Excerpt Tour: The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin

Enjoy an exclusive excerpt from The Beautiful American as part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Jeanne will be awarding a photo/postcard collection from the 1920s (US/Canada only) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

As recovery from World War II begins, expat American Nora Tours travels from her home in southern France to London in search of her missing sixteen-year-old daughter. There, she unexpectedly meets up with an old acquaintance, famous model-turned-photographer Lee Miller. Neither has emerged from the war unscathed.

Nora and Lee knew each other in the heady days of late 1920's Paris, when Nora was giddy with love for her childhood sweetheart, Lee became the celebrated mistress of the artist Man Ray, and Lee's magnetic beauty drew them all into the glamorous lives of famous artists and their wealthy patrons. But Lee fails to realize that her friendship with Nora is even older, that it goes back to their days as children in Poughkeepsie, New York, when a devastating trauma marked Lee forever. Will their reunion give them a chance to forgive past betrayals...and break years of silence to forge a meaningful connection as women who have shared the best and the worst that life can offer?

Enjoy this exclusive excerpt:

How had I produced such a child, me, the gardener's daughter from Poughkeepsie? Dahlia was a wonder to me, but in my dread I didn't think of her as strong and competent, but as a lost child crying for her mother.

My lost child. Would I be returning home without her again? I had gone back and forth from Paris to Grasse for months, always leaving home with hope, returning in despair. Home again, without Dahlia. The thought kept me motionless inside that doorway.

"Hey!" a voice muttered. "Move on." A woman, tall, burdened with an armful of parcels, almost knocked me over in her haste to get out the door.

"Watch yourself!" I snapped back. The woman looked at me over the top of her packages.

"Oh my God," she said.

Once she had lowered her arms and I could see her face, I knew her immediately. Lee Miller.

The very famous and beautiful Lee Miller, the Vogue model, the muse for the artist Man Ray who had made of her lips an iconic image of a woman's mouth floating in the sky. She had gone on to become a famous photographer -- the only woman photographer who covered battles, not just field hospital follow-ups and stories about the war nurses. She had photographed the London Blitz, the siege of St. Malo, the Alsace Campaign, the camps in Germany. Nightmare photos.

Lee was heavier than I remembered, and there was a puffiness around the eyes and in the cheeks that drinkers sometimes got. But nothing, not war, alcoholism or middle age, could mar that perfect nose and those cheek bones, the thick wavy blonde hair now worn post-war style, falling over one eye. Those oh-so-famous lips.

We stood for a long while, staring at each other in disbelief. It’s not often that you run smack into your own past.

About the Author:
Jeanne Mackin is the author of several novels: The Sweet By and By (St. Martin’s Press), Dreams of Empire (Kensington Books), The Queen’s War (St. Martin’s Press), and The Frenchwoman (St. Martin’s Press). She has published short fiction and creative nonfiction in several journals and periodicals including American Letters and Commentary and SNReview. She is also the author of the Cornell Book of Herbs and Edible Flowers (Cornell University publications) and co-editor of The Norton Book of Love (W.W. Norton), and wrote art columns for newspapers as well as feature articles for several arts magazines. She was the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society and her journalism has won awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, in Washington, D.C. She teaches creative writing at Goddard College in Vermont, has taught or conducted workshops in Pennsylvania, Hawaii and New York and has traveled extensively in Europe. She lives with her husband, Steve Poleskie, in upstate New York. Website: http://www.jeannemackin.com/

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Thanks for hosting!
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From the author:

"Good morning, everyone, and thanks so much for hosting me. Wouldn't you know, my cable and internet service went down last night in the storm. I'm at the public library (honk if you love libraries!) so I can connect with you.

Question: what is your favorite historical novel? Add some titles to my reading list!
Rita said…
Great excerpt, thank you.