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review 2015-10-16 11:21
Review | Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
Mrs. Poe - Lynn Cullen

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…

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Although I've been a fan of Poe's writing since first studying it in junior high, I actually knew little to nothing about the relationship between him and poet Frances Osgood before this book came out. Of course I was intrigued. Poe's life from any angle seems to be filled with mystery and oddity. And what's this of a scandalous extra-marital romance to boot? Do tell, Lynn Cullen!

 

If you're not familiar with the name Frances Osgood --- and you're not alone, she's fallen pretty well into obscurity these days --  she was a writer of Poe's time mostly known for her collections of poetry (often having botanical themes) and children's stories. Osgood met Poe while they both lived in New York, both married to other people -- Poe famously to his cousin, Osgood to portrait painter Samuel Osgood. Edgar & Frances also came to find out that they both originally hailed from Boston. Both being writers, a friendship and possible mild flirtation grew, and (from what I've read of the true history anyway) it seems that Poe's wife encouraged the friendship. That wouldn't make for a very gripping read though, I suppose. So in comes Cullen with Mrs. Poe. Holy Christmas, was there some creative license in this sucker! 

 

In her author afterword, Cullen admits that while writing this novel, she wanted to vicariously explore what it might have been like to fall in love with Poe, through the character of Osgood. When you read up on the actual history of the two, you see just how deep Cullen got into her what-ifs! Yes, there were a series of poems published in the papers that many people of the time period saw as an open flirtation between Poe & Osgood. But while history leans toward the sickly Mrs. Poe most likely being okay with the friendship (perhaps because she felt herself nearing the end of her life and wanted the comfort of feeling that someone would be around to look after Edgar), Cullen puts a dark spin on wifey Poe, having her spillin' tea, throwin' shade and otherwise carrying out oops-did-I-do-that almost-murder plots against Osgood. 

 

I was excited to get into this book but having now experienced it...ooohhh, I had some problems with it. For one thing -- and this might make me sound old-fashioned to some -- but I was a little bothered that this story seemed to be romanticizing, even glorifying infidelity. I thought maybe this story would be about Poe's wife putting her foot down and making it clear that's her man. There are moments where Cullen has you believe that's where the story is headed, but then the potential intensity is quickly snuffed out. Instead, we get Cullen's Poe persistently whining about his wife being annoying and childish... well, she's all of 23 and dying of tuberculosis. Even his mother-in-law points out that all his wife wants is wifely attention once in awhile, a caress or a cuddle here and there but he gets one look at much older Frances Osgood, whose novelized self I personally found about as exciting as stale crackers, and goes 

 

 

Mostly everything about these two in this story, at least romantically, just didn't work for me. Timing-wise, what with Mrs. Poe's imminent death looming in the background, their behavior was pretty tacky. Poe comes over for Christmas with a tree, Frances' husband suggests maybe taking it and setting it up for.. oh, I dunno...  Mrs. Poe, maybe. Frances acts like her husband is being incredibly insensitive, but no, seriously, it's not a bad idea he's got there. The bad timing thing happens again with Frances and Edgar's final scene together. That one just had me silently screaming Seriously?! You're doing this now?!

 

I also felt like Cullen wanted to write something creepy, as a nod to Poe's style. Well, while there are moments of creepy, shady behavior from characters that you think / hope will turn into something darkly entertaining & intense, it ends up feeling like Cullen couldn't maintain that vibe. Instead you get a historical romance with just whispers of thriller that go nowhere (at least for me).

 

The points I give in Cullen's favor: 1) I like the inclusion of the story behind the development of Morse Code. It's just one little blip in the whole plot, but it was interesting. 2) I liked most of her environment / atmosphere building, though in some parts it did feel like she was running it into the ground a bit and 3) Sad to say, but my favorite part of the book was her afterword on the actual history that (VERY loosely, I've come to realize) inspired this novel.

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review 2014-12-10 03:58
Rumor Has It
Mrs. Poe - Lynn Cullen

I like my fictional men moody and misunderstood, which is funny because in real life I'd last about 5 minutes with a man like that. Ha. Well, I'd love the misunderstood part but I would have a hard time if he looked at me sideways.

 

However, I love Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester, and even cruel Heathcliff ( in his younger years that is...though I'll admit to him breaking my heart and making me sob thereafter. So I guess that's fictional love). 

