Mrs. Poe: Wordy Wednesday

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Mrs. Poe

Title: Mrs. Poe Author: Lynn Cullen
Publisher: Gallery Books 4star
Publication Date: 2013 Genre: Historical Fiction

Why Picked: NetGalley; Adoration of all Things Poe
First Line:

“When given bad news, most women of my station can afford to slump onto their divans, their china cups slipping from their fingers to the carpet, their hair falling prettily from its pins, their fourteen starched petticoats compacting with a plush crunch.”


A vivid and compelling novel about a woman who becomes entangled in an affair with Edgar Allan Poe—at the same time she becomes the unwilling confidante of his much-younger wife. It is 1845, and Frances Osgood is desperately trying to make a living as a writer in New York; not an easy task for a woman—especially one with two children and a philandering portrait painter as her husband. As Frances tries to sell her work, she finds that editors are only interested in writing similar to that of the new renegade literary sensation Edgar Allan Poe, whose poem, “The Raven” has struck a public nerve. She meets the handsome and mysterious Poe at a literary party, and the two have an immediate connection. Poe wants Frances to meet with his wife since she claims to be an admirer of her poems, and Frances is curious to see the woman whom Edgar married. As Frances spends more and more time with the intriguing couple, her intense attraction for Edgar brings her into dangerous territory. And Mrs. Poe, who acts like an innocent child, is actually more manipulative and threatening than she appears. As Frances and Edgar’s passionate affair escalates, Frances must decide whether she can walk away before it’s too late… Set amidst the fascinating world of New York’s literati, this smart and sexy novel offers a unique view into the life of one of history’s most unforgettable literary figures. [1]


I used to judge HBO historical shows likeRome and Deadwood by how many times an episode made me look up information on Wikipedia. The general rule was the more, the better. If this is applied here Mrs. Poe is a fine tale. I spent as much time researching the characters and the setting as I did the reading the story. I searched Wikipedia for secondary characters, like Horace Greeley, Rufus Wilmot Griswold and Elizabeth F. Ellet to name a few. And then there were the locations. I am a born New Yorker so I was so interested in the places of the story as well. But enough of my strange obsession with historical minutia, what of the story?

A small caveat, I adore Poe. As anyone who has been reading my blog for any amount of time knows I really, really adore Poe. So this review may be tainted by that. Much like my recent enjoyment of the movie The Raven which combined my love for Poe and my love for John Cusack. That said I found the story to be very slow to start. I opened it in my Nook a number of times and then found other things to read. However, as it was Netgalley book I feel obligated to press on and I am glad I did. The story of the relationship between Poe and Frances Sargent Osgood and his Virginia unfolded in a most interesting way. I find historical novels such as this fascinating if the author is able, as Cullen was, to draw me in and make me believe the actions of the characters are realistic both for the time frame but also for their humanness. There are certain people/authors who believe that because people live in different times they were different emotionally as humans. One of the most popular of these myths is the ever present “People had many children because so many died young. Therefore they did not love them as much as we do now.” I find things such as this difficult to believe and therefore difficult to read. I was glad to see Cullen able to make her characters believable as people regardless of time period.

Also I loved the mystery, without giving it away I love the fact that it addressed some of the strange mysteries surrounding Poe’s life and death. I love the fact that I was mildly surprised by the ending which rarely happens to me. This may, in fact, be why I am not a huge mystery fan. I love the fact that I am still, weeks later, mulling over the “facts” that surround the relationship between Edgar and Frances as well as between Frances and Virginia. And I envy the mid-1800s their salons. I want to be Margaret Fuller or Anne Lynch when I grow up.