About the Book:
One sailed the Titanic and started a fashion empire...
The other overtook Hollywood and scandalized the world...
Together, they were unstoppable.
They rose from genteel poverty, two beautiful sisters, ambitious, witty, seductive. Elinor and Lucy Sutherland are at once each other’s fiercest supporters and most vicious critics.
Lucy transformed herself into Lucile, the daring fashion designer who revolutionized the industry with her flirtatious gowns and brazen self-promotion. And when she married Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon her life seemed to be a fairy tale. But success came at many costs—to her marriage and to her children . . . and then came the fateful night of April 14, 1912 and the scandal that followed.
Elinor’s novels titillate readers, and it’s even asked in polite drawing rooms if you would like to “sin with Elinor Glyn?” Her work pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable; her foray into the glittering new world of Hollywood turns her into a world-wide phenomenon. But although she writes of passion, the true love she longs for eludes her.
But despite quarrels and misunderstandings, distance and destiny, there is no bond stronger than that of the two sisters—confidants, friends, rivals and the two “It Girls” of their day.
“The It Girls is a glorious romp through the lives and loves of the scintillating Sutherland sisters. Karen Harper does a wonderful job of bringing Lucile and Elinor to life in this richly imagined and impeccably researched novel. Readers who enjoy historical fiction are in for a treat!” — Hazel Gaynor, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home
From the Author:
When I was looking for a heroine for my next novel, one fascinating woman led to another—actually, to two others! In doing research for my historical novel, THE ROYAL NANNY, I found a reference to a famous British clothing designer. Born Lucy Sutherland, she later became Lady Duff-Gordon, who went by the name “Lucile.” She took London by storm in the Edwardian Era (think Downton Abbey) and then managed to escape in a life boat during the maiden voyage of the Titanic. I love fashions of that era and, looking more into her life, I found she was a trend-setter and even considered a scandalous woman of her day.
Why? Because, for one thing, she helped get women out of tight, restricting corsets. She dared to put slits in skirts so women could walk more comfortably. And—what pluck!—she designed silky, sexy lingerie to replace the “proper” cotton and stiff linen underwear of that day. Lucile also rose from genteel poverty and married a titled, athletic, popular Scotsman, kilt and all.
Then reading about Lucile, Lady Duff-Gordon led me to her younger sister, a woman even more scandalous. Elinor Sutherland Glyn was an author of books focused on strong women—women who fell in love, even pursued a man and who in general took control of their lives—all rather shocking at that time. She wrote eighteen ‘romance’ novels, one of which made her name and made her the talk of the town, of Europe and of the US too.
Three Weeks, the novel Elinor wrote in 1907, was the Lady Chatterley’s Lover or Fifty Shade of Grey of its day. [There is an excerpt from Three Weeks in the extra material at the back of THE IT GIRLS.]
Why was this book such a shock to the Edwardians? It dared to have the lovers not married to each other, nor even engaged, and the woman was the seducer! Today it reads as mild and flowery but it knocked the gartered stockings off Elinor’s world. The book was banned in England, though many were secretly reading it. And her author tour in America proved much more successful than she’d ever imagined. But Elinor was considered a scandalous woman because of the books she wrote.
Elinor’s reputation also suffered for other reasons. She dared to promote herself with a photograph of herself lying seductively on a tiger skin, as did her heroine in Three Weeks. Doggerel attacks soon followed, including, “Would you like to sin with Elinor Glyn on a tiger skin?”
Both women financially supported themselves, their husbands and children, another very modern unusual thing to do then. Lucile also first used live models instead of stuffed canvas dummies and staged the first fashion shows. Elinor wrote scripts for the silent movies in Hollywood, promoted Rudolph Valentino and dubbed Clara Bow “The It Girl” for her charisma.
No heroines I have come across had more allure, courage and talent than these two ‘It Girl’ sisters. It was great fun and a real challenge to explore and write about their lives. They sometimes supported each other and sometimes fought with each other—how very real. Although they were products of their times, they seem amazingly modern to me.
Both Sutherland ‘girls’ are mentioned in Downton Abbey. Tom Branson said that Mrs. Glyn “writes scandalous books.” And when Edith was first to be married but was then left at the altar, her family members planning her trousseau mentioned putting her in Lucile lingerie.
I think we have all come across people with “It” today, but what a path for independence and courage these two women pioneered. I’d loved writing their dynamic stories.
Happy reading to all you modern ‘It girls’ out there!