Inspired by literature’s most haunting love triangle, award-winning author Lynn Cullen delivers a pitch-perfect rendering of Edgar Allan Poe, his mistress’s tantalizing confession, and his wife’s frightening obsession . . . in this “intelligent, sexy, and utterly addictive” (M. J. Rose) new masterpiece of historical fiction.
1845: New York City is a sprawling warren of gaslit streets and crowded avenues, bustling with new immigrants and old money, optimism and opportunity, poverty and crime. Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” is all the rage—the success of which a struggling poet like Frances Osgood can only dream. As a mother trying to support two young children after her husband’s cruel betrayal, Frances jumps at the chance to meet the illustrious Mr. Poe at a small literary gathering, if only to help her fledgling career. Although not a great fan of Poe’s writing, she is nonetheless overwhelmed by his magnetic presence— and the surprising revelation that he admires her work.
What follows is a flirtation, then a seduction, then an illicit affair . . . and with each clandestine encounter, Frances finds herself falling slowly and inexorably under the spell of her mysterious, complicated lover. But when Edgar’s frail wife Virginia insists on befriending Frances as well, the relationship becomes as dark and twisted as one of Poe’s tales. And like those gothic heroines whose fates are forever sealed, Frances begins to fear that deceiving Mrs. Poe may be as impossible as cheating death itself. . . .
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When given bad news, most women of my station can afford to slump onto their divans, their china cups slipping from their fingers to the carpet, their hair falling prettily from its pins, their fourteen starched petticoats compacting with a plush crunch. I am not one of them. As a lady whose husband is so busy painting portraits of wealthy patrons—most of whom happen to be women—that he forgets that he has a family, I have more in common with the girls who troll the muddy streets of Corlear’s Hook,... see more
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Reading Group Guide
Set in the fascinating world of New York’s literati scene of the 1840s, Mrs. Poe tells the story of Frances Osgood, a poet desperately trying to make a living as a writer in New York, a difficult task for a woman—particularly one with two children and a philandering husband. When Frances meets Edgar Allan Poe at a literary salon, he seems dismissive of her work. However, a few days later, she learns that Poe has given a lecture praising her poems and then asks to speak with her about poetry, striking up an unlikely friendship. Although both Frances and Edgar try to deny their feelings, they become increasingly obsessed with each other, leading to a passionate affair and endangering Frances’s reputation. During this time, Frances has also become the confidante of Virginia Poe, Edgar’s much younger wife, who, despite her appearance of innocence, seems to be subtly threatening Frances. As the stakes escalate, Frances must decide whether she can walk away before it’s too late. This captivating novel see more