Since I've started reaching out to potential literary agents seeking representation for Adele, I've added the following line to my book summary: "This is the story of Adele Astaire, a forgotten heroine whose life rivals those of Grace Kelly and Meghan Markle." All three women left successful careers as actresses to marry titled foreigners, all three women left everything behind and started a new life, choosing family, position, and love over fame and success. So why is it that Adele isn't remembered or romanticized like Grace and Meghan have been?
At the time of her wedding to Charles Cavendish, Adele was at the height of her career. Newspapers in the U.S. and U.K. lamented her early retirement, and the news made headlines in both countries.
"Miss Adele Astaire to Wed Peer’s Son"- New York Times, 23 October 1931
"It Will by Lady Cavendish Soon for Fred’s Sis"- New York Review, 24 October
"Dancer’s Romance with Duke’s Son"- Sunday Mail, Glasgow, 25 October
According to Hannah Obee, the Chatsworth House curator, "It was so unusual at that time for an actress to marry into the English aristocracy. The fact that she's having this fairy tale romance with an English Lord just completely captivates everybody." -Secrets of Chatsworth
And Charlie and Adele even had to deal with the same type of media circus we see today surrounding a royal or celebrity wedding, with reporters swarming the ship when Adele arrived in England for the wedding, following her from Plymouth to London by taxi and by train.
And while Adele's mother in-law sought to keep the wedding an intimate family affair (not even telling the household staff when it would take place until the night before), there were still journalists stationed outside Chatsworth on the day of the wedding, hoping to get a shot of the bride and groom for Adele's loyal fans.
Though a small ceremony, the private chapel at Chatsworth was decorated lavishly. Just listen to this description from The Astaires: Fred & Adele by Kathleen Riley:
"The small seventeenth-century chapel, with its ceiling painted by Louis Laguerre, was decorated with daffodils and acacia; two myrtle trees stood in the sanctuary; the marble altar was flanked by scarlet camellias and vase of arum lilies. Adele wore a gown designed by Mainbocher, beige satin with touches of orange at the waist, a set of blue fox furs and a beige beret, a sapphire and diamond brooch...and a diamond bracelet from Charlie. She carried a bunch of orange carnations grown in the gardens at Chatsworth."
And yet Adele's wedding day, her romance with Charles Cavendish, and even her success on broadway have all but faded away. While I don't think the decision she made was any less significant than those of Grace of Monaco and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, a couple of factors have added to Adele's relative obscurity.
First of all, Adele didn't marry a prince. Charlie was the second son of the Duke of Devonshire, and consequently Adele won't be found on any of the lists comparing Meghan Markel to other so-called American Princesses.
But perhaps more importantly, consider the difference in the scope and reach of the media compared to just 25 years later when Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco. No film even exists showing Adele on the stage, whereas Grace Kelly was immortalized in her films (and even had her public wedding service recorded by MGM). And although Adele was a much sought after Broadway star, outside of the theater and the newspapers in America and England, her fame was nowhere near that of Oscar-winning Grace Kelly or Suits star, Meghan Markle.
So I suppose not everyone would group these three women together, but I think Adele deserves a place beside them. I don't wish to compare the dresses they wore or the status of the men they married. In fact, I should clarify that Before Ginger Rogers is not even really a romance. Romance does play a part of course, because Adele truly did love Charlie, but my book is the story of how a modern, successful woman could choose to give it all up for something she thought was more important. That's what drew me in. There is fulfillment and pride and joy in the path that Adele and Grace and so many others choose for themselves (with or without the castle and links to royalty), and I think that these stories need to be told more often.
Click on images for links to original sources.
We didn't do the best job letting people know we had another little one on the way, so here is (more than) everything you need to know about our little girl, due October 24, 2019!
Is this another IVF Baby?
We did a FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer) this time around. When we did IVF in 2017 to get Annie, we were able to freeze six additional embryos, so I didn't need to do a retrieval all over again. Which is good and bad. Since my body didn't ovulate, that meant I had to take hormone treatments to mimic what my ovaries would have been doing throughout the first trimester (until the placenta can take over producing the hormones).
Has this pregnancy been similar to my first?
First of all, I'm surprised at how little I remember from Annie's pregnancy! I definitely remember getting these hormone induced migraines both times, but I seem to have blocked out a lot of the discomfort. The main difference was in the first trimester. I felt a lot more nauseous while I was taking hormones than when my body was producing them naturally. This pregnancy is also going by a lot faster since Annie helps to split my focus.
Did I expect that we were going to have another girl?
I went back and forth for a while, but right now it just feels like we're a girl family. I am so excited that Annie will have a sister, and I get so much enjoyment out of saying, "the girls"!!! And Matt? He loves being a father to daughters. They're lucky to have him as their dad!
What names are we considering?
If she had been a boy, we were pretty sure we were going to name her Benjamin. Girl names are trickier for us! I don't think I want her name to end in a "y" sound, and we prefer traditional names. There are a lot that we like (i.e. Emma and Kate), but no definite front runners yet.
Am I considering doing a natural labor?
