Published 1987 by Donald I. Fine, Inc.
If living well is the best revenge, living fabulously well can inspire rebellion – especially among those who have to clean up after the party is over.
For “Mrs.” Madeline Memory, the head housekeeper at Palm Beach’s Royal Poinciana hotel, exclusive winter preserve for the rich and/or famous, the “season” of 1896-97 seems unlikely to offer the fulfillment long denied her, demanding as it will be for her to maintain the grim façade of a prim, dedicated employee at the sun-bathed resort.
Then into Maddy’s chambered life barges one of the hotel’s liveliest guests, the smoothly attractive and thoroughly unattached Harrison St. John Loring. Masquerading as a financier who works when he chooses and plays with abandon, Harry Loring is in fact a glib confidence man. Though Maddy has been formally enjoined from fraternizing with the guests, she comes to see the genuinely affectionate “investor” as her one chance at a splash of color on her otherwise muted canvas.
There follows a series of elaborate deceptions and escapades that add up to a tale of many parts: of social portraiture (how the overindulgent of that glittering age dressed, ate, and played), of love (in an era when sex was a four-letter word), of poses and illusions, of scandals and white-gloved crime. The illicit, bittersweet romance at the heart of the narrative soars and ebbs and constantly renews itself as it finally draws its lovers together in enduring complicity.
Faithfully evocative of a grander and more gracious era than our own, and featuring one of the more engaging heroines (and bodacious heroes) in recent fiction, Royal Poinciana is a timeless novel with an appeal for all seasons.
©2017 Richard Kluger