The offices, penthouses, and suburban chateaux of New York are the setting for Louis Auchincloss's The Dark Lady. Spanning three decades from the 1930s to the McCarthy era, the novel chronicles a powerful woman's rise and the human toll it exacts.
In a world where birth and style count nearly as much as wealth, Elesina Dart is supremely equipped to star. Lovely, well-born, bright, even moderately talented as an actress, Elesina seems perversely bent on canceling out these advantages. After two destructive marriages and an affair with alcohol, she is close to low ebb when Ivy Trask takes her on. Ivy's business is the exercise of power, as editor of the fashion-arbitrating Tone magazine and in her own loveless life. In Elesina, she finds material worthy of her best efforts.
Stage-managed by Ivy, Elesina makes a widely successful and equally scandalous match with Judge Irving Stein, banker, connoisseur, collector—and old enough to know better, as all who are close to him point out. Mistress of Broadlawns, Irving's Westchester estate, and caretaker of his fabulous art collection are roles Elesina takes in stride. For all his riches and influence, Irving is a man of deep sensibility, a romantic—as is David, his attractive youngest son, whose passion for his stepmother leads to tragic consequences. Inevitably, husband, lover, and friend all fall victim to Elesina's need for the center stage, which she has come to see as her manifest destiny.
In this major novel, Louis Auchincloss examines the many faces of ambition and desire that rule both the schemers and dreamers of fashionable society. It is a story that only Auchincloss, with his exceptional knowledge and insight, could write.