Today I am so pleased to welcome Kate McMurray to Joyfully Jay. Kate has come to talk to us about her latest release, Ten Days in August. She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving Kate a big welcome!
Ten Days in August takes place in New York City in 1896 and features a hero who is perhaps not your typical historical romance hero. Which is to say, he’s a drag queen.
There’s a painting in the lobby of the New-York Historical Society officially of an unidentified woman, though it was long-rumored to be Edward Hyde, Viscount Cornbury, who was appointed governor of New York and New Jersey in 1702 by his cousin Queen Anne. Legend has it that Lord Cornbury liked to parade around town in his wife’s clothing. Whether or not this is true is up for debate—some scholars think the rumors about Lord Cornbury wearing full female court dress to receive visitors, for example, were meant to discredit him—but for some reason I like the idea of it. Regardless, it goes to show, there have been men wearing ladies’ clothing in New York City for as long as it’s been a city.
I can’t imagine how much courage it must have taken to subvert gender in a time when it was so rigidly patrolled. And yet there are recorded incidences of female impersonators performing (and working the streets) throughout the nineteenth century. In the 1880s, dance halls popped up all over the city, including Armory Hall, run by notorious saloonkeeper Billy McGlory. McGlory hired young men to dress as waitresses and encouraged his male clientele to wear dresses. The club became widely known for encouraging homosexual activity, though it was hardly safe; McGlory also tended to hire well-known criminals to work security, and barroom brawls were a regular occurrence.
Ten Days in August features a beautiful female impersonator named Nicky, who got his start on the floor of Armory Hall. Even in a seedy environment, putting on a dress awoke something in Nicky. I pulled from more contemporary memoirs of drag queens as well as people I know who perform in drag for some inspiration for Nicky’s character, but I think his motivation is universal. Drag for him is a compulsion, an extension of his personality, of his being. When our other hero, Hank, suggests Nicky stop performing as a female impersonator, Nicky refuses, saying that giving it up would be like cutting off a limb. Nicky dresses as a woman as a form of self-expression. When the novel begins, he sings and dances a few nights a week at a shabby club on the Bowery, which was the only space for someone like him at the time, but that would change.
One of the things that made me want to write historical romances with LGBT characters is that there is this long-hidden history of LGBT people subverting society, particularly in New York, a city where money has always trumped morality. We tend to think of the gay rights movement as a relatively recent phenomenon, but the truth is that brave men and women have been testing boundaries for generations and carving out spaces for themselves out of the landscape of the city. That’s one of the themes of this novel—finding one’s place in society, in a way that allows one to still be himself.
From the Lower East Side to uptown Manhattan, a curious detective searches for clues on the sidewalks of New York—and finds a secret world of forbidden love that’s too hot to handle…
New York City, 1896. As the temperatures rise, so does the crime rate. At the peak of this sizzling heat wave, police inspector Hank Brandt is called to investigate the scandalous murder of a male prostitute. His colleagues think he should drop the case, but Hank’s interest is piqued, especially when he meets the intriguing key witness: a beautiful female impersonator named Nicholas Sharp.
As a nightclub performer living on the fringes of society, Nicky is reluctant to place his trust in a cop—even one as handsome as Hank. With Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt cracking down on vice in the city, Nicky’s afraid that getting involved could end his career. But when he realizes his life is in danger—and Hank is his strongest ally—the two men hit the streets together to solve the crime. From the tawdry tenements of the Lower East Side to the moneyed mansions of Fifth Avenue, Nicky and Hank are determined to uncover the truth. But when things start heating up between them, it’s not just their lives on the line. It’s their love…
Kate McMurray is an award-winning author of gay romance and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She has served as President of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance chapter of Romance Writers of America, and is currently president of the New York City chapter. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Kate has brought a copy of Ten Days in August to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Friday, April 1st at 11:59 pm EST.
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