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Love, Fiercely: A Gilded Age Romance

3.38  ·  Rating Details  ·  162 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
The New York love story of a beautiful heiress and a wealthy young architect, captured in a famous John Singer Sargent painting

In Love, Fiercely Jean Zimmerman re-creates the glittering world of Edith Minturn and Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes. Contemporaries of the Astors and Vanderbilts, they grew up together along the shores of bucolic Staten Island, linked by privilege—her
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 13th 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2012)
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Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Love, Fiercely began with the painting that appears on the cover. Zimmerman started out researching I. N. Phelps Stokes because of her interest in his ponderous history of New York City he wrote. When she viewed John Singer Sargent's painting of the two, though, she became captivated by his wife, Edie (nicknamed Fiercely). Thus, her studies shifted, encapsulating their romance along with the gilded age of New York.

I do not often venture into nonfiction, despite the fact that I was a history majo
Feb 01, 2012 Jaylia3 rated it it was amazing
This double biography is as much an exquisite narrative of American life on the mid-Atlantic coast from the Gilded Age through World War I and the Great Depression as it is the story of Edith Minturn and Newton Stokes. Edith and her husband Newton grew up in the greater New York City area when Staten Island was a bucolic retreat from Manhattan, accessible only by ferry. Though both came from business-developing, world-traveling families with enough money to be included in “Mrs. Astor’s Four Hund ...more
Mar 12, 2012 Cindi rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
I was excited to read Love, Fiercely : A Gilded Age Romance by Jean Zimmerman for several reasons. First, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton is one of my favorite books. I was entertained by the novel The American Heiress, to which Love, Fiercely is compared. I've long been simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by the excess of this era at the end of the nineteenth century. I enjoy narrative histories and biographies, so needless to say I looked forward to reading this book.

Love, Fiercely is
Margaret Sankey
Nov 01, 2012 Margaret Sankey rated it liked it
Using the striking Sargent double portrait as a point of departure, Zimmerman, an expert in New York City history, examines the marriage of two Gilded Age golden people--wealthy from birth, well-educated, steeped in the intermarried culture of progressive-minded do-gooders and related to anyone who was anyone in New England. The couple used their advantages positively, she running the New York Kindergarten League and heading many causes for women and children, he by championing housing reform an ...more
May 04, 2012 April rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I think that the subtitle "A Gilded Age Romance" is misleading. This book gives some background on the families of Edith Minturn & Newton Stokes before they were married, and a little about their marriage and life together. However, the main focus of the book is artwork and a book series: The statue modeled after Edith for the Worlds Columbian Exhibition (1891-1893), the painting of her and her husband as newlyweds by John Singer Sargent, and the 6 volume historical work by Newton written ov ...more
Grace Hoffmann
Jan 26, 2015 Grace Hoffmann rated it liked it
There were parts of this book that were really interesting -- the story of the painting and the milieu of Newton & Edith Stokes. But there must not have been much primary source material for the author because she seemed to be trying to create their personalities, rather than base them on anything concrete. She didn't succeed in making them that interesting in the end. Newton maybe more than Edith. Also, the work on the Iconography of NYC was also really interesting, but might have been bett ...more
Mar 29, 2015 Carol rated it liked it
If you would like to know the history of New York City and how it evolved from the days of the Dutch in the 1600s this is the book. I learned much I did not know about the city and it is interesting to understand how urban sprawl evolves. However, as a love story, as it is billed, it is lacking. It tells a wonderful story of the Gilded Age but reads more like an inventory of the rich and famous of the age (late 1800s and early 1900s) with the main characters simply an example of the jet set of t ...more
May 27, 2013 Sue added it

The New York love story of a beautiful heiress and a wealthy young architect, captured in a famous John Singer Sargent painting

From the bookcover:
In Love, Fiercely Jean Zimmerman re-creates the glittering world of Edith Minturn and Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes. Contemporaries of the Astors and Vanderbilts, they grew up together along the shores of bucolic Staten Island, linked by privilege—her grandparents built the world’s fastest clipper ship, his family owned most of Murray Hill. Theirs was a
Pam Fullem
Sep 27, 2012 Pam Fullem rated it did not like it
I am wondering if the same person who wrote this book wrote the title? It was titled "Love, Fiercely-A Gilded Age Romance" There was very little romance in this book. The first third of the book spoke about Edith Minturn, her growing up, and her posing for the statue "Columbia" for a world exposition. There is no relationship with her future husband until half way through the book. The next chunk of the book went on and on about how Miss Minturn (Mrs.Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes) had her portrait ...more
Oct 28, 2013 Sam rated it did not like it
I was very disappointed in this book. I don't understand either the title, or sub-title. I never got the sense that Edith was especially fierce at all. She was fabulously wealthy, then not, then wealthy again, then not again. She did good works until they adopted a child, then she was pretty much dropped by the author. Nothing to justify the "fierce" attribution.
There is an allusion to hundreds of Newton's letters - more of them might have been nice. Did they write letters to each other? Where
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Shamefully, I grabbed this book on the title and cover alone, and I really had no idea what I was getting into. Happily, this turned out to be a stellar read, engrossing as a novel and just as moving.

Jean Zimmerman, while researching iconography and maps of Manhattan, came across Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes, a passionate collector, reformer, and scion of Gilded Age New York City. Initially interested in him, she became fascinated by his wife, Edith Minturn, upon seeing their massive portrait by J
Apr 20, 2012 Christine rated it it was ok
Reading about a couple of people who grew up in lavish luxury and from families who circulated amongst the 1% in the current economic climate dampened my enthusiasm for the gilded age.

I think I had hoped to read more about Edie Minturn, but I felt by the second half of the book the focus was mostly on Isaac Newton Stokes. The nagging dissatisfaction with the content is how she seems to be lauded for her beauty and looks, and used as the model for a famous statue, but later on in life there isn't
Aug 04, 2012 Susan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
When telling the story of Edith Minturn Stokes and her equally elegant husband I. N. Phelps Stokes, it’s hard to know where to start. They were honestly a real-life Edith Wharton couple, born heirs of New York’s 400, growing up in gilded-age extravagance, wanting for nothing, yet instilled with Progressive values that would be the beacon of their lives to the end of their days together.

Love, Fiercely tells the story of entwined childhoods, marriage and missions and reads like a drawing room rom
Susan Fong
Jan 20, 2015 Susan Fong rated it did not like it

The description of the book leads one to believe it is a novel, a fiction. It's not, and the lengthy history read of a single couples' life can be dry.

Nonetheless I found the content interesting. It made me dream of what my Great Aunt's life in NY was like during this time period. It just wasn't what I expected.
Oct 07, 2012 Sally rated it liked it
This is one of the odder books I've read in a while. As other reviewers have mentioned, the title has little to do with the subject matter, and Edith and Newton Stokes, theoretically the centerpiece of the book, come off as somewhat shadowy figures. The detailed history of the compilation of Newton Stokes's master accomplishment, his "Iconography of Manhattan Island," and the coverage of the contemporary reaction to John Singer Sargent's painting of Edith Stokes (which serves as the book's cover ...more
Jen Fumarolo
Feb 25, 2013 Jen Fumarolo rated it liked it
Sometimes biographies are just hard for me to get through. Once it gets to a succession of names and dates that sounds to me like, "and then this, and then this, and then this..." I kinda feel myself glazing over. For the most part, this kept my interest, but there was a pretty big section in the middle that just didn't resonate for me so don't ask me to recite what happened in several chapters. That being said, I find the era fascinating and John Singer Sargent has always been one of my favorit ...more
Anne Broyles
Sep 07, 2012 Anne Broyles rated it liked it
Edith Minturn (nicknamed Fiercely) and her husband, Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes were privileged members of some of the Gilded Age’s wealthiest families. Edith was immortalized by Daniel Chester French as the model for “The Head of the Republic”, a 65-foot tall statue at the 1893 World’s Fair, and the couple are shown together I an engaging painting by John Singer Sargent.

I loved learning about Fiercely, but found myself caring less about her husband, who published a well-known collection of Manha
Diane S ⛄
Feb 13, 2012 Diane S ⛄ rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this glimpse into the lives of the rich during the Gilded Age. The history of early Manhattan and New York was explained, as the whole book was written in a very readable manner. The debutantes, the artists, their lifestyles and the making of their fortunes was fascinating. The romance between two of the fashionable 400, their marriage and enduring love amid their declining fortunes was admirable. The writings of Wharton and James are quoted quite often as they have been the chronicler ...more
Feb 26, 2014 Pancha rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, memoir
Useful as a look into a particular lifestyle at a particular time, but not very gripping overall.
Jan 15, 2016 Cheryl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-edition
This was pretty good but it could have been better. The first half was really wonderful and the author did a good job painting the time period and information on the "romance." But ... the 2nd half is just one long narrative about Stokes' obsession with the writing and production of his book on NY architecture which, quite frankly, while mildly interesting was a bit of a slog. I guess if I'd known I was reading a book on architecture my expectations would have been met. As it was supposed to be ...more
Mar 16, 2015 Karen rated it it was amazing
Loved it. True Story based on the woman of the Sargent portrait on the cover.
Apr 21, 2014 Maria rated it it was ok
If you are interested in a who's who of the gilded age, this is for you ... especially if you know and love New York city. As a native born New Yorker, I found the tidbits of history especial interesting. I could care less about Edith and Newton. They did not seem fierce, just true to their wealthy background and expectations of entitlement.
Feb 23, 2014 Joan rated it really liked it
Fabulous book. I learned a lot about art in the early 20th cet.
Suzanne Congdon LeRoy
"Love, Fiercely" is the incredible story of Edith Minturn, a beautiful heiress whose face was sculpted for the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, and Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes, a wealthy architect. As a young couple they were immortalized in a famous John Singer Sargent painting. Theirs was a world of privilege however they worked tirelessly on behalf of the most marginalized in New York. A fascinating, elegant read based on meticulous research and an elegant portrayal of the Gilded Age.

Clare Cannon
Mar 11, 2012 Clare Cannon rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, adults
A well told historical biography of the two people featuring in Sargent's painting "Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes" and the late nineteenth century fashionable American world they came from. I guess it's a bit like a non-fiction "Age of Innocence", but with less controversy and more happily ever after's. It was nice, for a change, to hear how long their happy marriage lasted. I just wasn't so interested in the historical details of their lives, which is probably my fault rather than the ...more
Donna Jo Atwood
Jul 02, 2012 Donna Jo Atwood rated it really liked it
This biography of Edith Minturn and Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes is about two New Yorkers who started their privelged lives in the Gilded Age and lived lives that touched many. I had heard of neither of them, but ended up really enjoying the book.
I would love to see the portrait of them by Sargent painted while they were on their honeymoon.
Sep 15, 2012 Elizabeth rated it liked it
I was quite interested in the historical aspects of this book, but I felt like the book promised a "great love story" that it never quite delivered. I was mostly interested in the relationship between Edie and her husband, and it didn't feel like the author knew that much about it. Good, but somewhat disappointing.
Oct 29, 2013 Kristin rated it really liked it
Reading like a novel, I was easily drawn in to this tale of the gilded age couple. Felt like I was going to end up in the Age of Innocence at times as I felt totally drawn in to this biography. Having been stunned by the author's "The Orphanmaster" and now this work, I eagerly look forward to her next work.
Katherine Memory
Dec 07, 2012 Katherine Memory rated it it was ok
Although I enjoyed it, most of my book club did not. It was slow in parts. I did learn something about the Gilded Age, however. It was intereseting to read this, having just finished A Tree Grows in Brooklyn which took place during almost the same time period and also in New York.
Nov 08, 2012 Jesse rated it really liked it
The title is misleading, as Fiercely is her nickname and it is not a romantic love story as modern readers would think. Instead it is a great piece on the history of two interesting people and the time in which they lived in.
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Throughout her writing career Jean Zimmerman has published both nonfiction and fictional works that center around the changing role of women in America.

In Tailspin (Doubleday, 1995) she wrote about intrepid Navy fighter pilot Kara Hultgreen. Ballsy soccer players were the subject of Raising Our Athletic Daughters (Doubleday, 1998, with Gil Reavill). She covered heroic female homemakers in Made Fro
More about Jean Zimmerman...

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