 

At any rate, I loved reading about all of them. Never wanted the books to come to an end. That is how I felt reading about Edgar Allen Poe. Though Poe, as we know, is not a fictional character but was a well known poet...and evidently quite the heartthrob. A misunderstood one.

 

That's not the rumor though.

 

The focus of this historical fiction novel is not Mrs. Poe as one would assume. It's really about the love affair between Edgar and Francis Osgood. Again, no one knows if this affair actually happened because the book is actually fictional, although there is a theory that it might have. There is also the theory that he simply married Virginia, the real Mrs. Poe only to help the family out. Who knows?

 

Of course, I loved the romance (Oh to read a Bronte- like novel or even an Austen-like novel. Sigh.) but what really captured my interest about this book is the role people and media play in a person's reputation. I watched a documentary on Marie Antoinette that stayed with me. In summary, the documentary led me to believe that she might have been entirely different than what society was led to believe. Therefore, the Edgar we see around Halloween time....maybe not the true picture. Did I mention, he wasn't creepy? I'm extremely happy that Cullen let us see another Poe and perhaps the real one. Rumors make me incredibly downhearted, especially when they are never opposed.

 

So not only did this book get my heart pumping, it made me think too.

 

What is fiction and what is truth?

 

Do we ever really know?

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review 2014-07-18 12:44
Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
Mrs. Poe - Lynn Cullen

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen 
Published by Simon and Schuster on October 1st 2013 
Genres: FictionGeneralHistorical,Romance 
Pages: 352 
Format: eBook 
Goodreads 
five-starsfive-starsfive-starsfive-starsfive-stars 

A vivid and compelling novel about a woman who becomes entangled in an affair with Edgar Allan Poe—at the same time she becomes the unwilling confidante of his much-younger wife.

It is 1845, and Frances Osgood is desperately trying to make a living as a writer in New York; not an easy task for a woman—especially one with two children and a philandering portrait painter as her husband. As Frances tries to sell her work, she finds that editors are only interested in writing similar to that of the new renegade literary sensation Edgar Allan Poe, whose poem, “The Raven” has struck a public nerve.

She meets the handsome and mysterious Poe at a literary party, and the two have an immediate connection. Poe wants Frances to meet with his wife since she claims to be an admirer of her poems, and Frances is curious to see the woman whom Edgar married.

As Frances spends more and more time with the intriguing couple, her intense attraction for Edgar brings her into dangerous territory. And Mrs. Poe, who acts like an innocent child, is actually more manipulative and threatening than she appears. As Frances and Edgar’s passionate affair escalates, Frances must decide whether she can walk away before it’s too late...

Set amidst the fascinating world of New York’s literati, this smart and sexy novel offers a unique view into the life of one of history’s most unforgettable literary figures

I am inexplicably drawn to Edgar Allan Poe. I don’t understand most of his poems, but find myself reading them all the same in an attempt to understand. My absolute favorite work of his is not a poem at all though – it is The Tell Tale Heart. This book was very much like a longer version of that tale, only instead of murder there are secrets and lies. 

I have never been in a similar situation to the tell tale heart, however I can see it in my minds eye as if I am there. The mind is a very interesting thing. It can take us down dark roads we didn’t know we wanted to go down until we were already there breathless to turn back, helpless to do anything but press on. Reading this book was exactly like that. It was dark and scary, exciting and intriguing.

It was very interesting to me to see into the world as it may have been in the late 1800′s / gaslight era and how different, yet strangely similar, society reacted to adultery. The desperation to be viewed as equal to a man in every way by women yet knowing it was not possible (at the time) was palpable. I am constantly reminded through various means how lucky I am to be a woman in this day and age, although I yearn to be able to live in a much older time period. The saying is true then as it is now, and will be in the future: We always want what we don’t have. The hard part of life is finding peace with what you have because if you have ever been so lucky as to get what you want you too may know that in time the want gets tarnished and the need grows dim. Not that I do not believe that happiness exists or that there can be a love between husband and wife the endures. On the contrary, I very much hope that glimmering dream is a possibility. The problem for me is that the most romantic love stories I have ever read are steeped in pain, longing, regret, and tragedy. Any happiness in those stories is always short lived, but much like a star it burns bright when it can and then must fade out of existence. If only we lived as long as stars then our histories brief moments of pure bliss could span centuries. Alas, we are mere mortals and our time here is brief, our happiest times even more brief.

