Diamonds and Deadlines

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Diamonds and Deadlines:

Sometimes a name change is all you need.

Quick synopsis:

The story of publishing giant and trailblazer Mrs. Frank Leslie.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

In mid-1800s New York City, approximately 20% of the female population practiced prostitution.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

17% of the male population of New York City had syphilis in the mid-1800s.

My Take on Diamonds and Deadlines:

Diamonds and Deadlines by Betsy Prioleau is the perfect balance of multiple elements. The story of newspaper mogul Miriam Leslie (among a host of many other names), Prioleau writes a biography of a complicated woman who is part fraud and part trailblazer.

This can easily become a dry list of personal accomplishments, hero worship, or gossip mongering. Instead, Prioleau tells a nuanced story which takes into account all aspects of Leslie’s life whether the facts make her look amazing or awful. And very often, she can look one way and the complete opposite on the next page.

The perfect example of Prioleau’s easy writing style is the description of Leslie’s many fashion choices. Often, authors fall into the trap of showing off how extensive their research is by over-explaining the grandeur of any given wardrobe choice. Leslie’s choice of dress is vital to her character, but Prioleau quickly highlights her very expensive choices without bogging down the narrative with pages of explanation. Her narrative is even and never slows down to focus on needless details. It takes this from a good biography to a great read.


A great book for Gilded Age lovers. Buy it here!

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Diamonds and Deadlines by Betsy Prioleau
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