The Secret Life of Anna BlancIt’s June in Los Angeles, 1907, and I’m not wearing my corset. The silk of my Madeline Vionet dress slips across my bosoms and I feel wonderful. Mrs. Cooper notices my jiggling and sends me upstairs.

It is, I tell her, too hot for corsets and cantankerous chaperones who smell like medicine. She ignores me.

Afterwards, I eat kippers for breakfast while my parrot swears raucously on the marble patio. He swears in French, as does my father who reads The Los Angeles Times in a suit custom made in Paris. He also ignores me.

Now I peruse the paper, searching for a particular ad for men’s shirt collars. I find it. It features the Arrow Collar Man and his dimples are delicious. I would marry him, if he was not made of ink, and if my father would allow me to marry anyone, which he will not, though I’m nineteen. I find the handsome man, clip him out with scissors, and stick him down my décolletage.

My father finally speaks. “What are you doing today?”

“Shopping,” I say, and bite the head off a kipper.

After breakfast, I return to my room and light a fire, stoking it until it roars. Plucking up a copy of The Wizard of Oz from my nightstand, I gut it like a fish with a paring knife I’ve stolen from the kitchen. I pitch the pages into the fire and they blossom into flame. I retrieve a bloody account of Jack the Ripper from under the bed and gut it. The cover goes into the fire. I glue the pages of one book into the cover of another for stealthy reading. I love detective novels too much. Thus, they are forbidden me.

If I posed as a man, I could be a Detective.

I contemplate my bosoms. It isn’t going to happen.

The Secret Life Of Anna Blanc is the author’s first novel, published by Seventh Street Books, November 2015.

It’s 1907 Los Angeles. Mischievous socialite Anna Blanc is the kind of young woman who devours purloined crime novels—but must disguise them behind covers of more domestically-appropriate reading. She could match wits with Sherlock Holmes, but in her world women are not allowed to hunt criminals.

Determined to break free of the era’s rigid social roles, Anna buys off the chaperone assigned by her domineering father and, using an alias, takes a job as a police matron with the Los Angeles Police Department. There she discovers a string of brothel murders, which the cops are unwilling to investigate. Seizing her one chance to solve a crime, she takes on the investigation herself.

If the police find out, she’ll get fired; if her father finds out, he’ll disown her; and if her fiancé finds out, he’ll cancel the wedding and stop pouring money into her father’s collapsing bank. Midway into her investigation, the police chief’s son, Joe Singer, learns her true identity. And shortly thereafter she learns about blackmail.

Anna must choose—either hunt the villain and risk losing her father, fiancé, and wealth, or abandon her dream and leave the killer on the loose.

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Meet the author
Jennifer is a research scientist turned writer of historical fiction. She grew up in Southern California, but has traveled to such places as Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and Papua New Guinea. She earned a Masters degree in Public Health from Loma Linda University and a Ph.D. in Health Services from UCLA. She was on the faculty at UCLA, where she spent 11 years conducting research to inform health policy. Her debut novel, The Secret Life Of Anna Blanc is the winner of the Colorado Gold Award for Mystery and a finalist for the Lefty Award for Historical Mystery. She currently lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and two children, dog, and a cat. Visit Jennifer at, on @jenkincheloe and on Facebook.

All comments are welcomed.

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