Catherine Chidgey, Author . Holt $25 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8050-6971-6

Swampy late–19th-century Tampa Bay is the unlikely romantic setting for this poignant historical novel by New Zealander Chidgey (The Strength of the Sun ). Upon the construction of the Tampa Bay Hotel, a Byzantine fairy tale castle that soon attracts fashionable winter travelers, three eccentric American-made personalities descend on the town: a wig maker, a cigar factory worker and a Detroit widow. Marion Unger, a young Detroit wife, had arrived with her bricklayer husband, Jack, who helped build the hotel; he dies soon after its completion. In mourning, Marion finds her way to inimitable Parisian perruquier Lucien Goulet III, recently installed in the Tampa area to make his fortune; he weaves a memorial bracelet for her out of her hair and her late husband's, and becomes obsessed by her white-blonde tresses. Meanwhile, a Cuban immigrant teenager Rafael Méndez, employed as a roller in the local Ybor City cigar factory, is intent on aiding his country in the throes of revolution. When Rafael goes to work at night for the conniving Goulet—picking through people's trash to search for hanks of hair—he meets the chaste, rather naïve Marion and falls in love with her. A "transformation" is the sort of stupendous architectural hairpiece designed by M. Goulet, but here it also stands for the changes ushering in a motley new society. Incorporating her research with an organic touch, Chidgey constructs a tale as enchanting as the hotel rising from its Florida swamp. Agent, Kim Witherspoon. (May 6)

Reviewed on: 03/14/2005
Release date: 05/01/2005
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-86473-465-5
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Paperback - 306 pages - 978-0-312-42606-4
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