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Why I wrote about Courtlandt Place

In the last twenty years, there’s been a movement toward revisionist Texas history. As cited in articles such as “Forget the Alamo” from Texas Monthly Magazine, a young breed of scholars is changing the way natives look at the Lone Star State. These social historians try to recreate the details of everyday life, rather than celebrate the traditional heroic myths.

I’ve tried to do the same thing with my hometown of Houston. In place of the honky tonks of Urban Cowboy and the tough ranchers of Giant, I present to you the denizens of Courtlandt Place. They practiced a more formal, Edwardian style of southern etiquette, which lingered until World War II. Within the gates of their “private place,” there was an elaborate ritual for meals, including formal dinner dress and a butler who waited behind a screen to be summoned for service. Think of it as “Downton Abbey meets Dallas.” These were sophisticated people, cotton and lumber barons who summered in places like Newport and often took the Grand Tour of Europe.

It was a very romantic time in Texas history. The wedding of a daughter from one of the great families was described in these terms: “The evening ceremony was performed in the beautiful environment, with the glow of incandescents, like soft moonlight, illuminating the great magnolia trees which bound the garden space, touching their creamy blossoms into deeper beauty . . . ”

What girl wouldn’t want a wedding like this? My heroine, Esther Allen, has a chance to marry into one of these wealthy clans. She is being courted by Lamar Rusk, whose father Chief Rusk built the largest mansion in the neighborhood. Instead, she becomes intrigued by an ambitious new stranger in town, Garret MacBride. Which man will she choose?

Read my novel Magnolia City to find out. And subscribe to this blog to learn more about the “hidden Houston” that may surprise you. Just fill in the required information (it won’t be used for any other purpose).

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Guest Thursday, 14 December 2017