Tuesday 21 April 2020

#BookReview — Naked Truth or Equality, the Forbidden Fruit by Carrie Hayes #HistoricalFiction

Naked Truth
or Equality, the Forbidden Fruit
By Carrie Hayes

From Washington Heights to Washington D.C. comes a true American Herstory. Filled with intrigue, lust, and betrayal, this is the fight for sexual equality.

1868, on the eve of the Gilded Age: Spiritualist TENNESSEE CLAFLIN is smart, sexy, and sometimes clairvoyant. But it’s her sister, VICTORIA WOODHULL, who is going to make history as the first woman to run for President of the United States.

It starts with the seduction of the richest man in America. Next, they'll take New York City and the suffragist movement by storm, because together, Tennessee and Victoria are a force of nature. Boldly ambitious, they stop at nothing, brushing shoulders with Harriet Beecher Stowe and Susan B. Anthony, using enough chutzpah to make a lady blush.

That is, until their backstabbing family takes them to court, and their carefully spun lives unravel, out in public and in the press.

“We are equal. Women are equal to men. There is nothing to stop us from saying our piece…”

The world moves…


But not fast enough for the Claflin sisters. 


Trapped in a man's world, Tennessee Claflin and her sister, Victoria Woodhill, are determined to make their voices heard. 


While Victoria encourages women to rise en-masse and demand their emancipation, Tennessee desperately tries to come to terms with a life-changing illness. However, this illness, no matter how awful, will not shake Tennessee from her sister's side.


With passion as her muse and a dogged determination to be heard, Victoria sets her sights on the highest prize of all — despite women not having the vote, she is determined to become the next President of the United States.


No matter what they say, how they mock, the Claflin sisters will stand firm against all adversaries…


From humble beginnings to desperate scandal, Naked Truth or Equality, the Forbidden Fruit by Carrie Hayes is the unforgettable story of the Claflin sisters as they fight for the right to be heard.


Naked Truth or Equality, the Forbidden Fruit is astoundingly ambitious. It is a story rich in historical controversy, and it is also one that once started is very difficult to put down. Hayes has penned a novel that is as enthralling as it is shocking. There is a darkness in the world that the Claflin sisters inhabit, but there is also a strive for goodness, for justice, for equal opportunities. It is the story of two women who dared stand up and say No — this ends today. They dared to say what other women were thinking but did not have the courage to say out loud, and they were abused because they threatened the very order of things. The extreme acts that people were willing to go to, to discredit the sisters say a great deal about how society was run during this time, and I think that is what makes this book so incredibly successful. Hayes has a novelist eye for the human detail in all of its glory and its ugliness. 

Victoria is a woman on a mission. She is immensely passionate about woman's suffrage. She is a fabulous public speaker and comes across as a very strong, very determined woman, which I am sure intimated many of the men and indeed women, who heckled her and set out to discredit her. Hayes shows us this courageous public figure, but she also depicts the nerves before a speech, the insecurities, the doubt of a woman who was daring to rush in where angels feared to tread. Victoria was taking on the establishment — she ran for the presidency when women didn't even have the vote – how can you not respect that? It is an impressive portfolio, but she was also a wife, a mother, a daughter, and a sister. Victoria grew up in a dysfunctional household, and yet somehow she rose above it. I thought Hayes' depiction of Victoria was sublime. 

The other protagonist in this tale is Tennessee, Victoria's sister. Tennessee fascinated me. She is blighted by ill-health — she fears the worst and tries to hide it. Her clairvoyant abilities give her insight into things that she did not really want to know. She is also someone who is used — by her family, by friends and by foe alike. She sees things that she wishes she could unsee, and she questions herself. Tennessee suffers terribly in this book, but like her sister, she is unrepentant in her belief that women should have the same rights as men and that they should be treated as equal citizens, and that they should be paid equally. I adored Tennessee, there are some things she does which might make a reader cringe, and many of the scenes she is in are quite shocking, but at the same time, Hayes has depicted a woman who feels very deeply and is hurt by those she trusts.

Hayes gives her readers an intimate insight into not only the Claflin's sisters point of view but also the secondary characters in this story as well. Initially, I was slightly concerned that this would make the story confusing and so fast-paced that it would be difficult to keep up. However, I soon found a rhythm to this story, and the numerous voices employed in telling this tale gave the narrative a richness that would have been very difficult to obtain through a single perspective.

The historical detail of this book has to be commended. Hayes has obviously devoted uncountable hours to research the lives of these two incredibly fascinating, yet very controversial women who lived in a time where respectability was everything and a hint of scandal could ruin not only your good name but also your business, your family, everything. By using diary entries, speeches and newspaper articles from the time, within the story, Hayes has given her fictional retelling of the sisters a sense of authority and realism. Some of the things that the sisters stood for were indeed very radical. When they spoke of Free Love, it was taken out of context and exploited by those who could. When they spoke of women's emancipation, they were heckled, and there were those who were determined to undermine them, to ridicule them and to smear them and thus end any thought of a political career. Hayes does not portray either sister as an innocent woman, she has not brushed over the scandal, but what she has done is given her readers a more pragmatic insight into who these women were and what they stood for. This book is a tremendous work of scholarship and one that Hayes should be justly proud of. 

Naked Truth or Equality, the Forbidden Fruit by Carrie Hayes is a candid story that, at times, is difficult to read because of the things that happen to the protagonists. But that is what makes this book so very special. I thought this novel was brilliant from start to finish. It is fresh, it is vibrant, and the story is one that has been waiting to be told.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.


Pick up your copy of

Naked Truth or Equality, the Forbidden Fruit

Carrie Hayes

Carrie Hayes was born in New York City. She comes to writing as a result of the joy and passion derived from being a lifelong, avid reader. Carrie resides in New Jersey with her family. Naked Truth is her first book.

Connect with Carrie: WebsiteAmazon Author Page.

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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx