Rouge by Richard Kirshenbaum – Book Review

Ever since my first Great Gatsby cocktail at college (don’t judge me, but I didn’t read the book in high school *gasps*), I’ve always held an extreme fascination for the Prohibition Era and have dreamed of living in such a world. There are only two problems… 1.) I was not alive during the Roarin’ 20’s (the struggles of a 90’s baby), and 2.) I do not have a multi-million dollar idea waiting to capitalize on. Oh well.. I guess I’ll just read about it! Enter: Rouge.


Like Swans of Fifth Avenue and Truman Capote’s Answered Prayers, Richard Kirshenbaum’s Rouge gives readers a rare front row seat into the world of high society and business through the rivalry of two beauty industry icons (think Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden), by the master marketer and chronicler of the over-moneyed.

Rouge is a sexy, glamorous journey into the rivalry of the pioneers of powder, mascara and rouge.

This fast-paced novel examines the lives, loves, and sacrifices of the visionaries who invented the modern cosmetics industry: Josiah Herzenstein, born in a Polish Jewish Shtlel, the entrepreneur who transforms herself into a global style icon and the richest woman in the world, Josephine Herz; Constance Gardiner, her rival, the ultimate society woman who invents the door-to-door business and its female workforce but whose deepest secret threatens everything; CeeCee Lopez, the bi-racial beauty and founder of the first African American woman’s hair relaxer business, who overcomes prejudice and heartbreak to become her community’s first female millionaire. The cast of characters is rounded out by Mickey Heron, a dashing, sexy ladies’ man whose cosmetics business is founded in a Hollywood brothel. All are bound in a struggle to be number one, doing anything to get there…including murder .

My Thoughts

I typically don’t gravitate toward historical fiction, mostly because I struggle to connect with it… if I’m not currently living it, it’s harder for me to envision. Rouge, however, hurdled me back in time (between 1922 and 1993) in the best possible way. As the story progressed, I saw real-life current events and could legitimately feel the characters coming to life in these specific scenarios.

In addition, I absolutely adored the dynamic, powerful characters. Atypical to the time period, the women featured in this book were driven toward their professional aspirations, not toward settling down with a nice boy and having a family. I was seriously all. for. it. Don’t get me wrong… there are no heroes/heroines… no one will stop short in their pursuit of their dreams. But, honestly, this is what made the story so authentic and plausible.

Overall, I’m completely overwhelmed with how much I enjoyed this book. The characters were so strong and vivid, the story so interesting and captivating, and both of the above were so memorable. Mix yourself a martini and get your hands on a copy, you won’t regret it. Thank you so much to FSB Associates and the author for providing my advance review copy. It’s truly my pleasure to share my honest thoughts and opinions with everyone!

Get your copy of Rouge here!


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