From Fields of Gold

Alexandra Ripley, Author
Alexandra Ripley, Author Warner Books $24.95 (467p) ISBN 978-0-446-51406-4
Reviewed on: 10/31/1994
Release date: 11/01/1994
Mass Market Paperbound - 464 pages - 978-0-446-60249-5
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-671-50552-3
Hardcover - 576 pages - 978-0-7838-1237-3
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In her first novel since the blockbuster Scarlett, Ripley offers a lively historical about Southern romance and robber barony. As the 19th century draws to a close, Francesca (Chess) Standish, the drab daughter of an old, once wealthy Virginia family, meets handsome Nathaniel (Nate) Richardson, a struggling North Carolina tobacco farmer with lofty dreams. Though Nate is seven years her junior, Chess thinks he's her only opportunity for happiness. So she persuades him to marry her in exchange for the patent on her grandfather's cigarette manufacturing machine-an invention certain to revolutionize the tobacco industry and make its owner rich. Nate, who values ambition over emotion, agrees and, taking Chess home to his hardscrabble family farm and disapproving mother, sets about transforming himself into a cigarette tycoon. Although Chess is passionately in love with her new husband, he believes that ``ladies only put up with'' sex, so, while his sexual relations with her remain cold and mechanical, he indulges himself with a series of mistresses, including his brother's scheming wife. Only after Chess is long married and on a visit to England does she prove her husband wrong-in the arms of her cousin, the rakish Lord Randall ``Mephisto'' Standish. Despite a labored start and the lack of development of several pivotal characters and plot lines, Ripley's feisty heroine and vivid re-creation of the era (there are glimpses of contemporary celebrities including Lillie Langtry and Oscar Wilde) should prove irresistible to readers-or at least to those not put off by protagonists who make their fortunes by nearly singlehandedly creating the cigarette industry. 200,000 first printing; Literary Guild main selection; Doubleday Book Club Super Release; major ad/promo. (Nov.)
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