Ten Days in August is set in New York City in 1896, and turned out to be surprisingly tricky to research. I live in New York City and know the city’s geography like the back of my hand, but New York is such a forward-looking city that little of what stood in 1896 is still there. My hero, Hank, is a police detective operating out of a precinct house in today’s East Village, and while there is a police precinct house roughly where Hank’s was, it’s a modern building. Police Headquarters in 1896 were over on Mulberry Street, and that building is long gone. It predates even the old police headquarters on Centre Street, which is a building I once stumbled upon by accident. (As with many historic buildings in NYC, this building now houses luxury condos.)
Still, there are pockets of the past throughout the city. My research brought me to the Tenement Museum, a great place to learn more about the city’s immigrant population in the late nineteenth century. My other hero, Nicky, comes from an Irish family in the tenements, and his sister still lives with her five children, her husband, and her father in a two-room apartment in a building that didn’t really have running water—a shockingly frequent occurrence in the city at the time.
Even the grandiose mansions that used to line Fifth Avenue, the homes of the wealthiest New Yorkers of the 1890s, have mostly been replaced with large apartment buildings. Mrs. Astor’s famed manor is now a synagogue. The Madison Square Garden of my novel is not the round arena near Penn Station of today—home to the Knicks and the Rangers—but in fact a fairly new building off Madison Square that included a theater, a concert hall, and a roof garden and was among the largest such venues in the world. This was actually the second Madison Square Garden (the current one is the fourth).
Though I find all this forward progress really fascinating, it made my research difficult because I couldn’t just go look at some of the locations in my novel—they look completely different today. Some things have remained. Cooper Union, for example, still sits near Astor Place. Central Park was a popular place to escape from the rush of the city, even then. There are pockets of the city still made up of Victorian brownstones look a little like walking into the past. But consider that, in 1896, there was no Empire State Building, no Flat Iron Building, no Times Square, no subway. So much of what you think of when you think of New York hadn’t been built yet. I think it’s fun to imagine what the city must have been like back then.
From the Lower East Side to uptown Manhattan, a curious detective searches for clues on the sidewalks of New York—and finds a secret world of forbidden love that’s too hot to handle…
New York City, 1896. As the temperatures rise, so does the crime rate. At the peak of this sizzling heat wave, police inspector Hank Brandt is called to investigate the scandalous murder of a male prostitute. His colleagues think he should drop the case, but Hank’s interest is piqued, especially when he meets the intriguing key witness: a beautiful female impersonator named Nicholas Sharp.
As a nightclub performer living on the fringes of society, Nicky is reluctant to place his trust in a cop—even one as handsome as Hank. With Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt cracking down on vice in the city, Nicky’s afraid that getting involved could end his career. But when he realizes his life is in danger—and Hank is his strongest ally—the two men hit the streets together to solve the crime. From the tawdry tenements of the Lower East Side to the moneyed mansions of Fifth Avenue, Nicky and Hank are determined to uncover the truth. But when things start heating up between them, it’s not just their lives on the line. It’s their love…
Kate McMurray is an award-winning author romance author and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She is currently president of the New York City chapter of Romance Writers of America. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.