A Beautiful Rival: A Novel of Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden by Gill Paul
Publication September 5, 2023
Genre: Historical Fiction
Taken from Goodreads: In this stunning new novel, bestselling author Gill Paul reveals the unknown history of cosmetic titans Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein and their infamous rivalry that spanned not only decades, but also broken marriages, personal tragedies, and a world that was changing dramatically for women—perfect for fans of Fiona Davis, Marie Benedict, and Beatriz Williams.
Who would have guessed that the business of making women beautiful was so cutthroat?
They could have been allies: two self-made millionaires who invented a global industry, in an era when wife and mother were supposed to be the highest goals for their sex. Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein each founded empires built on grit and determination…and yet they became locked in a feud spanning three continents, two world wars, and the Great Depression.
Brought up in poverty, Canadian-born Elizabeth Arden changed popular opinion, persuading women from all walks of life to buy skincare products that promised them youth and beauty. Helena Rubenstein left her native Poland, and launched her company with scientific claims about her miracle creams made with anti-ageing herbs.
And when it came to business, nothing was off-limits: poaching each other’s employees, copying each other’s products, planting spies, hiring ex-husbands, and one-upping each other every chance they had. This was a rivalry from which there was no surrender! And through it all were two women, bold, brazen, and determined to succeed—no matter the personal cost.
In this sweeping novel from the bestselling author of Jackie and Maria and The Manhattan Girls, two larger-than life fashion icons come alive with all their passion, bitterness, and ambition as they each try to live the American dream.
My Thoughts: I did not know anything of the rivalry of Elizabeth Arden and Helen Rubenstein. Once I started reading, I could not get enough of these two ladies and their amazing lives. They were not easy lives, although there were easy times, but they were real lives. They worked hard, they made hard choices, and they lived hard lives, but they were real. As women, they were not always respected for the choices they were making, especially Helen as a Jewish woman.
While this book is about two women, it also shared the story of two wars. Each war affected the choices the women made and the way these choices changed their businesses. They had to make their salons work during war times, they had to work through the prejudices that came with having their last names, and they had to make life changes in order to keep their successes. War is never easy, but I enjoyed seeing how these two women came out of the war with more determination to be successful and keep their businesses succeeding.
A Beautiful Rival is an amazing book. I am excited to recommend this book to any historical fiction readers.
Thank you William Morrows for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
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Meet Gill Paul (taken from her website): Gill Paul is the bestselling author of twelve historical novels, many of them about real women from the past whom she thinks have been marginalized or misjudged by historians. Her novels have reached the top of the USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Toronto Globe & Mail charts, and have been translated into twenty-two languages.
Gill also writes historical non-fiction, including A History of Medicine in 50 Objects and series of Love Stories. Published around the world, this series includes Royal Love Stories, World War I Love Stories and Titanic Love Stories.
Gill was born in Scotland and grew up there, apart from an eventful year at school in the US when she was ten. She studied Medicine at Glasgow University, then English Literature and History (she was a student for a long time), before moving to London to work in publishing. Her first novel was written at weekends, but she has now given up the ‘day job’ to write fiction full-time. She also writes short stories for magazines and speaks at libraries and literary festivals about subjects ranging from Dorothy Parker to the Romanovs, and about writing itself.
Gill swims daily, year-round in a wild pond and loves vintage clothes, old movies, and poking around in bookshops.