Author Topic: The Gilded Cage/1000 words  (Read 152 times)

Offline Rcro

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The Gilded Cage/1000 words
« on: March 05, 2021, 09:18:27 AM »
I've written an 80,000 word historical novel about the Gilded Age of New York/England and I'd really appreciate some feedback on it on the opening. Feel free to tell me if it doesn't work, I can learn from whatever you tell me. Thank you.

CHAPTER 1

Newport Rhode Island, January 1896


On the morning of June 3rd, 1896, Clarissa Roxburg came down to breakfast in the enormous mansion her family had rented for the summer, and she tried to hide her excitement. It was another beautiful day, which pleased her. It would be easier to execute her secret plan, she thought. If it had rained overnight, she knew she wouldn’t be able to get away from the house without raising a few curious eyebrows.

Thankfully, the sun was high in the sky and there wasn’t a cloud to be seen; even the breeze coming in off the Atlantic Ocean was pleasantly warm. Entering the Sun Porch, where the family breakfasted, Clarissa found her parents and brother already seated around the large table. Her debonair father, Randolph, looked up from the newspaper he was reading and kissed his daughter on the cheek as she passed him.

Teddy, her younger sibling, playfully called her “sleepy head” and smiled warmly at her. And her mother, Alice, gave her a mildly censorious look as she sipped her morning coffee.

Like most wealthy New York families, the Roxburgs had come to Newport for the Summer Season, to get away from the heat of Manhattan. Randolph was glad to get out of the offices downtown too, where he was the president of the Roxburg Rail company, from which the family had derived their vast fortune. Teddy had come down from Choate, the boarding school from which he had recently graduated. He was expected to go to Princeton in the Fall, and eventually join the family firm. Newport offered the men a chance to relax, but for Alice the little town on the Rhode Island shore meant work. Alice was keen to continue her social advancement amongst Mrs Astor’s set in Newport. To do this she had rented an enormous Italianate mansion right on the cliff’s edge, a house which everyone euphemistically called a “cottage”. From here she would entertain and cultivate the “best” people.

Clarissa wasn’t interested in playing that game. She was much more interested in travelling the world. Her father had promised her that they would vacation in Europe later in the year, and Clarissa couldn’t wait. She especially wanted to see Paris. Her English governess, Miss Oliver, had spent several years there and had told her how beautiful it was and how exciting her life had been.

Clarissa was a tall, slender young woman, almost a foot taller than her mother. She was pretty in a delicate way, with long chestnut hair, naturally smiling lips, and large, sensitive and curious brown eyes. Although she had been an awkward youth, in the last year or so she had transformed into an elegant young woman with a naturally gregarious personality that made people like her instantly.

“What are your plans for the day, Teddy?” Alice asked her son.

“I’m going over to the Van Alans. We’re going to get up a tennis match against a few Dartmouth fellows.”

“Lucky you.”

“It should be fun.”

Alice approved of her son’s plans. The Van Alan’s were an old family, one of the best. Their son was at Choate with Teddy. Teddy socialised with the scions of the best families in New York and Newport now, thanks to Alice’s insistence that he be educated alongside them. All she had to do now was make them accept her daughter Clarissa as well. That wasn’t going to be quite so easy. Clarissa could be difficult. She was pretty enough to catch a husband certainly, but it was the girl’s attitude that would be the problem. Alice wanted her daughter to be intelligent, but she also wanted her to be compliant. The girl hated the boring dances and tea parties Alice was always taking her to, either here or in New York. Even now, sitting opposite her at the breakfast table, Alice wondered how she was going to get Clarissa to toe the line.

“And what about you, Clarissa?” Randolph enquired. “How are you going to spend your day?”

Clarissa didn’t want to give anything away.

“Oh, I think I’ll spend the day in the garden. Or maybe I’ll go horseback riding…I haven’t given it much thought.”

“That sounds pleasant.”

Alice interjected. “Clarissa will be coming with me this morning. I’m having tea at Mrs Astor’s.”

Clarissa was stunned. She hadn’t been told anything of this tea. It irritated her that her mother simply told her what she was doing, rather than ask her. But more than that, it put her own plans for the day in jeopardy. If she had to go to Mrs Astor’s house, she may not get back in time to see him. Surely there must be something she could do to get out of it!

“Must I go?” Clarissa asked.

“Yes, you must.”

“But I don’t want to.”

Alice was in no mood to argue about it. “Clarissa, you will be going with me to Mrs Astor’s and that is an end to it.”

Clarissa turned to her father and implored him to intercede with her eyes.

Randolph then took up her cause and gave his wife a look; he wanted her to indulge their daughter and not force her to go to yet another boring tea with yet more Newport matrons.

Alice did not like it when Randolph sided with Clarissa. It only made her look like the bad parent.

“No, Randolph,” Alice said, “they’re expecting both of us.”

Clarissa knew Alice wanted to parade her before these influential women because they had sons who needed to be married off to acceptable young brides. Newport was just as much of a marriage market as New York was at times. She would be looked over, assessed, and judged for her looks, character…and no doubt her fortune. And it was all done under the guise of genteel conversation over China tea and sandwiches. Randolph knew it too, but there was little he could do about it. Alice would get her way.



Offline JTetstone

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Re: The Gilded Cage/1000 words
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2021, 12:04:41 PM »
It was a little boring to read. But, I believe you caught the Gilded Age of New York:the mindset of the rich and famous of the time. And the writing is very good.  I found this maybe it will give you some ideas : http://hauntedhouses.com/rhode-island/astors-beechwood-mansion/
I was born and raised wearing hand me down shoes and clothes-but I was richer by far than those who thought themselves 'my betters.'  I'd take love over riches and fame any day.

Offline Rcro

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Re: The Gilded Cage/1000 words
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2021, 12:34:22 PM »
Thank you so much for the reply. And I appreciate the link, it will be helpful to add in some more atmosphere. Perhaps the story could be little more exciting, especially for the opening scene

Offline JTetstone

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Re: The Gilded Cage/1000 words
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2021, 12:49:19 PM »
Thank you so much for the reply. And I appreciate the link, it will be helpful to add in some more atmosphere. Perhaps the story could be little more exciting, especially for the opening scene

You welcome,Rcro. You might want to record yourself reading the story. Then play it back so you can actually feel the tone of your story.  Best of luck with your writing.      jt
I was born and raised wearing hand me down shoes and clothes-but I was richer by far than those who thought themselves 'my betters.'  I'd take love over riches and fame any day.