DiscoverHistorical Fiction

The Mona Lisa Sisters

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Loved it! 😍

A charming mixture of love story and historical novel, it kept me glued to the pages to the very end. A delightful read.

Synopsis

From Ramona Ausubel: "The Mona Lisa Sisters is a tender journey into the making of a family. The novel is full of careful historical detail and the pleasure of European trains and cities and plenty of mystery to keep the pages turning, but the greatest delight is Lura Grisham herself.

Part love story and part historical novel this story set in the late 1800s kept me glued to its pages right to the last word. The setting of the story ranges between Paris and the beautiful countryside of Connecticut in the USA. Tragedy strikes when a drunk's horse careens into the carriage of heiress Lura Grisham and her husband Walter Myer, killing Walter and causing Lura to lose her baby.


In an effort to get Lura out of her deep depression her best friend, Emily Bartolini, persuades her go go to Paris - and there she finds two young girls, Katie and Ada Mae Dean who have been left in the Louvre by their father. They were left in front of the portrait of the Mona Lisa, where they were told to wait for him. Alas, little did any of them know, the poor man was dead and they were orphaned.


From here the story moves to America as Lura realises she can't leave the girls, and takes them back to her home - bypassing the authorities and creating a new series of legal challenges, and the appearance of a mystery man who comes to her aid every time she finds herself in a serious spot of bother. Who is this man? It is on the ship home she sees him again and this time confronts him. The story he tells is as charming and unlikely as her meeting with the two girls - he is Joseph Myer, Walter's half brother, a fact that Walter had been unaware of.


It is Joseph who, along with Lura's long-time butler and cook at her home mansion, helps her through the trials of getting the girls' late father's body to America, and giving him a burial beside his wife, then facing the legal challenges of adopting the two girls. Joseph realises he is in love with his sister-in-law and does all he can to ease the way through the legal hassles they encounter until it seems, the only obstacle to allowing the adoption is that in their State law, the adoption needs to be by a married couple - the perfect reason for Joseph to propose to Lura.


If that isn't the perfect ending, the unlikely love affair between Lura's friend Emily and the French diplomat negotiating on behalf of his country, adds to the fairytale nature of this charming story.

Reviewed by

A journalist in South Africa, I moved to the UK. Assistant Editor of magazines, then into corporate communication. Fellow of IABC
Author of Cry of the Rocks, and two romances. Won SA Writers' Circle book awards twice. Numerous reviews.

Synopsis

From Ramona Ausubel: "The Mona Lisa Sisters is a tender journey into the making of a family. The novel is full of careful historical detail and the pleasure of European trains and cities and plenty of mystery to keep the pages turning, but the greatest delight is Lura Grisham herself.

ONE

New Year’s 1894 was not the happiest day of my life.

I was born Lura Grisham in 1870 to George and Elizabeth Grisham in the rural town of Ridgefield, Connecticut. Beginning with a modest inheritance, Father built a small railroad connecting Connecticut and the city of New York. He prospered and became one of the wealthiest men in America. My home from birth has been Grisham Manor. Father built it to be the most exquisite summer home, not just in Fairfield County, but in all Connecticut. Mother loved it so much that it became the family’s year-round home.

The manor house, situated on twenty-eight acres atop a small knoll, gives us a view of the town from the veranda and dining room. The three-story Queen Anne contains sixteen rooms. Painted a pastel yellow, it exudes warmth and comfort. My bedroom for the first twelve years of my life was on the second floor, next to my parents’ suite. Designed as a nursery, it had spacious accommodations. Aside from their magnificent master suite, my parents had hoped to fill the five other bedrooms with children. Alas, it wasn’t to be. My birth was difficult for Mother and resulted in her never again being able to conceive.

On my twelfth birthday, dissatisfied with being confined to the nursery, I moved, without permis­sion, to the third floor. Leaving my childish furniture behind, I claimed ownership of the room’s lovely Elizabethan furniture. Father thought it funny. Mother, at first furious, soon forgave me. I chose the modest-sized tower room because it permitted me a view of the town and much of the valley. Beyond the manor and several farms, the road from the county seat wound south to New York.

I remember our old Methodist Episcopal Church before it burned down. It was tall, three stories plus a steeple. I could see the roof and bell tower from my window. Father once told me the spire helped people look up to the heavens. The tallest building in town, the roof was slate gray and the walls white. The first-floor walls were built of red bricks; the other floors were wood. I could not see it from my window, but there was a small parsonage on the property. When the church burned, it was spared. During the fire, the afternoon breeze carried smoke and soot across the fields. Standing in my room, the window open, I could see ashes and smell the awful odor of fire. We suffered for weeks afterward as the acrid stench of the residue drifted in on the wind. The odious remnant made all the worse by the turpentine and linseed oil used for decades on the church floors. The new church was not as tall as the old one, and except for the wooden steeple, built of brick.

Ridgefield wasn’t much more than a village then. The Roman Catholics had a small church on the outskirts, near Bartolini’s Mercantile.

The one drawback to my tower room was that I could not see the carriage entry. I couldn’t identify visitors without leaving my room. If I heard a coach arrive, I had to go down the stairs, hurry to the front, and join Mother as she greeted the guests.

Breakfast was usually in the nook off the kitchen. Like my tower room two stories above, the small area was octagonal with windows in every direction except for the doorway to the kitchen. I’m sure my father designed it that way so he could enjoy his morning coffee regardless of the season. It also gave him a chance to visit with the household staff. Father came from working stock and never treated the hired help as anything other than his equal.

When our church was rebuilt after the fire, Father bought two Mason and Hamlin pump organs. He donated one to our church and the other to the Roman Catholic Church where his Irish railroad workers worshiped. Father told me that many of the Irish had been enslaved in much the same manner as the Negro.

“Lura, our treatment of the Negro and the Irish has been only slightly better than the way we treat the Indian.”

“What do you mean?”

“Many still believe that the Irish and the Negro are no better than work animals and that all Indians should be wiped from the land.”

“Father, that’s terrible.”

“I know. We must treat everyone with respect and an open heart. You must never forget we are all God’s children.”

My father and mother had no living relatives. Father was one of six children, all boys. His parents and brothers died of cholera when he was five. He was raised by a freed family slave and supported by the proceeds from the sale of the family’s landholdings. Like me, Mother was an only child. Her father, a Union officer, died at Gettysburg, her mother, the year I was born.


About the author

George Cramer is an enrolled descendant of the Karuk Tribe. He brings forty year’s investigative experience to crime and historical fiction. He holds an MFA-Creative Writing Program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. George is the award-winning author of The Mona Lisa Sisters. view profile

Published on August 14, 2020

Published by Russian Hill Press

60000 words

Genre: Historical Fiction

Reviewed by