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Pretty Oklahoma teenager Helen Nichols accepts an invitation from her cousin, rising movie actress Ginger Rogers, and her Aunt Lela, to try her luck in motion pictures. Her relatives, convinced that her looks and personality will ensure success, provide her with a new name and help her land a contract with RKO. As Phyllis Fraser, she swiftly discovers that Depression-era Hollywood’s surface glamor and glitter obscure the ceaseless struggle of the hopeful starlet.
Lela Rogers, intensely devoted to her daughter and her niece, outwardly accepting of her stage mother label, is nonetheless determined to establish her reputation as screenwriter, stage director, and studio talent scout. For Phyllis, she’s an inspiring model of grit and persistence in an industry run by men.
While Ginger soars to the heights of stardom in musicals with Fred Astaire, Phyllis is tempted by a career more fulfilling than the one she was thrust into. Should she continue working in films, or devote herself to the profession she’s dreamed about since childhood? Which choice might lead her to the lasting love that seems so elusive?
"An engrossing glimpse into a bygone era and the forces affecting a young woman's evolution into her own abilities and adulthood . . . vigorous and involving to the end." ~ Midwest Book Review
"An Oklahoma teenager arrives in Hollywood and enters a glamorous world thanks to her famous cousin in this historical novel set in the 1930s and based on a true story . . . A witty and meticulously researched treat." ~ Kirkus Reviews
"A biographical novel as bright as the Golden Era . . . The research and attention to detail in The Limits of Limelight are meticulous . . . A lovely tribute to the larger-than-life celebrities of early Hollywood . . . a glitz and glamour novel that shines brighter the deeper you go." ~ Independent Book Review
"A time capsule of Hollywood's Golden Era . . . a captivating novel of Tinsel Town's perils and pitfalls, trade-offs and triumphs!"
~ Leslie Carroll, author of American Princess
"Porter's elegant, warm and well-researched novel is a joy to read! Perfect for lovers of historical fiction and tales of remarkable women. 5 of 5 Stars."
~ Literary Redhead, Goodreads
Hedy Kiesler, Austrian actress of Jewish heritage, scandalizes Europe with her nudity in the art film Ecstasy. Her hasty marriage to a wealthy munitions merchant disintegrates as he grows increasingly controling and possessive. Even worse—her discovery that he supplies deadly weapons to Hitler’s regime. She flees husband and homeland for Hollywood, where Louis B. Mayer transforms her into Hedy Lamarr, an icon of exotic glamour. Professional success clashes with her personal life as marriage and motherhood compete with the demands of studio and stardom. Roused to action by the atrocities of World War II, Hedy secretly invents a new technology intended for her adopted country’s defense—and unexpectedly changes the world.
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"Hedy Lamarr is feted as much for her intellect as for her beauty in this captivating novel . . . The pacing of the story is spot-on: Hedy's personal and career trajectories are excellently balanced by the secondary characters . . . . Porter's insightful account of a gifted yet often misunderstood inventor and movie star makes for a winning novel." Publishers Weekly
"Beautiful Invention deftly weaves Hedwig Kiesler's life as an intelligent, daring woman with the seductive, exotic Hedy Lamarr MGM invented and displayed to a fascinated public. It’s fast, fun, fascinating, enjoyable, intriguing, and recommended." Historical Novels Review
"The golden age of the silver screen is brought to vivid life . . . Margaret Porter paints an indelible portrait of the reluctant starlet--as immigrant, inventor, and fierce patriot.” Leslie Carroll, author of Notorious Royal Marriages
"The terror felt by Lamarr, who was Jewish . . . is brilliantly conveyed by Porter, whose empathy for Lamarr and historical knowledge brings danger to the plot. Resonating with the modern reader are Lamarr's struggles within her career and private life . . . whilst being revered as an international star. A revealing look at Lamarr's life, it proves that she was more than just a pretty face.” The Lady Magazine (UK)
"Beautiful Invention swept me into Hedy's life from the first page, so captivated was I by this incredible woman, fleshed out in the most compelling fashion by the author's very assured prose, plotting and execution . . . Beautiful Invention surpasses every expectation." Literary Soirée
"Beautiful Invention is a tender and poignant depiction of Hedy Lamarr's life. Porter successfully divides her focus between Hedy's acting career and the complex politics of the times . . . Porter details the uncertainty of Hedy's career immediately after her arrival in the USA and peers behind the façade of glamour gilding both the mundanity and the debauchery of Hollywood's Golden Age." Caitlyn Lyle Farley
"Set against the backdrop of World War II, including a heady mix of Hollywood stars, this book provides an insight into the life of one of the film greats. Her rise
