Zhu Wong, my heroine in The Gilded Age is a time traveler from the far future who returns to the dark age of the 1890s. She enjoys what all time travelers enjoy: twenty-twenty hindsight (mostly). She’s Chinese, a radical feminist. Her far-future conflict focuses on over-population and the far-reaching effects of that.

For my fin de siècle murder mystery, we are in 1896, and my heroine, Lily Modjeska, is a woman of her time. The book description says she’s “typical,” though of course she isn’t. She’s quite extraordinary. She’s home-schooled by her educated mother, conversant in literature, history, mythology, and mathematics, and holds her own when she confronts men. She does not defer, she fights back! She’s a suffragist and acutely aware of the disenfranchisement of women.

It may be difficult for American and European women today to imagine the world of the 1890s woman (though perhaps not so difficult for women everywhere else in the world). Women were not generally educated, therefore could not secure much in the way of gainful employment, were not allowed into most colleges and universities, were not allowed into the professions, could not sign contracts without their husbands’ consent, and often owned no money or property of their own. Abusive marriages were fairly commonplace; the common law “rule of thumb” refers to the width of the stick with which a husband could beat his wife.

Lacking the vote, women were powerless to influence issues that concerned them rather more than men: child labor, workplace discrimination, prostitution, food, tobacco, and drugs, and the Biggie, temperance. The suffragist movement was closely allied with the temperance movement because strong alcohol was closely associated with abusive husbands. The well-funded alcohol lobby opposed both movements (as well as two smaller allied movements–spiritualism and the prevention of cruelty to animals). The national vote for women was not won for thirty long years (though states like California passed suffrage laws earlier). A founding mother like Susan B. Anthony never saw victory–she died.

The average life expectancy of women in 1896 was thirty short years. Thirty years. Why? Well, in addition to incurable mortal diseases like tuberculosis, dysentery, cholera, and various fevers, women faced childbirth. In an age when germ theory was still not widely understood and sterile technique not practiced, childbirth was a very risky proposition. For that matter, so was love and sex—no birth control except bidets and a rarity–condoms made out of sheeps’ intestine.

But enough. All this is deep background and shapes Lily’s personality. I wanted a historical romance like Diana Gabaldon’s Voyager series (which happens to be time travel!) with passion and heat and wit commingled with my fin de siècle murder mystery moored in corrupt immigration policy.

What I needed next was a Fin De Siècle Hero.

Next: #Writing Lily Modjeska Part 4: My Fin de Siècle Hero.

Celestial Girl (A Lily Modjeska Mystery)

Lily is not quite a typical woman in Toledo, Ohio, 1896. She may be repressed and dependent on her husband, but she supports the vote for women and has a mind of her own. But when Johnny Pentland is found dead at a notorious brothel, Lily discovers her husband is not the man she thought he was.

Pursued by Pentland’s enemies, Lily embarks on a journey that will take her across the country to San Francisco and across the ocean to Imperial China as she unravels a web of murder and corruption reaching from the opium dens of Chinatown to the mansions of Nob Hill.

Her journey becomes one of the heart when she crosses paths with Jackson Tremaine, a debonair, worldly-wise physician. Lily and Jackson begin a conflicted, passionate relationship as they encounter the mysterious Celestial Girl and her dangerous entourage.

Celestial Girl, Book 1: The Heartland (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) is on Nook, Kindle, and UK Kindle! Lily flees Toledo on the Overland train. She must share a seat with Jackson Tremaine and befriends the Celestial Girl, the daughter of a Chinese dignitary. But appearances are not what they seem.

New! Celestial Girl, Book 2: Jewel of the Golden West (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) is on Nook, Kindle, and UK Kindle! Lily and Jackson arrive in San Francisco and discover the murder of an immigration official connected with the Celestial Girl. She and Jackson are compelled into a dangerous murder investigation and a contract for murder is taken out on Lily’s life.

Coming soon! Celestial Girl, Book 3: The Celestial Kingdom, which will include Book 3: The Celestial Kingdom, and Book 4: Terminus. The Omnibus Edition will include all three books.

Of The Gilded Age, the New York Times Book Review said, “A winning mixture of intelligence and passion.”

From the author of The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, on Nook, Kindle, and UK Kindle, Summer of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on Nook, Kindle, and UK Kindle, and The Gilded Age, A Time Travel (a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book) on Nook, Kindle, and UK Kindle.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, forthcoming projects and more. And on my Facebook Author Page, on Amazon, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

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More bargains for your reading enjoyment:

Urban fantasy! The Garden of Abracadabra is available in three affordable installments. Begin with Book 1: Life’s Journey on Nook, Kindle, and UK Kindle.

The Bantam classic, Summer of Love is available in seven affordable installments. Begin at the beginning on Nook, Kindle, or UK Kindle

Suspense! Don’t miss SHAKEN, my sexy thriller, an ebook adaptation of “Deus Ex Machina” published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, republished in Transcendental Tales (Donning Press), and translated and republished worldwide, is on Nook, Kindle. and UK Kindle.

Literary science fiction! And don’t miss TOMORROW’S CHILD, The Story That Sold To The Movies. This began as a medical documentary, then got published in Omni Magazine as a lead story, and finally sold to Universal Pictures, where the project is now in development. On Nook, Kindle, and UK Kindle.

Thank you for your readership!