Temptation Rag: A Novel

Temptation Rag: A Novel

by Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard

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Overview

What WATER FOR ELEPHANTS was to the circus, TEMPTATION RAG is to ragtime . . .

5-star pick from Readers' Favorite Book Reviews

"A striking portrait of racial and gender inequality in the ragtime era."--Fredric Tulsky, Pulitzer Prize--winning journalist

"A page-turning story of passion, ambition, and desire."--Megan Chance, bestselling author of Bone River and Inamorata

What is the price of freedom? How do we leave a legacy? Can we ever forgive the unforgivable? A deeply human story of love, lies, and the power of music from the author of The Beauty Doctor, Finalist for the 2018 Eric Hoffer Book Award, 2017 AZ Literary Awards, and a Medallion Honoree of the Book Readers Appreciation Group.

Seventeen-year-old May Convery, unhappy with her privileged life in turn-of-the-century New York City, dreams of becoming a poet. When she meets the poor but talented Mike Bernard, a young aspiring concert pianist, she immediately falls in love. But it's not long before Mike abandons May and his love for serious music to pursue a career in ragtime, soon winning the coveted title Ragtime King of the World.

Within the confines of an unhappy marriage arranged by her parents, May struggles to salvage her self-respect as a woman and an artist. After a chance encounter, she befriends Abbie Mitchell, a young African American soprano of extraordinary talent who is married to the tempestuous violinist and composer of ragtime operettas Will Marion Cook. Through May's unusual friendship with Abbie, she meets J. Rosamond Johnson, one of the most successful African American musical theater composers of the era. A relationship begins that will force May to confront the bitter realities of racism in America and, eventually, the shameful secret she has kept hidden for years.

Mike's life without May appears to be a success. He is the first solo ragtime pianist to record for Columbia Records and a top draw at every big theater in New York City. But that isn't enough. His rivalry with the charismatic Ben Harney, the self-proclaimed Originator of Ragtime, consumes him. It is only when Mike meets the naive young Ziegfeld girl Dolly Zuckerman that he starts to remember what it feels like to care about someone other than himself. But love is more fickle than he imagined, and so is the public. When his fans begin to tire of ragtime, quick to embrace the modern new music of jazz, Mike must grapple with the painful realization that he is yesterday's news. Bitter and alone, he finally faces the ultimate question of what, if anything, really matters. It is then, under the most uncomfortable of circumstances, that he and May happen to meet again, their unexpected contact rekindling confused emotions that have lain dormant for nearly thirty years. Can they make peace with the past that still haunts them? Or is it too late?

The world of ragtime is the backdrop for a remarkable story about the price of freedom, the longing for immortality, and the human need to find forgiveness, From vaudeville's greatest stars to the geniuses of early African American musical theater, an unforgettable cast of real-life characters populates this richly fictionalized historical saga.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780998440644
Publisher: Belle Epoque Publishing
Publication date: 12/03/2018
Pages: 410
Sales rank: 355,524
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.91(d)

About the Author

A writer and musician, Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard lives in Arizona with her husband, Bob, and their black Lab, Pearly Mae. Her historical fiction has been recognized by the Eric Hoffer Book Award (2018, Fiction Finalist), the Arizona Literary Awards (2017, Honorable Mention, Published Fiction), and the Book Readers Appreciation Group (Medallion Honoree).

Table of Contents

Act I; Act II; Act III; Act IV; Author's Note; Acknowledgments; Reading Group Guide: About the Author

