Rosenthal, Pam (Ritterman) 1945-
ROSENTHAL, Pam (Ritterman) 1945-
Born 1945, in New York, NY; daughter of a mathematician and a homemaker; married Michael Rosenthal (a book-store owner), 1969; children: Jesse. Education: Studied undergraduate English.
Zoetrope Short Fiction Prize, 2001, and Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, 2002, both for "Curled in the Bed of Love"; Brenda Ueland Prose Prize.
(As Molly Weatherfield) Carrie's Story, Cleis Press (San Francisco, CA), 2002.
(As Molly Weatherfield) Safe Word: An Erotic S/M Novel, Cleis Press (San Francisco, CA), 2003.
Almost a Gentleman, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 2003.
The Bookseller's Daughter, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor of short story "A House East of Regent Street" to Strangers in the Night, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 2004; contributor of book reviews to periodicals and online sites, including San Francisco Chronicle, Roundtable Reviews, and Salon.com.
Since discovering the character of Jo March in Little Women as a child, Pam Rosenthal has spent most of her life around books and literature. After studying English at college, she moved to San Francisco, where she and her husband, Michael Rosenthal, worked at the famed Modern Times Bookstore, where Michael is now part owner. Surrounded by books, Pam Rosenthal began writing reviews for magazines, and eventually she decided to try her hand at writing her own fiction. Under the name Molly Weatherfield, she wrote Carrie's Story and Safe Word: An Erotic S/M Novel, both of which focus on the pleasures of pain and the curious dynamics of sadomasochism. More recently, under her own name, Rosenthal has turned to historical romance, successfully navigating between a budding writing career and an unromantic day job as computer programmer for the Federal Reserve Bank.
While reading a book on the underground best-sellers in pre-Revolutionary France as revealed by the records of a smuggler/bookseller named Monsieur Rigaud, Rosenthal became fascinated by the extent to which both political tracts and erotic novels undermined the authority of the Ancièn Regime. At the same time, her close connection with independent bookstores made her resent the ways in which Rigaud's astute business practices drove so many of his fellow booksellers out of business. Rosenthal began to imagine one such poor bookseller's family, and the character of Marie-Laura, heroine of Rosenthal's novel The Bookseller's Daughter, was born.
When her father's death forces Marianne Vernet to abandon the family bookstore and the exciting new world of subversive literature, she chooses to take a new name and a position as a scullery maid rather than enter into a loveless marriage. Unfortunately, as Marie-Laure, she winds up working for one of the meanest dukes in France, but there is one big compensation: the duke's second son, Joseph Dupin, viscomte d'Auvers-Raimond. In addition to his good looks and aristocratic bearing, Joseph has a secret life as a smuggler of forbidden books, and a previous connection with the now-transformed Marianne, who once took him in when he had been wounded. When Joseph's father starts taking an unwanted interest in the new scullery maid, Joseph decides to protect her by pretending to take her as his mistress. Eventually, innocent visits turn into more intimate nights filled with both passion and earnest discussions about the power of writing. The result, in the words of Library Journal reviewer Kristin Rumsdell, is a "literate, sensual romance enhanced with just enough historical detail to satisfy without overwhelming the reader."
Despite the obvious romantic appeal of her story, Rosenthal encountered repeated rejections from publishers who had a look at The Bookseller's Daughter. Their problem, by and large, was the setting: Pre-revolutionary France did not seem to appeal to romance readers. As Rosenthal told Roundtable Reviews online interviewer Tracy Farnsworth, "Editors were rejecting right and left, and their rejection letters pretty much boiled down to 'Say WHAT?' I was pretty devastated, but … when we started getting more interesting rejections (the ones that used words like 'intelligent' and 'voice'), [my agent] said, 'Well, you've got their attention. I hope you have something else to send out while they're showing some interest.' And this is the somewhat unbelievable part—to me, anyway. Amazingly, I did have something else. Because dejected as I was, I'd started Almost a Gentleman. For fun, actually, because I really do enjoy writing. Or maybe for spite: to prove that those editors weren't going to stop me from having fun."
Almost a Gentleman, set in the more typical romance period of Regency England, is the story of Lady Phoebe Claringworth, who loses her husband and son in a tragic carriage accident. When she learns that the accident also means she will never be able to conceive children, Phoebe forsakes the idea of marriage and her own gender to assume a new life as Philip "Phizz" Marston, London's hottest tastemaker and the spiritual heir of Beau Brummel. When young David Hervey, earl of Linseley, arrives in the capital in search of a wife, he finds to his horror that his attraction to Phizz outweighs any feelings for the other women he has met. When he discovers that Phizz is really a woman, his pride is assuaged but his curiosity is only enhanced. The result, according to Booklist reviewer John Charles, is "a captivating story that shifts between deception, danger, and desire with spectacular results."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2003, John Charles, review of Almost a Gentleman, p. 1584; January 1, 2004, John Charles, review of The Bookseller's Daughter, p. 838.
Library Journal, February 15, 2004, Kristin Ramsdell, review of The Bookseller's Daughter, p. 111.
Pam Rosenthal Home Page,http://www.pamrosenthal.com (September 29, 2004).
Roundtable Reviews Web site,http://www.geocities.com/roundtablereviews/ (September 29, 2004), Tracy Farnsworth, author interview.*