from lowly script girl to big screen fame is charted in detail, providing us with clues to the real woman behind the glamorous persona . . . Hedy Lamarr, once touted as one of the most beautiful women in films, is vividly brought to life in Beautiful Invention. Those interested the early days of Hollywood glamour will love this book." Reader's Favorite
2019 New Hampshire Literary Award
Outstanding Work of Fiction
Beautiful Invention appears on these lists:
2021 Book Trib/Women's Fiction Writers Association Books for Women's History Month
Bustle's Recommended Golden Age Hollywood Historical Novels
Links to interviews about this novel:
Interview with Margaret Porter, author of Beautiful Invention: A Novel of Hedy Lamarr
An Author's Inspiration: Beautiful Invention
Transported to Hedy Lamarr's Time and Place
Hedy Lamarr and Hollywood Christmas
For generations Lady Diana de Vere’s family loyally served England’s crown. But after King Charles II’s untimely death, her father firmly opposes James II’s tyranny. Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St. Albans—the late king’s bastard son by actress Nell Gwyn—also rebels against his newly crowned uncle’s manipulation. Political and religious turmoil bring revolution and yet another coronation before Charles returns to from war to claim his promised bride. As companion to Queen Mary Stuart, Diana has followed her de Vere forbears into royal service. She expects Charles to abandon his military career after marriage, but he proves unwilling to join the ranks of the courtiers he despises and mistrusts.
In palace corridors and within their own household the young duke and duchess
confront betrayals, scandals, and tragedies that threaten to divide them. And neither
the privileges of birth nor proximity to the throne can ensure their security, their
advancement—or their happiness.
(Includes Book Group Discussion Guide)
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"Porter’s ambitious novel of 17th-century England is brimming with vivid historical figures and events . . . rigorously researched and faithfully portrayed.” Publishers Weekly
"A true delight for fans of monarchy. . . Porter does a sensational job portraying the time period and showing how time passed and England was ever changing. . . the relationship between Charles and Diana in A Pledge of Better Times is complex and interesting." The Examiner
"The remarkable figure of Lady Diana de Vere stands at the center of Margaret Porter’s sumptuous, wonderful new novel . . . Porter winningly captures both the dramatic societal upheavals and the sparkling wit and court life of the time, especially in the character of Lady Diana, a wonderful fictional creation. It is a very rewarding reading experience – I highly recommend it.” Historical Novels Review
"A richly evocative peek into a world long gone and yet very familiar to modern readers, with political and ideological maneuvering and romantic entanglements not so different than today's . . . Porter explores friendship, marriage, parenthood, and loyalty as she tells the story of people who were celebrities in their time, and she illuminates the soft power aristocratic women had, if they were allowed to wield it.” New Hampshire Sunday News
"Marvelously detailed . . . a rich and unique perspective on the times. A must-read for any Stuart-era fan." ~~ Rebecca Henderson Palmer
"Meticulously researched . . . an impressive cast of real-life characters brought to vibrant life. Margaret Porter crafts her story with exquisite detail, transporting the reader into a world full of intrigue, scandal, and breathtaking danger . . . a masterful writer.” ~~ Award-winning author M. Reed McCall
"With elegant prose and vivid detail, A Pledge of Better Times sweeps you into late Stuart England." Marci Jefferson, author of Enchantress of Paris and Girl on the Golden Coin
"A portrait of Diana de Vere as rich as the portraits that grace British museums and palaces.” Christy K Robinson, author of Mary Dyer Illuminated
"The sparkling, dangerous, enticing post-Restoration period comes to vivid life! I couldn't stop reading!" Amanda Carmack, of Murder in the Queen's Garden: An Elizabethan Mystery
Links to interviews about this novel:
Margaret Porter on Writing Historical Fiction
Author's Inspiration: A Pledge of Better Times
My previously published novels include romantic historicals set chiefly in England or Ireland during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, published as Margaret Evans Porter. These stories feature dukes and duchesses, lords and ladies as well as people associated with the theatre--opera singer, actress, dancer. I've written about miners and maids and musicians. The main characters are fictional, but many lesser or walk-on characters are real people (the Prince of Wales, Jane Austen, Joseph Grimaldi, Sir Joseph Banks.) These stories are set in London or Bristol or Bath, the countryside, or more obscure regions (the Isle of Man.) They were published in hardcover, in paperback, and in various foreign languages. Print originals are becoming available in digital formats, and The Proposal in a new revised paperback edition as well as an ebook.