Title: THE QUEEN OF MILWAUKEE
Genre: Upscale women’s fiction
Word Count: 80,000
Margaret thinks she’s being haunted by memories of the past, but she may just be unraveling her future.
She is living the life of a queen, or as close as it gets in 1930s Milwaukee. Her beauty and reputation are remarkable, leaving everyone who meets her breathless with jealousy or desire. She is married to Edward, a wealthy and connected man, yet fortune’s smile is only an illusion. Margaret is haunted by dreams of her first love.
She uncovers puzzling mysteries: a wish of good luck from a passing stranger; missing bills from her purse; dusty papers in an attic. She determines to discover if her husband is hiding something, or maybe hiding everything.
Before Margaret’s questions can be answered, her naïve foray into a winter storm leads to a near-fatal illness, and the ensuing tragedy deals her marriage a sickening blow. An FBI agent appears on their doorstep to reveal Edward’s secrets. She finds her life in shards at her feet.
If her marriage can be saved, she will keep her reputation; if it cannot, she might have freedom.
Perhaps fate was at fault for dealing Margaret a mixed hand; maybe God was responsible for making her life a complex blend of joy and tragedy, of beauty and cruelty, like a cocktail combines sugar and ice, or a winter’s day can host the blinding sun above the freezing hills.
Margaret’s destiny tonight had been determined as long as two months before, ever since she’d painstakingly written out seventy-five invitations for a party, writing a different address on each crisp, creamy envelope, with her calligraphy pen and neat yet flourishing penmanship, and sent them off in the mail.
Now the evening she’d so carefully arranged was here, and the weather had never been so hot on the fourth of July. The radio announcer proclaimed that day a record-breaking scorcher, which made Margaret think of a hot iron pressing too long into a soft linen skirt. This weather felt like that: a hot iron that could melt the clothes right off their backs if they weren’t careful.
Margaret sat peering into the mirror to assess her fair complexion. A stray curl lay unruly above her ear, a futile straggler unwoven by the humidity, and she wrangled it flat with a hairpin—nothing must be out of place tonight. How inappropriate that their guests might judge her solely on appearance…yet she could imagine worse things—like being married to a dull man, or having amnesia after a car accident. In light of these, being liked for one’s good looks didn’t seem like such a cross to bear.