Consider? Yes. But I'm already so uncomfortable, my resolve often wavers. My friends who have fearlessly brought their babies into the world without epidurals recommended I read Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel, and Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. Both have been excellent resources to help me prepare for the second time around.
Does Annie seem to know what's going on?
Not at all. But I think she's going to make a wonderful big sister.
What do I think I will need this time around that
I did make a baby registry, but it doesn't seem like we need anything! I would have liked to have had a bassinet for Annie, so I took care of that. And our infant car seat will need to be replaced, but other than that, I was really happy with the gear we had for Annie. Plus, the girls (!!!) will be almost exactly two years apart, so we should even be good on clothes.
I am going to do a Promptly Journal for this baby. And I no longer have reservations about buying Annie shoes, bows, or clothes, knowing that we'll get plenty of use out of them now!
This time around I'm just excited. I even feel like I know this new baby better because I know Annie. There is something special about your first, but I can tell already that there is something wonderful about your second. 22 weeks today! Couldn't be feeling more grateful.
It all started with Chatsworth. I met Adele while watching the BBC documentary Secrets of Chatsworth, so I knew the house itself would have to play some sort of role in the book. While most of the book takes places in New York City and London, Adele's time at Chatsworth is defining for her character and essential to the story.
If you're wondering why this house might look familiar though you don't recognize its name, it's likely because you've seen it portrayed as Pemberley in film adaptations of Pride and Prejudice or Death Comes to Pemberley. It is widely believed that Jane Austen used Chatsworth House as her inspiration for Darcy's iconic estate, and the house itself is mentioned in Pride and Prejudice as one of the estates Elizabeth and the Gardiners visit before their tour of Pemberley.
Having never been to Chatsworth myself, I reread the chapter where Lizzy first sees Pemberley and used it as inspiration for Adele's fist visit. I also relied heavily on Chatsworth: The House, a book written by the former Duchess of Devonshire, wife to the eleventh Duke of Devonshire. She details the history of the house, including maps and pictures, allowing me to create vivid descriptions that are true to time and place.
Naturally, I plan to visit someday, but after all of my research and writing, part of me does feel as if I've already been there with Adele. Hopefully that will come across in those pages of the story.
I didn't grow up watching a lot of Fred Astaire. In fact, I think my main exposure to him was his role as a claymation postman in the 1970s Christmas classic Santa Clause is Coming to Town. But, of course, I had heard of him. And there was no way I could come to know Adele without coming to know Freddy during the process.
HIS FAME. Even if you've never heard of Adele before, you've probably heard of Fred Astaire. Most people I talk to about my book are surprised to know that he had a sister and even more surprised to learn that she was ever considered the better dancer between the two of them. The reason Fred's legacy has prevailed is due largely in part to his career move from Broadway to Hollywood- because how many people today remember the stars of the stage from the 1920s? And to his credit, Fred Astaire is also remembered today because he really was one of the best. While Adele had a natural talent that propelled their early career, it was Fred's knack for choreography and his tireless work ethic that made them both famous and made him the iconic figure that he is.
HIS FASHION. Most people think of Fred Astaire and immediately imagine him in a top hat and tails. He and Cary Grant were called "the best dressed actor[s] in American movies," and I even found him prominently featured in a men's fashion article when I was doing research on men's clothing for the book! But one of the most interesting things I learned about Fred Astaire was that he not only didn't enjoy top hats and tails, but he also didn't consider himself to be fashionable at all!
"At the risk of disillusionment, I must admit that I don't like top hats, white ties and tails. I am always arriving at dinner parties not wearing a dinner jacket when I should, or vice versa...
The carefree, the best-dressed, the debonair Astaire! What a myth! My hats are too small, my coats are too short, my walk is loose. I am full of faults. I have a sense of humor but it won't always work for me. I am always blowing my top over the wrong things. I tell you, I am a very annoying guy."
-Fred Astaire, Steps in Time, 1959
Picture from their first recital. That's Fred in the dress on the left :)
HIS PRIVACY. One of the most important things that I learned about Fred Astaire is that he never wanted his life portrayed in a film. According to one of his biographers he said, "However much they offer me—and offers come in all the time—I shall not sell." A clause in his will outlines the same thing, about which he added, "It is there because I have no particular desire to have my life misinterpreted, which it would be." With that in the back of my mind each time I wrote about his character, I did my best to stick to the facts from his own autobiography, using quotes he said in real life to shape his voice and dialogue, and trusting his perspective on events that take place in the book. There is very little interpretation of him on my part, and if I erred in my portrayal of him, it was in an attempt to show him as he wanted to be shown. So, I think you'll recognize him as you already known him. But ultimately, this book is about Adele Astaire, and, though though Freddy is a significant figure in the story, he plays a much smaller role.
Are you a fan of Fred Astaire?
What other questions do you have about his character in the book?
The first draft is FINISHED, but the book itself is a long way from being done! So in the meantime, I thought I'd answer some of the questions I get asked most often about my book and the writing process.
Fiction or Nonfiction?
It's historical fiction and based on a true story.
