The story of Marshall Field’s phenomenal success, and adulterous affair, is given to us through the eyes of his mistress in this work of historical fiction.
Renee Rosen’s heroine, the real-life Delia Caton, brings us to Chicago in the glorious nineteenth century, beginning with the Great Chicago Fire and going on to the time it hosted the World’s Fair. Included in its history are the men I’ve heard about all my life: Swift, Palmer, Armour, and of course Field himself.
Marshall Field is a legend to any shopper who ever lived or visited Chicago. His magnificent store, now replaced by Macy’s on State Street, was second to none and forged through his indomitable spirit.
My very first job was at Marshall Field’s and Company. I remember clearly the black and white training video we had to watch before going on the floor as salespeople. His mantra was made very clear to us: “Give the lady what she wants.”
But I never knew that he had an affair with Delia Spencer Caton. An affair which lasted more than thirty years and caused plenty of distress, along with the joy, in their lives.
Nor did I know that the Loop earned its nickname because Marshall Field had the cable cars loop through that area of Chicago and stop in front of his store.
What The Lady Wants is a richly imagined recreation, interspersed with fact, of how their lives may have been. It is told through the eyes of Delia, and it is her perspective that is the focus.
I enjoyed it for the history of a city I’ve known all my life; others may enjoy it for the romance and scandal. In either case, we have a clearer picture of Marshall Field himself, and the city he helped build, once we turn the last page.