"His Smoke, Her Roses" by Chandra Jayne, is a woman's coming of age thriller set in 1930s.
Kansas City in the Thirties seemed wholesome as the town of Mayberry but was impervious as Gotham City. Haven to bootleggers and suitcase farmers, Kansas City promised everything to weary travelers on the edge of the churning Dust Bowl: a cool drink in a speak easy and a quick bank loan. People called it Little Chicago, and local politics were served up Capone-style. Migrant farmers, too late to cash in on the wheat boom, roamed the Great Plains with collapsible houses from Sears. The stock market had crashed and liquor had been outlawed; work was impossible to find.
HIS SMOKE, HER ROSES takes place on Main St., where the lustrous gold entrance of the city bank rivals the dark doorway of Willy's Perfumery, a bootlegging front trimmed with small, black hearts. The street's art deco look suggests the city's innocence, but the purity is soon spoiled by a local government of Capone Gang throwbacks.
This story explores the believability of surfaces and appearances, focusing on the annihilation of one of the city's finest families,the Mann family. Owners of the once-leading pharmacy in Kansas City, the Manns have refused to supply the mob with legally obtained alcohol.
The nineteen-year-old daughter, Carthage Mann, appears unaware of danger but keeps track of every detail. She's a luminescent platinum blonde, all at once ethereal, honest, sensual, and reserved. Two men and a woman vie for her love: a reputable bank vice president, a seductive mobster twice her age, and the lesbian numbers specialist for the mob. Carthage appears in classically balanced settings protected by luminous sunlight. In contrast, Willy, the emotionally disturbed mobster, sneaks around in shadows and asymmetry. As he gradually influences Carthage, she is torn in a visual war between light and dark.
As her relationship with mysterious Frances develops, Carthage gains more clarity about her situation and the evil forces involved. Through Frances, Carthage is able to take actions that ultimately save her own life. In return, she teaches Frances that her options are many, not just the roles of victim or persecutor. In a town where female power is grossly underestimated, these women take all and save themselves in the process.
- Chandra Jayne, June 2011
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