Customer Reviews

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Temptation Rag: A Novel 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
ChocolateLady More than 1 year ago
Telling your own family’s story though fiction can be a dangerous endeavor. Often the writer can get too sentimental, hung up on family lore, entrenched in superfluous details, or overly positive about people who don’t deserve such praise. Thankfully, Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard (or as I’ll call her, EHB, to avoid confusion) artfully sidestepped all of these pitfalls and brought us a cast of characters that practically jump off the page for her readers, most of whom are heartily flawed. This isn’t to say that that EHB aired the family laundry, because with all their imperfections, EHB also treats them all with a level of kindness that makes even the more seemly of them garner the reader’s sympathy. This was a true balancing act, and kudos to EHB for pulling it off with such aplomb. Furthermore, I’m glad that EHB didn’t sidestep the whole cultural appropriation issue, and continued to reference the African American personalities as prominent throughout the book, even though they were minor characters here. I also appreciated EHB’s writing style here, which never felt artificial, allowing just enough jargon and dialect to feel authentic without it overpowering or distracting from the narrative. In fact, throughout this book I felt that EHB had a very good handle on giving each of her characters their own voice. This was most prominent with her major characters, who were Mark Bernard; May Convery, who was Mark’s first wife, and; Ben Harney. Interestingly enough, in the chapters about Ben Harney, EHB decided to tell his story from the viewpoint of his last wife, Jessie Boyce (an actress whose stage name was Jessie Haynes). Changing points of view for different characters is not an unknown literary mechanic, but sometimes it can be jarring for the reader. Not so with this novel, and these switches helped EHB put subtly varying levels of focus on each of the characters. In this way, the reader will feel that Harney is somewhat of an aloof person for the reader; as if Jessie is the only person who really knew and understood him (which might be historically correct, but we’ll never know). At the same time, readers will get a more intimate feel for both Barnard and Convery, in almost equal measures. Further to this, I have to admit that my favorite character was actually May Convery, despite the fact that she only orbited the ragtime world, and was never truly immersed in its world. This brings me to the one thing about this book that was a slight disappointment. I liked May so much that I particularly enjoyed reading all the passages with her as the focus, especially after she leaves her (second) husband and becomes such an independent and forthright woman. The result was that I found myself wondering if this might have been more interesting if she had been the primary protagonist, with Bernard and Harney and all the rest downplayed to more minor roles. It is possible that if this had been Convery’s story, it might have gotten a full five stars from me, mainly because she was more a figment of EHB’s imagination than the other two (since there’s almost no information about her that’s anything more than a footnote in Bernard’s biography), and EHB has a very vivid imagination indeed. This doesn’t mean that I was frustrated by this book, because overall, I did enjoy it; but oh, if it had been only May’s story, I think I would have fallen completely in love with this novel. That said, I enjoyed this novel and warmly recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Temptation Rag is one of those rare books full of surprises from beginning to end Something new for me was learning about the Ragtime era, the Author’s detailed account of that period in American history made me feel like I was transported back in time, I absolutely loved the Author’s description of the characters, places and the country’s challenges Although I felt all the characters were fully developed and their dialogue realistic, I especially liked May, for me May represented a women growing up in turbulent times, who was determined to redefine herself along with history. I thought the Author did a magnificent job of portraying May, as some one who valued the "Human Spirit" which allowed her character to demonstrate strength, fortitude, free will and empathy throughout the story, making it easy for me to applaud her wins There is an organic way the Author tells the story, which I found to be gratifying, stimulating and entertaining I highly recommend this book to those who delight in an outstanding story line and fancy taking a peek into the past Bravo!! Great Read..
theimagebusiness More than 1 year ago
I was given an Advance Reading Copy of Temptation Rag which was read in about two days...in summation, ENTHRALLING. Bernard, yet again, has uniquely captured another fascinating story about tenacious women in a transitioning historical era in the late 1800's/early 1900's. (In 2017, The Beauty Doctor was her first publication). In Temptation Rag, fact and fiction intertwine, emerging in a story line that takes one back to a time when May Convery struggled with the lack of women's rights...to love as she chooses, to write poetry that is respected, to cast her voting ballot next to men, and to move beyond all that she cannot control. This account, that spans generations, includes many memorable characters from the ragtime era, including Mike Bernard, who you like, then despise, then like, then disrespect, then question, then... As I read this, I kept asking myself, "where is this going?" ...as the next event and the next are unexpected. As I turned the final page, my question was answered with the most perfect and unpredictable finality. This is Bernard's best.
