Skip to main content

Park Avenue Summer


Park Avenue Summer

Before there were powerful bosses like THE DEVIL WEARS PRADAs Miranda Priestley, there was Helen Gurley Brown. In 1965, Brown, a novice author with no editorial experience, was appointed editor in chief of Cosmopolitan magazine. Her book, SEX AND THE SINGLE GIRL, had created quite a stir culturally, and Hearst executives thought perhaps she could enliven the flagging periodical. Or maybe she would run it into the ground, and they could finally retire it.

Into this whirlwind comes 23-year-old Alice Weiss, fresh off the bus from Ohio, trying to pursue not only her dream of becoming a professional photographer, but also her late mother’s dream of living in the city. Alice’s mother died tragically in a car accident when Alice was just 13. Now her father is remarried to Faye, who, despite loving him, seems aloof to her. And when her fiancé Michael breaks off their engagement, she decides there is no better time to put her dream into action than now.

"...instantly absorbing, thoroughly researched and a fun, breezy read. It’s like revisiting 'Mad Men,' but from Peggy and Joan’s points of view."

Thanks to her late mother’s well-connected friend, book editor Elaine Sloan, Alice secures an interview to be the assistant to Cosmo’s new editor. Instead of being a detriment, Alice’s lack of editorial experience works in her favor as Helen hires her. She confesses to her own lack of magazine experience and assures Alice that they’d “be learning this business together.” Helen is the quintessence of poise and ladylike wiles unlike Alice has ever experienced. Elaine tells Alice, “The thing about Helen is, she claims to be just a regular girl from the Ozarks…but she’s Pucci all the way and she knows it. She’s as clever as they come. Every time she speaks, she has an endgame in mind. That woman is always one step ahead of everyone else… She has a way of making you think she’s just like you. That’s part of her genius…”

Right out of the gate, it’s clear that Helen has her work cut out for her. Not only is she trying to learn a new business on the fly, working with a miniscule budget, the powers that be seem determined to see her fail. Fighting her over every editorial decision, it’s clear to Alice that there’s a target on her boss’s back. But when handsome Erik Masterson, one of the junior execs from Hearst, asks her to spy on her boss for the higher-ups, she flat out refuses. But his unflagging charm and perseverance win her over as he drops his line of questioning of Helen. Alice quickly learns, “Working for Helen Gurley Brown was like stepping onto oncoming traffic.” Everything rides on the all-important July issue. If it flops, everyone is out of a job.

But Alice doesn’t want to forget her original goal --- to become a professional photographer. Taking her dad’s old camera around the city, she shoots street scenes that catch her burgeoning eye. But she is desperate to learn more and improve her craft. Elaine Sloan to the rescue again. Elaine introduces her to budding photographer Christopher Mack, who is the son of Elaine’s old boyfriend. Christopher takes Alice under his wing, bringing her on shoots, teaching her development techniques, and helping her to sharpen her eye. Despite her better judgment, Alice finds herself falling for charming Erik but also developing an undeniable attraction to Christopher. What’s a young career girl to do when her very livelihood, as well as her heart, is in jeopardy?

This new historical fiction from Renée Rosen, author of DOLLFACE and WHITE COLLAR GIRL, is instantly absorbing, thoroughly researched and a fun, breezy read. It’s like revisiting “Mad Men,” but from Peggy and Joan’s points of view. However, beyond the glamourous world of magazine publishing in the ’60s, Alice comes to find herself and realizes that she doesn’t have to apologize for it: “Helen had given me permission to pursue what I wanted, and as a result, I knew myself better --- what I liked, what I didn’t. Most important, I had discovered what I deserved.”

Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on May 10, 2019

Park Avenue Summer
by Renée Rosen

  • Publication Date: April 30, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 1101991143
  • ISBN-13: 9781101991145