Today we welcome author Ciar Cullen, as we celebrate the release of Lillian Holmes & the Leaping Man.
A Most Unusual Woman
by Ciar Cullen
My heroine, Lillian Holmes, was 24 in 1899. Certainly there were worse times to be a woman, and worse circumstances to being an heiress. It was a time of significant change for women, as some of means were going to college, becoming physicians, leading more independent lives. Still, the Victorian claws didn’t unclench easily. One magazine, The Ladies’ World, advised how easily it was for a woman to appear vulgar. Shaking hands with men, unless as a hostess at a party, was verboten. A woman’s voice was not to be high-pitched or shrill, her jewelry was to be modest, and she was not to dress above her means.
This would have been an issue for my Lillian, who liked to dress in boys’ clothing as she rode her steam-powered bike around the city late at night. Fashion was not her friend. She couldn’t care less about it, and would have liked nothing more than to ignore it completely, but her friend Bess and her ladies’ maid Aileen would have her take more care. What time did she have for dances and gowns when there were crimes to be solved? What did she care if men found her attractive? They were insipid fools, after her money. Well, except for one, one dark handsome man who mystified her.
Indeed, it seemed most advertisements aimed towards women in 1899 were for corsets, for creating that shape that is considered practically anathema these days. We want to be straight and thin, and keep a multi-billion dollar diet industry alive. But no, in 1899, it was all about the hourglass. Whether rust-proof or complete with hose-supporters, the corset was the essential bit of dress.
Lillian Holmes refused to be so constricted, as she did in many aspects of her life, much to the horror of her dear friend, Bess. Case in point:
Bess adjusted Lillian’s feathered hat and linked her arm through hers. “Isn’t this better than reading a pamphlet on soils or mollusks or the history of the Hindus? Why must you always wear deep blue? You look as if you’re in mourning. How lovely you’d look in white. I know, quite impractical. You’re so beautiful, Lillian. Why must you ignore your appearance? Now your hat has gone quite floppy again.”
“I’ve gone quite floppy in this heat. At least I didn’t wear a corset. You must be ready to faint. Although I must say you look rather pretty in all that pink, like a small party cake from Eisner’s bakery.”
“No corset?” Bess’s blonde curls bobbed as she shook her head in frustration. “Didn’t Aileen dress you tonight? What am I to do with you?”
Read an Excerpt of Lillian Holmes & the Leaping Man
About Lillian Holmes & the Leaping Man
Tormented by a tragic past, Miss Lillian Holmes nonetheless found the strength to go on, to become the greatest female detective of her time. To make her uncle proud. Except…he was not truly her uncle. Sherlock was a fictional character, and Lil was less a true detective than a sheltered twenty-six year old heiress with taste for mystery…and morphine. But then she saw him. Leaping from her neighbor’s second-story window, a beautiful stranger. With the recent murders plaguing Baltimore, here was a chance to reveal the truth.
Except, the Leaping Man was far more than he seemed. A wanton creature of darkness, an entry point to a realm of deception and evil, and to a Truth she had waited countless years to uncover, he would threaten far more than Lillian’s life. He would take both her heart and soul. And she would rejoice in it.