular niche of stories!! I’m thankful you’ve dropped by and blessed you’ve taken the time to leave me a note! I truly was smiling when I realised I introduced you to a ‘new’ experience in Literature! You’ll find I enjoy these because of how we can ‘step’ into the historical person’s shoes and spend a bit of time with them as they go about their lives,… it is an incredible window into the past and it gives a breadth of history that sometimes can go overlooked. Bless you for your lovely compliment, and thank you again for visiting with me!

  1. Carolyn Steele

    I’m intrigued by the complexities of the character arcs you outlined. This sounds like a compelling, heartrending read. Thanks for your rich review!

    • Hallo, Hallo Ms Steele,

      Thanks for dropping by – I added a heat rating today on this review, as I was finalising my edits for my latest ChocLit novel, I realised I need to get into the habit of using the flames whenever I feel a story has pushed the boundaries I think within the grounds of sensuality and sexuality within fiction. Therefore, only three of the stories I’ve read in nearly five years have the flames now: Romancing the Soul, The Secret Life of Mrs London and The Rest of my Life. I’m thankful to receive your feedback – especially as this was one novel where I have had mixed feelings about since I posted my review – even whilst I was writing it I think those feelings can be felt or seen. It was a hard novel to get through – one thing is true, you’ve broached yourself is the character arcs – those were some of the most complex and conflicting arcs I’ve seen given to characters in a long time. As I was mentioning to another commenter, the hardest part for me to resolve is how much creative liberty was taken to tell the story; especially in regards to the Houdini’s. I’m thankful to know this was one of your favourites to read in regards to my reactions.

    • Hallo, Hallo Susan!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me! :) I appreciate your visit and the time you took to leave me a note! Hmm, I’ll have to visit your blog and see what your thoughts were about this one. I had mixed feelings to be honest – I do generally *love!* Biographical Historical Fiction stories – as you’ll see my Story Vault I read these quite often – however, something just felt ‘off’ to me about this one. I can’t claim I loved it to the extent you did – as I honestly had too much conflicting in ‘me’ as I read it. Mostly as I felt some of the characters were not presented in the best light or in their authentic light of truth. I guess for me, when it comes to BioHistFic, I do like stepping into their shoes knowing the truth of their lives rather than altering what really happened. I am happy you enjoyed reading my thoughts – I am glad I could talk about the book and even if we had different takeaways afterwards, we both found something inside the text to write about. Thanks for visiting with me!

    • Hallo, Hallo Aleen,

      Yes, this is what allured me to the premise behind this one as well – except to say, part of me was confused in parts about the ways in which Houdini & his were were being portrayed which is why after I posted my review, I did some digging online. I think one thing which surprised me are the amount of creative liberties taken in regards to the real lives of the characters within the context of the story itself. In regards to how the personalities of the men were involved, I was surprised London was so much akin to Hemingway! With Houdini, I sort of felt sorry for him in some places – as he was a conflicted artist for most of his life. In regards to him and his wife? I’m not sure they are seen the best in this story-line… in fact, I felt the worst for his wife Bess as I think she was dearly misunderstood and that was capitalised here.

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