Would that I could be wooed by a simple tale of love that lasts and has no issues, but my twisted mind finds that too simple and improbable. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, life is messy and so is love. Thankfully divorce does not hold quite as much negative stigma in this day and age as it did when this story was set. I can’t imagine being forced to endure a loveless marriage simply to “keep up appearances.”

Well done Lynn Cullen, if I had a hat to tip I would.

owlaryKatie

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review 2014-06-18 23:46
Imaginative, gothic biopic of Edgar Allan Poe and Frances Osgood
Mrs. Poe - Lynn Cullen

Set between 1845 and 1847, this novel is narrated by Frances Osgood, a Boston blueblood who enraged her family when she eloped with a talented, but grasping, portraitist.  Abandoned now by her serial philanderer husband, she is living with friends as she struggles to make enough money from her writing to support herself and her two daughters.  

When she meets Edgar Allan Poe -- newly superfamous for his poem "The Raven" -- her life becomes more rich and more complicated as he helps her career and spurs intense passion.  Complicating things, however, is Poe's childlike wife, who is a mix of sweetness and vindictiveness that has Frances torn between guilt and anxiety.  

There's a juicy, gossipy feel to the world of 19th century New York literati that will inspire you to camp out on Wiki.  Cullen takes figures that popular culture seems to "know" and turns our perceptions of them on edge: Poe is Mr. McDreamy while Margaret Fuller comes off as a mere tabloid writer, hungry for money and headlines.  Louisa May Alcott is a flitting fangirl and Herman Melville is a pest to be waved off.  (Loyalists may dislike her imaginings, but even I, as a devoted Fuller and Alcott fan, found it fun to see my favs painted in a different light.)

Mixed into this cameo-laden fest are the atmospheric historical details that I love in hist fic, from hints about costume and dress, social behaviors, inventions and other industrial changes, and the juxtaposition of wealth and poverty.  

And while the love story didn't work for me (it's the rare romance sprung out of infidelity that can warm my heart!), I still greatly enjoyed the drama and atmosphere in Mrs. Poe.  The gothic overtones to the story harken back to the 19th century penny dreadful and echoes Poe's works, and make some of the credulity straining moments feel less outrageous.

This edition includes the entire text of Poe's "The Raven" as well as as a poem by Osgood, and a brief Author's Note. 

Perfect for summer, this is a great novel for longtime fans of Poe as well as those unfamiliar with him and his world.  It's eye-opening, a little provocative, and dramatic fun.   

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review 2014-05-26 20:35
Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
Mrs. Poe - Lynn Cullen

I wasn't sure of what I was expecting when first deciding to read and review this novel. Maybe a memoir of sorts or a tale so much more ordinary. But this...it was absolutely exquisite in its telling. A shivery tale that was not intended but which thrilled me to my very core. Almost as much as the characters, or most of them anyway, in this book were by the poem "The Raven."

 

And speaking of "The Raven", I do not know a time when I have heard it mentioned so much. I mean, every other chapter or two someone was asking poor Mr. Poe to recite it. I literally sighed with frustration every time someone queried about it. I loved that, though, because it kind of emulates how things truly are. People find something that they adore, a poem or story, and then they work it to death.

 

Now on to the characters. Edgar Allan Poe is a subject that many are familiar with, but I have to say that I knew little about his wife or mistress. I just knew they existed in a sense as to have made him a bit of who he was as a person, just like everyone all of us will ever meet will influence us. I actually truly loved how Frances brought out this light in Poe. He seems so dark and brooding in the beginning that it felt as if he basically considered the world an annoyance. But when she came along, I have to say, he writing became considerably brighter, even if only in poems to her, he seemed, dare I say it, happy.

 

And his wife...WOW!!! Um...she was quite interesting. Seriously, though, I felt so many emotions toward her: fear, pity, fear...Okay, so maybe two words in all, but considering she was dying throughout all of this, she was a tough cookie. She was bound and determined to see Poe go with her in the end.

 

All around, I loved the characters in this. The main ones (Frances, Poe, Mrs. Poe) and the not-so-main. The obnoxious and the downright deplorable. The understanding and the not-so-understanding. Everyone brought something to the table. Right down to the kitten, Miss Poe. Each brings another level to the affair which forms between Poe and Frances.

 

Not a disappointment at all. In fact, I absolutely fell in love with it. There are really no other words to describe this story. I can only shake my head in satisfaction and say, "Go on...pick it up. You'll love it from its first line all the way to its last."

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