1918, England Armistice Day should bring peace into Leonora’s life. Rather than secretly making cosmetics in her father’s chemist shop to sell to army nurses such as Joan, her adventurous Australian friend, Leo hopes to now display her wares openly. Instead, Spanish flu arrives in the village, claiming her father’s life. Determined to start over, she boards a ship to New York City. On the way she meets debonair department store heir Everett Forsyth . . . In Manhattan, Leo works hard to make her cosmetics dream come true, but she’s a woman alone with a small salary and a society that deems make-up scandalous.
Everett’s daughter, Alice, a promising ballerina, receives a mysterious letter inviting her to star in a series of advertisements for a cosmetics line. If she accepts she will be immortalized like dancers such as Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Ginger Rogers. Why, then, are her parents so quick to forbid it?
From the moment I opened Her Mother’s Secret I was caught up in a story that entertained me and had me reading on into the night. It ranges in setting from England to New York, from the time at the end of World War 1 to the beginning of World War 11.
It is the story of a young woman – Leonora who has a dream, to become a maker of cosmetics. She has just a little money, a lot of knowledge and a couple of really good friends she finds along the way. She is both talented and tenacious. But its not easy because the other thing that you need is money to produce the cosmetics in quantities to interest shops in buying them. The whole story of cosmetics was fascinating, these days we don’t really think about it, they are just there, but in 1918 you were regarded by many as a bit of a hussy if you had red lips. Leo set out to change attitudes and produce the best cosmetics she could.
On her way to New York she meets Everett, a man she is immediately attracted to, and perhaps even comes to love in a very short time. However there are devious women at work who thwart the young lovers and inevitably come between them. One woman in particular is mean and calculating and nasty, the other rich and spoiled – by drugs and alcohol, although I did feel a little sympathy for her. In the end who will win out?
Everett has a daughter Alice, as time moves on to near the second world war she is becoming a dancer of note. She too is experiencing a love with a male dancer, something her mother does not approve of. Will she follow the path her mother has mapped out for her or will she follow her heart?
I loved the era this was set in, the resilience with which Leo worked on her cosmetics line, refusing to let setbacks take over. There is a little romance, a little mystery and considerable drama.
It is an extremely well written novel, throughly captivating and I so look forward to whatever Natasha Lester will write next.