Are you a fashionista? Welcome back Alyssa Maxwell – and a giveaway

By Liz, happy to welcome Alyssa Maxwell back to the blog! I love this post about fashion through the years – I know you will too! Take it away, Alyssa!

Hello Wickeds! Thanks for having me back, and hello to all your readers! Let’s get right into it with a question: are you a fashionista? Do you love the feeling of being all put together, or are you happier in a t-shirt and jeans/shorts/whatever? I’ll admit I’m a little of both, or maybe a little fashionista and a lot casual.

Nowadays, of course, we have the freedom to make these choices for ourselves; we can dress as we like pretty much wherever and whenever we want. Such wasn’t always the case, though. Until the 20th century, there were fairly strict rules about fashion (among the very wealthy, there were even rules about how you dressed in the various rooms of the house!) and oftentimes clothes defined who you were – at least in terms of your economic status. Clothes also formed the basis of first impressions, much more than they do now. Whether you were a wealthy society lady, a servant, or a middleclass matron, your clothes tended to reflect your place in society.

That remained true up until the second decade of the 20th century. WWI redefined many aspects of society, including the clothes women wore. Gone were restrictive corsets, dragging trains, narrow, floor-floor length skirts, and the many layers that kept women from enjoying freedom of movement. Why? Because during the war, more and more women entered the workforce to fill in for the men who were off fighting. Even society women joined the effort. For example, Gertrude Vanderbilt and others of her class served as Red Cross nurses near the front lines. Of necessity, women’s clothes became simpler, the hems shorter, and the styles less class specific.

As the war ended, a name in the fashion world began to spread through Europe. Coco Chanel had been working as first a hat designer, and then as clothing designer in Paris during the 19-teens, and following the war her popularity began to take off. Coco embraced the idea of comfortable fabrics like jerseys and tweeds and favored styles that all women could wear, no matter their economic status. In fact, Coco had such an egalitarian view of fashion that she didn’t mind when other manufacturers began copying her designs and making them more affordable. Coco Chanel’s fashions not only reflected the expanding roles in women’s lives, they also helped facilitate those changes by providing fashions that empowered women to move, to be bold, and to be themselves —  and not what society had always determined them to be.

In A Lady & Lady’s Maid Mysteries, Julia Renshaw, the eldest sister, has been a follower of Chanel’s fashions for several years now, and in this latest release, A Fashionable Fatality, she is thrilled to host her fashion guru in her home. Right here, though, I’m going to stop and repeat a quote I read recently: 

“Don’t meet your heroes.” 

Although Coco Chanel is still years away from choosing the wrong side to be on during WWII, she is already exhibiting the traits that will lead her to make those regrettable decisions. As Julia – along with sleuths Phoebe and Eva – finds out, while someone you admire may be utterly brilliant at what they do, it’s no guarantee that they’re actually a decent human being. As Eva and the Renshaw sisters soon learn, Coco Chanel is difficult, self-centered, oblivious and indifferent to the needs of others, and often downright mean. Which is partly what made her such a compelling secondary character for this book. Who doesn’t love to write about one of history’s villainesses, and give her a bit of what she deserves in the end? While Coco is never a suspect, she IS very much a catalyst driving those around her to behave as they do, which can be pretty contentious at times – contentious enough for someone to commit murder.

Have you ever met someone you’d admired from afar – and were you delighted or disappointed in that person? Or, tell us someone admire and whether you would ever like to meet that person. Comment below for a chance to win a signed hardcover copy of A Fashionable Fatality! (U.S. addresses only due to shipping costs.)

More about the book:

A house party attended by fashion royalty becomes the backdrop for a murder that only Lady Phoebe Renshaw and her lady’s maid, Eva Huntford, can untangle . . . 

Amid the aftermath of the Great War and its hardships, it’s no wonder that many wish to rediscover life’s pleasures—parties, fashion, dancing. Still, Lady Phoebe and Eva are disconcerted when a small gathering at the home of Phoebe’s sister, Julia, becomes a far larger and more glamorous affair . . .

 Julia has invited her favorite French fashion designer, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, and Coco’s current beau, the Earl of Chesterhaven. Coco has brought an entourage of her own, including two models, and intends to use the gardens as a photographic setting for her latest creations.

 Mademoiselle Chanel is as outspoken as she is talented, offering a scathing critique of Phoebe’s fashion sense. There is tense competition between the models as well. When one of the guests is found dead of smoke inhalation, it appears to be a tragic accident. But was a footman really to blame for mistakenly closing the fireplace flue, or is there a more sinister explanation?

Phoebe is determined to find out, despite the protestations of her sweetheart, Owen Seabright.  Both above and below stairs, Phoebe and Eva uncover myriad motives—career ambition, romantic rivalries, and even deeper betrayals. For despite the surface beauty, there are ugly secrets in the world of Maison Chanel, ones that a killer will risk anything to protect.

Bio: Alyssa Maxwell knew from an early age that she wanted to be a writer. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles of all kinds drew her to the mystery genre. She and her husband live in Florida, where they love to swim, ride their bikes, and shop at farmer’s markets and consignment stores. Alyssa also loves to watch BBC productions, sip tea in the afternoons, and delve into the past. She is the author of The Gilded Newport Mysteries and A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries, and a member of The South Florida Fiction Writers and the Mystery Writers of America-Florida Chapter. 

You can find Alyssa’s website here, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads, and on Sleuths in Time.

48 Thoughts

  1. How delightful to include a difficult real personality in your story, Alyssa! I’m looking forward to sinking into this book.

    I’ve written a story and a book that includes Amelia Earhart in her pre-fame days. I would love to have met her to learn who she really was behind the legends. Instead I relied on all kinds of other sources, as we do!

    The real rock stars I’ve met are all in the mystery world: Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, and Ann Cleeves top the list.

    1. Somehow I think they superstars you’ve met did not disappoint in any way! When is your Amelia Earhart book out? I’d love to read it. She’s fascinating and I’m sure there is a lot more to her than the pilot we’re all familiar with.

  2. Love the sound of your new book! I can’t say I really “admired” him, but I was a fan of wrestling and got to meet Hulk Hogan once. Mr. Take Your Vitamins and Say Your Prayers was quite a nasty letch. Bleck!

    1. Oh dear. When I saw Hulk Hogan, I thought, hey, that’s cool! But then I read your next comment, lol. That’s too bad, not to mention very icky!

  3. I met 3 actresses from the tv show Dark Shadows and I admire them more now than I did as a kid. They were so wonderful to talk to and then when I saw them again a few years later they remembered me. I also met David Selby and he gave me a kiss on the cheek. He is from the same part of WV that my Mom is from. I would love to meet Brad Pitt, I have been a fan since Thelma & Louise Congrats on your new book and thank you for the chance at your giveaway. pgenest57 at aol dot com.

    1. I’m fangirling right now! I LOVED Dark Shadow as a kid, and in fact I’ve been watching it now on Prime. I’m so glad you found them to be friendly!

    2. I’m definitely a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl! Date night with hubby I will dress up a bit, LOL. I can’t think of anyone I met that was famous. Thanks for the chance!!

  4. Alyssa, congratulations on the new book!

    Since I’ve been to lots of comic conventions I’ve gotten to meet a lot of the the people I’ve been a fan of from the comic book, TV and film worlds. And I had a great time meeting each of them. No bad experiences.

    My 12-year-old self would’ve been in heaven when I got to share a car ride to a convention with Road Warrior Animal. That was very cool! Getting to meet all the people from the TV show Firefly that I’ve met was great as the show is one of my favorites. And meeting Catherine Mary Stewart from The Last Starfighter was such a blast! Oh, and I can’t forget to mention Gigi Edgely from Farscape, she was absolutely adorable!

    And in the music world, whenever I’ve gotten to meet some of artists either before or after the shows, it has been amazing. The various members of Savatage tops that list since they are my favorites. But the one that took the longest and meant the most to me because of my longtime crush/admiration for her has to be German metal queen Doro Pesch. How huge was getting to meet her and take a photo with her? It’s the profile pic on my Facebook page! Also, while I didn’t meet her per se, when I got to interview Leather Leone after 30 years as a fan, oh man you can’t believe the amount of prep I did for that. I wanted to make a good impression on her for knowing what I was talking about. So when my phone rang and it was Leather on the phone, it was AWESOME!

    1. Thank you, and wow, it seems you’ve really gotten around to meeting a lot of your favorites. I can imagine the interview was extremely nerve-wracking, especially beforehand. And I’d count that as meeting her!

    2. Congratulations on the new book, Alyssa! I’m a fan of professional cycling and got to meet Greg LeMond in 2005. The 3-time Tour de France winner was very nice. The encounter is more meaningful now that the other two American winners of the Tour had their titles stripped for doping.
      Greg is the real deal!

  5. Live in Utah for a while and meet many actors and actresses. Utah is one of the states that a lot of movies and tv shows are filmed. Meeting each one was a thrill for me. cheetahthecat1982ATgmailDOTcom

  6. For me, it was when hubby and I took a trip with my parents by in the late 1980’s to Branson, MO to see many of the country western stars of the day. I came away with a different opinion of several of the “stars” that trip opening my eye that not all are as they appear on the TV screen. There was the case where I star refused a young impressionable youth for an autograph literally bushing him away. There wasn’t a big crowd around, but rather felt he was only worthy of an autograph if he bought some of his merchandise. Another was a star that many of her fans were very concerned over a recent automobile accident. One had already spent a lot of money for a ticket to see this person sing for maybe an hour, but she still wanted more. She had set aside a very small room that from what others told us had very little in it other than the newspaper articles and her one used cast where it would have been nice to share with her fans, but instead all she could see was dollar signs. Another went on stage knowing he was sick, cut his show short and even though during intermission sold merchandise to be autographed at the end of the show to be left with unsigned souvenirs. Again all about the money and not the fans. These are just a few of incidents that made one wonder. We were there several days attending many shows – both morning, afternoon and nightly – and I can honestly tell you that we only met 2 actual STARS who delighted in their fans and took time to spend with them. Sadly it definitely changed our minds about several of those who through TV shows had held them in high regard.

    Congratulations on the recent release of “A Fashionable Fatality”. It’s on my TBR list and I can’t wait for the opportunity to read and review this fabulous sounding book. It takes place during one of my favorite eras too.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Thanks you! But what a shame when famous people think they’re better than everyone else, and don’t respect their fans or the effort those fans went to to be able to meet them. Bad karma!

  7. Congratulations on another book! It sounds wonderful. Thanks for the chance to win it. I was lucky enough to attend a film festival long ago maybe 2000 or 2001. I got to meet three actors I grew up watching on TV: Beverly Garland, Ruta Lee, and William Smith. They were all so warm and friendly to their fans. Just lovely people. ckmbeg (at) gmail (dot) com

  8. I am very glad fashion has changed because while dressing up occasionally is fine, I’m happy that I can choose comfort in most things.

    My daughter loves Coco Chanel designs and her empowerment of women, but agrees she was a fairly horrible person.

    I’ve been fortunate that all the heroes I’ve met have been wonderful people.

    1. In my opinion, nothing is better than being comfortable. I have to admit that while I do like some of Chanel’s early styles, I found the whole “country tweeds” thing rather frumpy. Still, though, it was innovative.

  9. If I were able to time travel back to the 1920’s England- I would love to meet Almina Herbert, Countess of Carnarvon . It’s written that she opened up her residence to care for wounded soldiers and maybe travel to Egypt with her when she went to be with her husband Lord Carnarvon. But then again you never know she might not be as nice as they make her out to be. 🙂

  10. So glad I was born way too late for corsets and bustles! Give me jeans and tee shirts and I’m happy!

    I have met a few fashion icons and they were just as lovely in person and they dressed. Audrey Hepburn made you feel as if you were the only person in the room when she spoke to you, and Princess Caroline of Monaco has a wicked sense of humor!

    1. I’m so envious that you met Audrey Hepburn! I just adore her and I admire her philanthropic work and her resistance efforts during WWII. And I remember seeing Caroline in all the tabloids back in the 70s, when she and Caroline Kennedy were all the rage as far as young celebrities went. I guess she had to develop a good sense of humor!

  11. Welcome back, Alyssa! A Fashionable Fatality sounds wonderful and is set in an era that is very interesting to me. I’ve met a lot of famous people, but it’s the unfamous that have taught me that doing one thing very well and making a pile of money at it doesn’t mean you know everything–though it often convinces old, rich, white men that they do. I do think for people who truly change the world, a level of selfishness is required for that level of achievement that almost precludes being a conventionally nice person. (That doesn’t mean you have to be a Nazi sympathizer, or even a jerk, just that you can’t let other people’s feelings, wants and needs get in the way.)

    1. Sadly, I think you’re right about that. You usually need a certain amount of assertiveness and even aggression to achieve great things. But yes, there are lines that should never be crossed.

  12. Looking forward to the new book Alyssa! I have had occasion to meet some relatively famous people, including an ex U.S. President. Politics aside, I was surprised at the warmth and humor of the man. I think there is a tremendous difference between persona and personality and what it takes to get ahead and stay in power can warp wholesomeness. It took me awhile to grasp the concept of “feet of clay,” but it is real. But wickedness has its intrigue – as we readers of mysteries know so well.

    On the fashion front, I am of the age where we dressed nicely growing up. Easter was especially fun as we would get a new frock, shoes, and hat. I love beautiful, natural fabrics, and think you can be casual and still be chic. The fashions of the 1920s were quite spectacular and there is a British TV series about the period and fashion made in the 90s – The House of Eliott – and it definitely touches on the cutthroat nature of the industry.

    1. Oh, I remember those easter dresses, hats, and little purses, and then going to my grandmother’s house where I was the only girl out of 10 cousins! I’ve never seen House of Elliot. I’m hoping I can find it streaming somewhere other than BritBox, which I don’t have – yet!

  13. I have never met anybody who was famous, but I can remember instances in my life where I have met people who were very appealing to me from a distance, and then I was disappointed with their initial responses toward me. I guess they really wouldn’t have been good friends for me, and it was probably better for me in the long run that they pushed me away. I have other trusted friends who are worth my time. It’s true that you really don’t know someone until you spend time with them.

    1. I’ve experienced that too. Probably most of us have. It’s always a hard awakening at first, but if someone decides not to be friendly, then they’re really not worth our time.

  14. I’ve met/known quite a few “famous” people (movie stars, politicians, other well-knowns), most of whom were very warm, friendly people. But there were a few who were more boring than anything.

    After seeing the so-called absolutely ridiculous fashions displayed at Paris Fashion Week last week, I’ll stick with my jeans and sweatshirts. Yeah, it’s fun to dress up once in while, but most of the time – nah.

    1. High fashion always gets a chuckle out of me! I think a lot of it is for shock value, or artistic expression, rather than clothes regular people can actually wear.

  15. Congratulations on your new release. I’m looking forward to reading the book. I’m definitely more of a casual person, but it’s fun to dress up once in awhile. I can’t think of any famous people that I’ve met, but there are plenty of authors I would like to meet.

    1. I enjoy dressing up too, and feeling “put together,” but most days who can be bothered? LOL. I’ll take my jeans/shorts and flats/sneakers any day of the week. And yes, there are lots of authors I’d like to meet too!

  16. Congratulations on A Fashionable Fatality — I can’t wait to read it as soon as I finish my current book! I met author Diana Gabaldon some years ago, and she was lovely to the huge crowd of fans, patiently signing our books and posing for pictures. Left me with great memories.

  17. I have never met a famous person, but I have a list of authors I do want to meet someday. I love the fashion theme in your book. I don’t follow trends, but I do enjoy putting my own look together.

  18. I admire women who are good role models and who accomplish great things! That includes teachers. (I am a retired special education teacher!)

  19. My 4th grade teacher pops into my mind. I admired her because we had something in common and luckily got to know her better. She was very kind and truly cared! We became pen pals for a few years and bonded over our Pomeranians!

  20. My thanks to everyone who visited my post and commented! And to the Wickeds, who are all fabulous. The winner of the signed copy of A Fashionable Fatality is Cherie J. Cherie, we’ll be in touch!

  21. Thank you for the review I have always looked up to my Grandmother she was a great lady and worked at a Neighborhood house that helped members of the community.

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