You're the Cream in My Coffee by Jennifer Lamont Leo
Publication Date: September 15, 2016
Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas
eBook & Paperback; 292 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Christian
In 1928, Chicago rocks to the rhythm of the Jazz Age, and Prohibition is in full swing. Small-town girl Marjorie Corrigan, visiting the city for the first time, has sworn that coffee's the strongest drink that will pass her lips. But her quiet, orderly life turns topsy-turvy when she spots her high school sweetheart--presumed killed in the Great War--alive and well in a train station. Suddenly everything is up for grabs.
Although the stranger insists he's not who she thinks he is, Marjorie becomes obsessed with finding out the truth. To the dismay of her fiancé and family, she moves to the city and takes a job at a department store so she can spy on him. Meanwhile, the glittering world of her roommate, Dot, begins to look awfully enticing--especially when the object of her obsession seems to be part of that world. Is it really so terrible to bob her hair and shorten her skirt? To visit a speakeasy? Just for a cup of coffee, of course.
But what about her scruples? What about the successful young doctor to whom she's engaged, who keeps begging her to come back home where she belongs? And what, exactly, is going on at the store's loading dock so late at night?
Amid a whirlwind of trials and temptations, Marjorie must make a choice. Will the mystery man prove to be the cream in her coffee--the missing ingredient to the life she yearns for? Or will he leave only bitterness in her heart?
"The cat’s pajamas! Rich in jazzy details of 1920s Chicago, You’re the Cream in My Coffee is a sparkling debut novel. With an adventurous heroine, intriguing side characters, and a thought-provoking message, this story will keep you riveted. Jennifer Lamont Leo is a name to watch in historical fiction!" -Sarah Sundin, award-winning author of Anchor in the Storm
"Every single inch of this novel is delightful. From the start Marjorie Corrigan felt like a friend, one I was glad to see each time I returned to her story. With charming characters and a plot that keeps moving, this is a novel you don’t want to miss. Jennifer Lamont Leo is a fresh voice in Christian fiction. I can’t wait to read more of her work." -Susie Finkbeiner, author of A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl
About the AuthorWith a passion for all things historical, Jennifer Lamont Leo captures readers' hearts through stories set in times gone by. She is also a copywriter, editor, and journalist. An Illinois native, she holds a deep affection for Chicago and its rich history. Today she writes from the mountains of northern Idaho, where she shares her home with her husband, two cats, and abundant wildlife.
For more information, please visit Jennifer's website and blog. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.
An interview with Jennifer Lamont Leo about You’re the Cream in My Coffee
You’re the Cream in My Coffee is your first novel, set in the Roaring Twenties. Tell us about the story.
Set in 1928, it’s about a small-town woman, Marjorie Corrigan, who has never quite gotten over the death of her first love in the Great War. Now she’s engaged to another man, but when circumstances send her on a trip to Chicago, she thinks she spots her first love walking through a train station, alive and well. Of course she can’t return home until she finds out his true identity, so she figures out a way to stay in the city. To the horror of her family and fiancé back home, she gets a job in a department store and shares an apartment with a flapper. In the process of finding out the identity of the mystery man, Marjorie discovers a great deal about herself, as well. It’s clean, inspirational historical fiction.
Why did you choose to set your novel 1920s-era Chicago?
Growing up near Chicago, I was always drawn to the city and its colorful history. I loved listening to older people reminisce and tell stories. Historically the 1920s were dramatic, a time of rapid social change, and Chicago was at the epicenter. The aftereffects of World War I, Prohibition, changing moral standards, people moving from farms to cities, women getting the vote and joining the workforce in greater numbers, widespread use of technology like the automobile, telephone, and radio, economic prosperity--all these elements had a profound effect on the way people lived their lives and interacted with one another. Time-honored customs and traditions were flipped on their heads, often for good, but sometimes not so good.
While I love reading fiction set in this time period, I grew tired of stories that glorified rebellion, drinking, smoking, lawbreaking, and other transgressive behavior, as if smoking cigarettes were some kind of heroic act (Virginia Slims ads, I’m looking at you!). Hanging out in speakeasies was not an unalloyed joy, much as it’s often portrayed as such. I wanted to show a different angle, that a young woman might enjoy being “modern” in some ways, while not abandoning her strong faith and the moral standards she grew up with. So it’s a bit of a twist on the typical Roaring Twenties female-emancipation storyline. My character is emancipated, but in a different way.
One of your male characters suffers from shell shock, or what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). How was PTSD viewed and treated post-World War I versus today? Back then it was often considered a mark of weak character or a lack of courage. Today we have much more compassion and care for combat veterans. The medical community has learned--and continues to discover--new information about how the brain and nervous system operate under intense, prolonged stressful conditions like war, and we as a society are getting better at helping veterans cope. Not perfect, but better.
What are a few of your favorite go-to resources for information on the 1920s history information?
To study up on the 1920s, I read New World Coming: The 1920s and the Making of Modern America by Nathan Miller, Only Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen, The Damned and the Beautiful by Paula S. Fass, and The Twenties: Fords, Flappers & Fanatics by George E. Mowry. I also turned to the delightful memoir Through Charley’s Door by Emily Kimbrough, who worked at Marshall Field in the 1920s, and Give the Lady What She Wants, a history of Marshall Field & Company. I also perused Chicago newspapers of the day, as well as women’s magazines, catalogs, and museum archives for details about clothing and daily life.
Describe a bit of your writing process.
Research is my favorite part. I could get lost forever in the research and never get around to writing the story! My second favorite part is rewriting. The hardest part for me is getting the first draft down. I write best in the mornings, when my mind is freshest and my energy level highest. I also prefer to write to music: preferably something instrumental or classical, without words. Or something of the era, to get me in the mood. I have a writing room in my home, but occasionally take my work to a coffee shop for a change of pace. The only place I can’t work is the public library--I get too distracted by the books.
If there is one thing you’d change about your approach to writing fiction, what would it be?
I’d like to be more organized and systematic about my research. I tend to follow a trail wherever it leads, which is wonderfully serendipitous, but not terribly efficient. And I have lots of notes, articles, tidbits printed from the Internet, and other ephemera stored in boxes, with no easy, systematic way of finding what I’m looking for. That will have to change.
What authors have inspired you?
I’m especially fond of mid-20th-century women authors like Cornelia Otis Skinner, Emily Kimbrough, Betty MacDonald, Barbara Pym, and E. M. Delafield. They’re largely forgotten now, which is a pity, because their writing is bright, witty, and full of charm. I also enjoy the historical fiction of authors like Lynn Austin, Susan Meissner, and Sarah Sundin.
What are you working on next?
I’m writing a sequel to You’re the Cream in My Coffee, as yet untitled, due out in late 2017 from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. It picks up the story at the end of 1928, where the first book left off, and the primary focus switches to a different character, Dot Rodgers (Marjorie’s flapper roommate).
Where can readers find you?
I write a blog at my website, www.jenniferlamontleo.com, and readers can also sign up there for my newsletter, “A Sparkling Vintage Life.” I’m also on Facebook and Pinterest (Jennifer Lamont Leo) and Twitter (@JennLamontLeo).