Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen: A Book Review
Author: Lynn Cullen
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books
Release Date: October 1st, 2013
Source: Netgalley/ Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: A writer and his demons. A woman and her desires. A wife and her revenge . . .
Inspired by literature’s most haunting love triangle, award-winning author Lynn Cullen delivers a pitch-perfect rendering of Edgar Allan Poe, his mistress’s tantalizing confession, and his wife’s frightening obsession . . . in this “intelligent, sexy, and utterly addictive” (M. J. Rose) new masterpiece of historical fiction.
1845: New York City is a sprawling warren of gaslit streets and crowded avenues, bustling with new immigrants and old money, optimism and opportunity, poverty and crime. Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” is all the rage—the success of which a struggling poet like Frances Osgood can only dream. As a mother trying to support two young children after her husband’s cruel betrayal, Frances jumps at the chance to meet the illustrious Mr. Poe at a small literary gathering, if only to help her fledgling career. Although not a great fan of Poe’s writing, she is nonetheless overwhelmed by his magnetic presence— and the surprising revelation that he admires her work.
What follows is a flirtation, then a seduction, then an illicit affair . . . and with each clandestine encounter, Frances finds herself falling slowly and inexorably under the spell of her mysterious, complicated lover. But when Edgar’s frail wife Virginia insists on befriending Frances as well, the relationship becomes as dark and twisted as one of Poe’s tales. And like those gothic heroines whose fates are forever sealed, Frances begins to fear that deceiving Mrs. Poe may be as impossible as cheating death itself. . . .
My Review: Frances Osgood is famous for having a literary courtship with Edgar Allan Poe, but according to many historians, despite their passionate love poems to each other, their relationship was platonic. However, the author, drawing upon recorded events, letters, and Poe and Osgood’s writings, believes that Poe and Osgood were actually lovers. Mrs. Poe at first approves of Poe’s and Osgood’s friendship, but when their relationship grows, she becomes jealous, possessive, manipulative and desperate to keep her husband’s love. The author tells a tragic love story of two women’s love for one man.
The story begins after the success of Poe’s poem, "The Raven." Frances Osgood, a struggling writer and the protagonist in the novel, strives to have the success as Edgar Allan Poe. She has the fortune to not only meet Mr. Poe, but also to become friends with his wife, who is a fan of her poems. Because she is in the Poes’ inner circle, she soon learns their dark secrets. Soon, her relationship with the Poes begins to create gossip and soon her reputation has become notorious.
Frances Osgood is, at first, an abandoned wife that strives to support herself and her daughters. She is smart, and compassionate. She is also a little vain for she cares about being in high class society. She does have a moral conscience for when she begins her romance with Poe; she does feel guilty because she knows it is wrong to have a romantic relationship with a married man. Mrs. Poe is frail and sickly. She comes off as childish, but she is known to be highly educated. She adores her husband and is his most ardent fan and supporter of his works. When she finds out about her husband’s love for Frances, she is heartbroken and feels empty and discarded. She is desperate to do anything to win back the love of her husband. However, both the characters of Frances and Mrs. Poe are eclipsed by the character of Mr. Poe himself. Mr. Poe is without a doubt, the most fascinating character in the novel. In the beginning of the novel, he is a ladies man, and even Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, squeals like a fangirl when Mr. Poe is near. He is known to be cynical and makes rude comments to other writers, accusing one of plagiarism. Behind his cynical persona, we find that Poe is a man haunted by his dark past.
Overall, this novel is filled with suspense, betrayal, obsession, and forbidden love. The characters are well-developed, and the plot is executed very well. The writing is beautiful, haunting, and lyrical. The story is a dark thrilling tale. I would recommend this book to fans of Edgar Allan Poe and gothic fiction.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars