Twain’s End

In school, teachers always use Mark Twain as the example when they talk about pseudonyms and pen names. As a kid, I remember being mystified that Samuel Clemens was the real person, not this “Mark Twain” figure. Why would anyone make up a new name just to write a book? Seemed so silly at the time.

Of course, there are many reasons authors use pseudonyms–female authors used to use them to be taken seriously as if they were male. JK Rowling writes as Robert Galbraith for her more serious books so people distinguish them from Harry Potter. And Mark Twain was born out of a desire to become this over the top, flamboyant, powerhouse character.

For the public eye–Mark Twain was the only “person” that existed. He wrote the books, he made the money, he was in the papers. But for the people who truly knew Samuel Clemens, there was a completely different person behind the scenes.

Twain’s End tells this behind the scenes story of Samuel Clemens and his relationship with Isabel Lyon, his secretary. She worked for him for six years, and then suddenly he dismissed and sued her. Lynn Cullen turned that event into a historical romance, speculating that the cause was Twain’s fiery temper and jealousy.

I have very mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, I couldn’t put it down. It IS a romance after all. And the characters are extremely interesting. On the flipside, those interesting characters frustrated the hell out of me. While I realize women were more dependent on men in the early 1900s than they are now, the females in this book just never did anything but breathe in the air of the men they loved. Again, sure, this is a historical romance…but come on. Don’t give me a lead character that is supposed to be an independent feminist who on more than one occasion talks about knocking down the conventions of the day, and then have her drag her knees every time the man merely crooks his finger. She should be better than that. Even Livy was better than that.

I’ll give this 3 Book Dragons. It certainly kept me going, and I liked learning about Samuel Clemens. The female side of things deserves more than they got, though.

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NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Released October 13.

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