Guest: Mollie Cox Bryan

Edith, writing from north of Boston, wondering how mid-May got so cold and damp. But to brighten the day, join me in welcoming author Mollie Cox Bryan, with a new series, a new protagonist, and bunches of new research! Here’s the blurb for The Jean Harlow Bombshell:

Justine Turner is a world-famous biographer of Hollywood stars. She’s also Charlotte Donovan’s overbearing boss and requests an emergency meeting about Charlotte’s latest in-progress biography. When Justine dies before their urgent discussion can begin, all Charlotte wants to do is finish the Jean Harlow biography that Justine had started. Instead, she finds herself in grave danger—stalked both online and in person by a drop-dead Jean Harlow look-alike. Together with police sergeant Den Brophy, Charlotte uncovers shocking revelations. But will these revelations be enough to catch the killer?

A Peek into my Research Process–Plus a Giveaway!

When people ask me what’s the most fun about writing books, it’s hard for me to choose. Playing with words? Giving my imagination free rein? Or learning something new every day? I love it when it all blends together. A good example is with my new book, The Jean Harlow Bombshell.

While it’s set in New York City, with several real places, like Central Park and Bryant Park, I created several of the establishments. Readers have been asking about them, so I thought to give a glimpse into how I created the top three places readers have been asking about.

The Apartment

My character’s boss, Justine, is wealthy and lived in an elegant old apartment. I’ve always been fascinated by the old grand apartments in the city and wanted to tour them for research purposes. But it turns out, that’s a bit tricky. I figured a realtor would give me tour, but you have to prequalify to even be let in–and most of us couldn’t begin to qualify for those multimillion dollar apartments. In fact, the realtor laughed at me.

So much for gonzo fiction writing. What to do?

I turned to the computer, investigated online, and gleaned information from real estate ads, blog posts, and even YouTube. Here’s a fun blog post on Judy Garland’s apartment, which was in one of those famous apartment buildings–the Dakota.

You can see from this post on another famous apartment building, the San Remo, a bit about the history and at the bottom of the post, there are a few listings of apartments for sale in the building. Did your eyes pop out of your head?  Pause for a moment here and gather yourself.

Since they wouldn’t let me in to any of these places, and I had no connections to people living there (fancy that), I created one and called it the L’Ombrage, which means “the shadow” in French.  I stole elements from real apartments and made them a part my fictional one. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Club Circe

Justine belongs to a private social club in the city–Club Circe. If you know anything about most of the social clubs in the city, they have mostly white, wealthy male members. Now there are women’s only clubs, but they are relatively new compared to the others. Many of the male-centered clubs started letting women in the 1980s. (How nice of them, right?)

Once again, I took elements from clubs like the Yale Club, and named it for a fierce goddess, and made it women-only. Its members are wealthy successful women with agency: think judges and senators.  What fun, right? Here’s a post on the women’s social clubs in the city.  

One room in Club Circe dons red velvet walls. The floor in the entryway is a marble mosaic of the goddess Circe. Do you see what I mean? Imagination gone wild!

Layla’s Tea Room

The tea room is one of the oldest in the city and is a place of fading glamour. It’s in the opening scene of the book and in a few more scenes throughout. This one came straight out of my imagination. I researched tea houses in the city and found several varieties. But this one is more of the Eastern feel than a quaint British tea house. I had so much fun creating this that I created a Pinterest board for it.  

I enjoyed getting to know more about New York City, Jean Harlow, and old Hollywood. There’s nothing like the glamour of Golden Age Hollywood. Of course, Jean is my favorite.

Readers: Who’s your favorite Golden Age actress? I’ll randomly choose a response and send you a copy of the book.

Mollie Cox Bryan is the author of the Cora Crafts Mysteries and the Cumberland Creek Mysteries. Her books have been selected as finalists for an Agatha Award and a Daphne du Maurier Award and as a Top 10 Beach Reads by Woman’s World. She has also been short-listed for the Virginia Library People’s Choice Award. Mollie is distantly related to Jean Harlow.

Follow Mollie on instagram @molliebryan, Facebook, Twitter at, and her web site. Sign up for Mollie’s newsletter:

37 Thoughts

  1. It was a pleasure meeting you at Malice, Mollie. I would have to go with Elizabeth Taylor as my favorite, although Bette Davis is a close second. It sounds like a glamorous time to be in movies, but women had such a struggle–and still do.

  2. What a wonderful idea! My experience with the grand old hotels was limited to the Ritz Tower (Park Ave. and 57th Street) where my grandmother lived in the 1960s-80s (it still retained a few touches of its former glory, including elevators run by humans, one of which was supposedly an exiled Russian nobleman). Among its residents for a time was Arlene Francis, whose association with the building was colored by the fact that a small exercise weight used to keep open a window in her apartment (yes, the windows opened in those days) fell and killed a pedestrian on the sidewalk beneath. Good plot for a murder?

  3. Absolutely! Gosh, I hand’t thought of Arlene Francis in years!

  4. I love Barbara Stanwyk! Thanks, legallyblonde1961 at yahoo dot com

  5. I can’t wait to read this, Molly! Especially after Dru Ann Love said she missed her subway stop reading it. I’ve always been fascinated by Carole Lombard.

  6. I love mining the internet for pictures and constructing your own place such fun.

    There were so many glamorous Golden Age actresses it’s impossible to pick just one.

  7. Looks like a fun read, Mollie! My favorite Golden Age actresses are Lauren Bacall, Judy Garland, Katherine Hepburn, and Audrey Hepburn. If I have to pick one, I’ll choose Judy Garland. Who could ever forget her in the Wizard of Oz?

  8. Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, Barbara Stanwyck, to start. Great actresses with serious attitude. I love the info on your research. I thought my plain old suburban tract home was fairly spacious but looking at those floor plans and room after room after room – and had to laugh, guess no spending a Sunday afternoon in NYC looking at model homes like we used to do out here in the sticks. Congrats on the book release!

    1. Thanks! It’s always been a lot of fun going to open houses and so on. But I guess it doesn’t work for these places!

  9. I, too, can’t pick a favorite. They all came across as so glamorous. I love the research you did. I went to the sites you mentioned. Judy Garland’s home is lovely. The others, not so much. Too cold and unfriendly looking, to say nothing of ridiculously expensive. Gee, I hope I win this book. Looking forward to living in the fantasy world for a few hours.

    1. Thanks for commenting! Yes, it was an eye opening experience!

  10. There are so many that I like but probably Audrey Hepburn is my favorite because she seemed (to me, anyway) to be so casually elegant, like there was no effort on her part. Something I never could carry off!

  11. Some of my favorites: Marlene Deitrich, Greer Garson, and Judy Holliday.

  12. I’d love to be able to take a tour of one of those elegant old apartment buildings. It’s too bad they wouldn’t let you tour for research purposes. I don’t know that I have a favorite actress. Grace Kelly maybe?

  13. It’s so hard to choose a favorite Golden Age actress but I’ll go with Grace Kelly with Rita Hayworth as a close second. The new book sounds so interesting!

  14. This brought back memories! I was in Lauren Bacall’s Dakota apt – a friend was dating her son – and I lived around the corner from the San Remo. My cousin still has the apartment! Looking forward to your fab book!

  15. kc20083gmailcom, you’re my winner! I’ll email you! Congrats!

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