ReadersFavorite3 More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite Temptation Rag: A Novel is a work of historical fiction by author Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard. Set at the turn of the twentieth century in the glamorous city of New York, our heroine May Convery is a young woman who wants to buck the trend of what’s expected of her. With dreams of writing as a poet, May is drawn to the concert pianist Mike Bernard, whom she discovers is also not at peace with the serious, formal music he’s performing. After their secret love affair is revealed for the world to see, the pair must go their own ways. As Mike’s career in ragtime music builds and May struggles to find her artistic voice, it seems that coming back together may be the key to their true fulfillment. The most striking thing about Temptation Rag: A Novel was the talented way in which author Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard captures the style of the ragtime era. Music, art and culture spring from every page of this delightfully artistic work, and May’s determined search for a voice really centers the plot on the seriousness that a true artist has when pursuing their dreams. Mike too encapsulates this spirit, and the pair of them make a great couple to follow in terms of romance but also their personal endeavors for greatness. I found May’s story really empowering at an interesting point in history for women and their rights, and overall I’d highly recommend Temptation Rag to historical fiction fans looking for an under-represented era and a fantastic, uplifting tale.
Adriann Harris More than 1 year ago
Temptation Rag is a fictional/factional story of the Ragtime King, Mike Bernard, brought to life by an actual family member. Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard wife of one of the King’s descendants wrote about real individuals who were part of Mike’s life wove together with fiction which added drama that kept me turning the pages. The story is centered around Mike and his first wife, May Convery, and how the decisions they made, or didn’t make, effected not only their lives but others as well. Mike and May were tortured soles as they lived their lives separately, coming in and out of each other’s lives occasionally. It is May’s life, which little is actually known about, that Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard truly showed her talent as a writer. Instead of distracting from the story, May’s fictional life actually brought added interest of how her interaction with Mike, an individual who mistreated others throughout his lifetime, affected her throughout hers’. I truly enjoyed reading Temptation Rag as the fictional/factional story was so well intermingled by the author who did not shy away from tough touchy subjects and portraying what life was really like for woman and minorities in an era of great change in America. Her character development was superb including even the minor ones who brought additional interest to the story. Is this a HEA story? Maybe, maybe not. I for one, think it is how you perceive what is HEA. Either way this is a well written book definitely worth reading. I received a complimentary copy (or ARC) of this book from the publisher via NetGalley and Smith Publicity, Inc. I was under no obligation to write a review, and all options expressed in this review are completely my own.
MissKnu 4 months ago
What begins as an ill-fated romance between an impetuous and spoiled young woman from a well to do banking family and her talented, ambitious piano teacher who hides his Jewish heritage turns quickly into a portrait of an era. After marrying in haste, the lives of May Convery and Mike Bernard take widely different paths. As he abandons his classical training for a bid at Ragtime glory, May finds herself in the unhappy society marriage she had married Mike to avoid. The trajectories of their lives, both highs and lows, eventually lead to a reunion that is inevitably fraught with emotional hazards. While framing the narrative around two fictional characters, the author breathes new life into an interesting set of real Ragtime players, most notably Strap Hill and Ben Harney. Though it is Strap's story here that is particularly interesting. Leading off more than a few chapters and interacting with Mike and, eventually, May, Strap's story is skillfully woven through and juxtaposed with those of the white performers. In fleshing out this cast of characters and their world, some of whom might only be mentioned in passing if this were a work of non-fiction, the author does not shy away from depicting the racial tensions and other unsavory realities of the musical theater world in the early 20th century. Along with the casting couch morals of several male characters, Mike included, this makes for a sometimes uncomfortable but ultimately compelling read. With a mix of fictional and real historical characters, this is a treat for the history buff, the musical theater devotee, and the historical fiction reader. Definitely one to revisit and dig deeper into with each reread. This review refers to an Advance Reading Copy I voluntarily received from Smith Publicity for a bookstagram feature on Instagram. A review was not required and all opinions expressed are my own.
HistFicFanatic 7 months ago
Ragtime comes alive in Bernard's Temptation Rag: A Novel! Temptation Rag follows the lives of May Convery, a socialite who dreams of becoming a poet, and Mike Bernard, a determined musician who eventually becomes the Ragtime King of the World, and their relationship over the course of decades. We also get POVs from the supporting cast of characters so that the readers get a rounded view of the their lives, the times and most importantly, the music. I haven't read any books set during this time or featuring the Ragtime music scene so I found all it quite fascinating. Bernard has a great way of setting the scene and making the reader feel like they are really there. In addition to the music, Temptation Rag touches on the racial tensions of the time, and the plight of women as they fight for their rights. It's a story of passion, grit, ambition, love, and hope. It was an intriguing read that I highly recommend!
Virginiaw 11 months ago
I enjoyed reading this story about the world of Ragtime. I loved the history but I wasn’t too fond of most of the characters. I really didn’t like any of them except Jessie and Strap. Most of the characters were only thinking of themselves through most of the book. The story was very well done though. I received a copy of this book from Smith Publicity for a fair and honest opinion that I gave of my own free will.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked the way the author tied the truth and the fiction together--and then explained it all at the end. This book had to take a lot of research and it was good reading. Hard to put it down.