Richard Kirshenbaum drops readers into the world of excess and influence in the high class business world of America. Focused on four women and their influential careers spanning primarily from the early 1920s to roughly the 1950s, Kirshenbaum highlights powerful women and the secrets that seem to surround their lives. Beginning with an elaborate funeral, Rouge keeps you in the glittering world of the elite as it reveals the work that must be done to gain and maintain your position at the top of society.
Josephine Herz finds a way to grow her business from Australia, to London, and then to New York, with her products growing and evolving over time. The more she works the more she finds herself wooing even royals to purchase products from her. Her rival, Constance Gardiner also found her way to New York and made her way onto the cosmetics scene through a meeting over beauty cream at her new job in a laboratory. From that point on she would go on to sell her cosmetics to the women she had always wanted to be. While these two women might compete, CeeCee Lopez has found a way to become the first female millionaire in her community. The beautiful biracial woman finds a way to create the first African-American hair relaxer company even though she has had to fight against prejudice and heartbreak on this journey. The final of the four key figures connected to the beauty industry is surprisingly not a woman, but rather a ladies’ man, Mickey Heron, whose cosmetics found their start in a rather surprising place. As Josephine’s business keeps rising, Constance finds herself making a major mistake, both in her professional and personal life. This moment though is finally what allows CeeCee to find her own place in the world of beauty.
As this beauty industry story evolves each of the players begins to grow and evolve, finding their footing within the industry. While Constance attempts to maintain her power, her mistakes and secrets begin to take their toll, but she isn’t the only one marked by tragedy and darkness. Both CeeCee and Mickey find a connection, but this can’t be maintained after one night that they both knew went too far. This story shows the strain and difficulty that comes from existing both in the public eye and also finding a way to make a path for yourself when the industry seems to be constantly changing. Candice’s story examines the topic of sexuality and what can happen when you are forced to stay hidden. She tries to find ways to be happy, even if she can’t be with someone she can truly love, but the 1930s are not a time that accepts her for who she is. This was one of the heartbreaking elements within this story full of powerful figures. The deep dive into the drama and dangers of this world was an intriguing read. I found myself constantly curious about what would happen next within the world of beauty as it began moving across the United States. If you enjoy intrigue and rich characters you need to check out Richard Kirshenbaum’s book. You can get your copy of Rouge today!