Review: What The Lady Wants

January 20, 2015 1800's, book review, Chicago, historical fiction, NAL, Renee Rosen 5


  • Written By:  Renee Rosen
  • Published By: NAL an imprint of Penguin Random House November 4, 2014
  • Length:  420 pages
  • Source:  Publisher sent to me for consideration of an honest review


In late-nineteenth-century Chicago, visionary retail tycoon Marshall Field made his fortune wooing women customers with his famous motto: “Give the lady what she wants.” His legendary charm also won the heart of socialite Delia Spencer and led to an infamous love affair. 

The night of the Great Fire, as seventeen-year-old Delia watches the flames rise and consume what was the pioneer town of Chicago, she can’t imagine how much her life, her city, and her whole world are about to change. Nor can she guess that the agent of that change will not simply be the fire, but more so the man she meets that night.…

Leading the way in rebuilding after the fire, Marshall Field reopens his well-known dry goods store and transforms it into something the world has never seen before: a glamorous palace of a department store. He and his powerhouse coterie—including Potter Palmer and George Pullman—usher in the age of robber barons, the American royalty of their generation.

But behind the opulence, their private lives are riddled with scandal and heartbreak. Delia and Marshall first turn to each other out of loneliness, but as their love deepens, they will stand together despite disgrace and ostracism, through an age of devastation and opportunity, when an adolescent Chicago is transformed into the gleaming White City of the Chicago’s World’s Fair of 1893.(publisher)

My Thoughts:

I read this book in late November, and only recently realized I hadn’t finished my review.  Apologies to Renee Rosen, the author as she has been so very sweet to me, reaching out to me and assuring me of an early copy, sharing all her little old Chicago finds in photos and stories.

I’m a fool for stories that tie real history and their backstories.  This book takes a peek into the hidden lives of the much successful Marshall Field and the woman who was first his lover Delia Spencer.  Both lived opulent, privileged lives in Chicago.  They traveled in the best of social circles and yet were both hit hard by the Great Chicago fire.  Businesses, home and lives were lost, but history tells us that Chicago was rebuilt and in Rosen’s book we learn more of the personal side of the homes and retail stores coming back.

I enjoyed the telling of Marshall and Delia’s story.  I was sad that both were caught in rather loveless marriages. It’s hard to imagine a love affair of such longevity being had in that day and age.  People are quick to pass judgement on the morals of today,  I can’t imagine the hoopla and shunning that took place in late 1800’s Chicago.

I was a fan of Rosen’s first book, Dollface, and this book assures me I’ve got much to look forward to with her writing.  If you’re a love of historical fiction, Marshall Fields Department Store, or the great city of Chicago, this is a book you shouldn’t miss.  It’s a quick but unforgettable read.


5 Responses to “Review: What The Lady Wants”

    • Anita

      It’s really a good book Heather. Have a good weekend, and let me know when you have a chance to read it. 🙂

  1. whatsheread

    This cover is gorgeous! I miss Marshall Fields’ stores. I used to go shopping there all the time. It was the one department store my parents would frequent whenever they went shopping.

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