GILDED SPLENDOUR by Rosalind Laker


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A fictional biography of furniture wizard Thomas Chippendale (b. 1718)--slightly hamstrung by fact but primarily guided by Laker's melodrama-romance imagination. We first meet ""strongly sensual"" Tom as a young Yorkshire carpentry assistant, poor, gifted--and soon in love with frail, noble Isabella Woodleigh. But their fledgling romance is doomed: Isabella's tarty sister Sarah, to avoid being sold in wedlock (by greedy Mama) to old, rich politico Nathaniel Trench (he covets the famed Woodleigh name) semi-seduces Tom in public; Isabella, wounded, marries Trench herself to save her family. So, while Isabella suffers woeful wifehood--Trench does weird things around the house with his first wife's mummified body!--Tom seeks his London fortune, re-encounters Sarah (now an actress/whore), and marries Isabella's dear friend Catherine. . . just before Isabella is freed by widowhood. (Trench, impotent but obsessed with having an heir, dies while arranging for Isabella to be raped.) Poor Isabella, however, will find love--when she meets Owen Maxwell on a trip to Italy: there's skinny-dipping passion in a marble pool; there's a breakup (Isabella discovers Owen's Italian mistress), then, back in England, a reconciliation with nuptials. And meanwhile Tom is prospering, gaining fame and fortune, with help from ambitious, competent Catherine--though their love fades over the years, as tribulations (a child's death, a fire) come and go. So: when invalid Catherine dies, will Tom and Isabella finally unite? No--because she's happily wed to Owen. But Isabella will help to arrange for Tom's union with servant Elizabeth, who has adored him for years. Not as much fun as Banners of Silk, perhaps; and the Chippendale history's just tacked in (with some nice woody details). But Laker is a reliable entertainer--and this loose, linear romanticization won't disappoint her following.

Pub Date: May 28th, 1982
Publisher: Doubleday