Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Gallery Books
With earlier works treating Edgar Allen Poe and Rembrandt Cullen is trying to carve out a niche wherein she portrays famous men through the women who knew them best. In her latest work she has set her sight on Mark Twain, a polarizing figure for sure. He is seen through the eyes of her assistant Ms Lyons and the reader is tossed between the present and glimpses of their past together.
A girl from high society having fallen on hard times due to her father’s neglect with money, Lyons is forced to work as a governess while her friends marry wealthy men. She first meets Twain when she joins her employer for a poker game at the author’s home. Next she knows she has been employed by Twain’s sickly wife, a person she has never met and instead is cared for by the daughters. She takes on the role as Twain’s secretary, taking diction for his autobiography among other things and while meeting famous people and going to Italy she grows ever fonder of the writer and it seems the budding feelings appear reciprocated.
Although Cullen is a very competent writer this book never becomes very interesting or engaging. The plot of the book is unclear and most of the time appears to be a slow- moving recap of Lyons life with Twain. The actual intrigue doesn’t appear until much later in the story and this fact makes it difficult to turn the page to see what happens next. The romantic aspect or rather the sexual tension that is supposed to exist between Twain and Lyons is often hinted at, but never felt through the pages.
It is a valiant effort to try to describe an interesting figure from American culture, but in the end it falls flat and becomes less interesting than a biography about him.