Gaslight-era St. Louis. A desperate dreamer on the razor edge of ruin inherits an unexpected fortune. George Reinhardt spends every penny and more to create one of America’s first luxury retail emporiums, a gamble that quickly transforms him into a civic leader and an avatar of style. But wealth, power and prestige don’t inoculate George and his descendants against heartache.
My debut novel is a sweeping, four-generation saga of the wealthy Reinhardt family, St. Louis merchants who built a local retail empire over the course of a century.
From back-alley bordellos to the heights of society, A Matter of Happenstance sweeps across continents, oceans, and eras as it weaves lives and luck, and ultimately proves happenstance is anything but.
Impeccably researched, rendered in eloquent prose, peopled with saints and scrabblers, men of God and women of the night, debutantes and diner waitresses, financiers with heart and waifs with soul, “Happenstance” is the kind of novel to keep you reading long past bed-time.
Each spring cotton plants unfurled from Chattooka in all directions, rippling to the horizon in rows straight as corduroy. By summer the town appeared to float in a sea of green, its smattering of low roofs barely visible from the through-road. In autumn the bolls burst, a million downy puffs shining in the moonlight like opals. Chattookans were of two minds about the sight. Some folks claimed it resembled a blizzard, though they’d never seen a single snowflake. Others swore the dots swaying on twilight breezes were ghosts, come out to dance.
The residents of Storyville — permanent, occasional, and hourly — regarded Miss Alice Breaux as almost pretty, an assessment that was the God’s honest truth. Save for the misfortune of an under-formed chin and the sharp eyes of a raptor, Alice might have been a fair looker, once.
Fritz sometimes headed down to the riverfront, to a shadowy back room in the Cherrick Building where stone-faced poker players hunched around a barrel, men who took him for what he was, a rich kid on the slum. Men who mistook him for ripe pickings. “Hear the one about the French maid and the cream puff man?” Fritz said one night, in great shape at the flop. For hours, he’d been parlaying so-so hands into a mountain of chips, tracking every card. Around four in the morning, he made a point to start losing.
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