What the Lady Wants

What the Lady Wants

A Novel of Marshall Field and the Gilded Age

Additional Formats
  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9780451466716
  • 448  Pages
  • NAL
  • Adult


In late-nineteenth-century Chicago, visionary retail tycoon Marshall Field made his fortune wooing women customers with his famous motto: “Give the lady what she wants.” His legendary charm also won the heart of socialite Delia Spencer and led to an infamous love affair.
The night of the Great Fire, as seventeen-year-old Delia watches the flames rise and consume what was the pioneer town of Chicago, she can’t imagine how much her life, her city, and her whole world are about to change. Nor can she guess that the agent of that change will not simply be the fire, but more so the man she meets that night.…

Leading the way in rebuilding after the fire, Marshall Field reopens his well-known dry goods store and transforms it into something the world has never seen before: a glamorous palace of a department store. He and his powerhouse coterie—including Potter Palmer and George Pullman—usher in the age of robber barons, the American royalty of their generation.
But behind the opulence, their private lives are riddled with scandal and heartbreak. Delia and Marshall first turn to each other out of loneliness, but as their love deepens, they will stand together despite disgrace and ostracism, through an age of devastation and opportunity, when an adolescent Chicago is transformed into the gleaming White City of the Chicago’s World’s Fair of 1893.


“Rosen skillfully charms, fascinates, frustrates, and moves her readers in this turn of the century tale. Set on an epic historical stage, What the Lady Wants contains all of the hedonism, decadence, success, and tragedy of the great American novel.”— Erika Robuck, national bestselling author of Fallen Beauty
What the Lady Wants is a story that opens with the Great Chicago Fire and keeps on smoldering to the end. Rosen’s characters are finely-drawn, and her love triangles are full of subtlety and sincerity.  What the lady indeed wants may not be what you assume it to be!”—Suzanne Rindell, author of The Other Typist
“Once again, Renee Rosen brings Chicago history alive in this fascinating story of Delia Spencer, trapped in a sexless marriage while desperately desired by a man she can’t have – the arrogant, powerful department store mogul Marshall Field. A tale of tangled relationships and dubious morality, What the Lady Wants is captivating with a surprisingly contemporary twist.”—Stephanie Lehmann, author of Astor Place Vintage
What the Lady Wants is as fun and addictive and Chicago-licious as a box of Marshall Field’s Frango Mints. And, sadly, you’ll finish it almost as fast. A delight.”—Rebecca Makkai, author of The Hundred Year House

What the Lady Wants has everything I love in a historical novel: impeccably researched details, a mix of real and imagined characters that are vividly and sensitively drawn, and a heroine who is true to her time yet feels utterly familiar. With Dollface, Renée Rosen crafted an unforgettable portrait of Prohibition-era Chicago; in What the Lady Wants she does the same for the city during its Gilded Age.”—Jennifer Robson, international and USA Today bestselling author of Somewhere in France

“What the Lady Wants is an absolutely brilliant novel. The love story of Marshall and Delia is completely engrossing. You get to experience their first meeting, their friendship, their love story, and their highs and lows full of romance, passion, loss, and sadness. […] Rosen has clearly done her research as Chicago during the Gilded Age comes alive with the various people, places, and things.”—The Examiner

“Set against the backdrop of the great Chicago fire, the rebuilding and resurgence of the city, and the ensuing excesses of the Gilded Age, this historical novel has all the requisite features of an irresistible page-turner.”—Booklist

“This book will definitely be a treat for my fellow historical fiction lovers.”—A Bookish Affair

“Though the novel spans thirty-five years of Delia’s life, it never drags on. I felt completely carried away by the story. One of my favorite novels this year.”—A Novel Review