The death of Rudolph Valentino in 1926 sparked scenes of mass hysteria and mourning among thousands of women. Rioting broke out in the streets of New York. Rather like that other great sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe, Valentino’s star burned brightly but briefly: he had risen to fame by the age of twenty-six and five years later was dead. While conspiracy theories do not surround his death as they do Marilyn’s, he is reported to have repeatedly called out the name of an unknown woman as he lay dying. Intrigued by the Valentino myth, Daisy Waugh has brought the mystery ‘deathbed’ woman to life, imagining her as his first, lost love, Jennifer Doyle.
Casting Jennifer as the novel’s narrator and heroine, Waugh forges a fascinating if unconventional love story from the facts of Valentino’s extraordinary life. Into the mix, she throws a real-life murder case involving the Chilean heiress, Blanca de Saulles, who in 1917 shot her ex-husband John de Saulles,