1928 into the early 1930s with flashbacks into Fred and Adele's childhood (about 1909)
What is the title?
My working title is Before Fred and Ginger, but I also like Before Ginger Rogers.
What is the story about?
It's 1928, and the famous brother and sister act, Fred and Adele Astaire, are returning to England to debut their Broadway triumph, Funny Face, to a London audience. The musical comedy has been a huge success, in spite of several roadblocks with the show and in Adele's personal life, but unfortunately for the Astiares, some of their troubles follow them across the Atlantic.
Amidst all of the turmoil, Adele starts to recognize a longing within herself that for years had been kept at bay. At 32, she can hardly remember what life was like before she took to the stage as a young girl, and she has started to wonder if there might be something more for her. And then, to further complicate things, the tall and quiet Charles Cavendish, second son to the Duke of Devonshire, comes into the picture, offering her a new life entirely, if she'll only agree to take it.
But how could she walk away from everything she has ever known? Could she be content to give it all up or would she someday be filled with regret as she watches from the audience while her brother performs with someone else? And what exactly would her retirement mean for Freddy and his career?
She determines to figure it all out for herself, taking everything into account but coming to know her own mind independent of everything and everyone else, fighting to do what is best instead of what is easiest, and coming to know herself through the process.
Tell me about the protagonist
Adele Astaire is Fred Astaire's sister and original dancing parter. She was actually the better dancer of the two of them for most of her career! Read her Character Profile to learn more.
Where did you get your inspiration for the book?
I was watching the BBC documentary Secrets of Chatsworth, and as soon as I heard them tell Adele's story, I wanted to write it.
Did you use a specific program to actually write the manuscript?
I used Scrivener, and I highly recommend it! I was able to keep my outline, research, and manuscript organized and easily accessible while I wrote.
How much of the story will be factual and how much of the story will
All of the characters, places, and events come from my research. The dialogue is almost entirely me, with the exception of a few quotes taken from real interviews. As you can imagine, I had to get to know the characters pretty well before I felt comfortable writing in their voices!
What sources did you use for your research?
I mostly used four books: Steps in Time: An Autobiography by Fred Astaire, Puttin' on the Ritz: Fred Astaire and the Fine Art of Panache, a Biography by Peter J. Levinson, The Astaires: Fred and Adele by Kathleen Riley, and Chatsworth: the House by the duchess of Devonshire. When researching for specific scenes or chapters, I wanted to create a realistic setting, so I spent a lot of time searching out little details online, such as what the streets of London looked and sounded like in 1928, or how to describe gentlemen's shooting fashion in England. We also got to visit some of the places I describe in the book, with one of my favorites being Fred and Adele's childhood home in Omaha, Nebraska.
how long is it?
Right now it is 70,500 words, but after some revisions I think it will be closer to 75,000. At about 250-300 words per page, I think it will be about 300 pages.
When can I read it?
The first draft is done, but there's still quite a bit of work to do! I am editing and revising first, reading and rereading what I've already written. Then I'll have a few trusted friends/book critics give me their honest feedback and suggestions before I start looking for a literary agent. From there I'd hope to find a publisher, but I have no idea of the timeline besides to say I work on it a little everyday.
Have other questions? Let me know! Comment below.
On New Year's Eve, I found myself going through pictures from 2018, reliving moments and wistfully wondering where all the time had gone. I felt a pang in my heart looking back at how little Annie used to be and how much she's grown, but it was as if each memory was sweeter because she was part of it.
It has reminded me of how our life before Annie was measured with simple milestones, one following another with very little to tell one year from the next. Vacations, graduations, moves, new jobs--none of it has marked the passage of time or defined our lives like she has. And our life has certainly becomes much fuller as a result.
Throughout the year, I added notes and pictures to her little baby book, like the one my mother kept for me, but it wasn't until the new year that I was hit by the realization that we get to do it all over again with her in 2019. Easter and Christmas, summer and fall, she'll always be part of our story, a story that will continue to change as she does. So naturally I can't help but wonder what it will be like to look back a year from now, and I'm feeling joyful about the days and months ahead.
One of the the moments I've found myself thinking back on was Annie's first birthday. It came and went without much ceremony, but I couldn't let it pass by without some little celebration. I hung balloons and pictures over the dining table, just like my mom always did for us on our birthdays growing up, and I made a simple box yellow cake with chocolate frosting for the traditional first birthday cake. Even though I love to bake, I am glad I kept things so simple--it helped me to feel like I didn't miss a moment.
Annie and I wore paper crowns and strings of pearls all day and watched Disney Princess movies together. Matt was on-call for her actual birthday, so we waited to celebrate until we could all be together. The three of us sang happy birthday, blew out the single candle, and opened presents.
It's funny how the memory means even more to me now than it did in the moment. It was surreal then, to be doing what my mom had done for me, to be taking pictures that we would look back on for years to come. So when I think of what's coming next--holidays and vacations and all of the little day-to-day moments in between--I hope I will continue to slow down, to stop and take pictures, and to enjoy our sweet little girl and the life we waited and prayed for.