Nina – Antique buyer, feminist, and no one’s fool

Women’s Fiction: A Very Good Life by Lynn Steward


1975 was designated International Women’s Year and in Book 1 – A Very Good Life in the Dana McGarry Series – Nina, the antique buyer and only feminist at B. Altman,  introduces the strides and set-backs of multi-generational women at this transitional period.


“I don’t believe that for a minute,” Nina snapped. “I was there and I know how much she loved that tree.”


Nina Bramen A Very Good Life l Lynn Steward

The Dana McGarry Series available on AMAZON

Chapter Nine


Nina steered her VW into the gravel parking area on the side of an ivy-covered stone edifice that, when it was built in 1750, had been nothing more than a barn with an adjoining piggery. The three B. Altman employees had arrived at the Inn at Phillips Mill. The pre-Revolutionary War estate in Bucks County was now a charming inn with period rooms and fine French dining.

“It’s beautiful scenery,” Nina remarked, “but give me the city on a day-to-day basis. Or a foreign country with a bustling population and hundreds of side streets lined with shops, stalls, and artisans. I like to feel the pulse of what’s going on in the world. I need color, movement, variety.”

The Inn at Phillps Mill,  Bucks County. PA

“What I need now,” said Andrew, “is a nice meal and a glass of wine.”

“The wine’s on me,” Nina said. “I was introduced to some lovely vintages last year when I visited the Alsace region.”

The trio was escorted to a private dining room with a stone fireplace and a roaring fire. Nina ordered poached salmon, Andrew the baked cod, and Dana the crab salad. Nina ordered a bottle of chardonnay to go with the seafood.

The Inn at Phillps Mill,  Bucks County. PA

“Nineteen seventy-five has been designated as International Women’s Year,” Nina said, moving straight from the menu to the topic of feminism. “It’s going to be our year, Dana. Thank God New York will soon have a woman as Lieutenant Governor. Mary Anne Krupsak is fabulous! She has already taken a stand for us. She won’t attend the Democratic Party’s mid-term convention because there won’t be enough women and minorities in attendance, nor will there be balanced geographical representation. She’ll be working closely with Bella Abzug, my congressional representative on the West Side. I know her well, and, of course, Betty Friedan. Betty started the whole idea of an international conference when she met with Kurt Waldheim at the UN last January. The topics we’re going to take on will be all-encompassing: equality in the workplace, voting rights, marriage equality, and reproductive rights, to name just a few. We’re shaking things up!”

The wine had arrived, and Nina raised her glass in a toast. “To women everywhere!”

“Indeed,” said Andrew, lifting his glass.

“This place has an almost hypnotic charm,” Dana remarked after the toast. “I think I’m going to ask for a tour when we finish lunch. I bet the rooms are adorable.”

The Inn at Phillps Mill,  Bucks County. PA

“We’ve already made great strides, thanks to the UN report last year on sexist attitudes around the world,” Nina continued without missing a beat. “The report found that the universal image of women was either that of a sex idol needing masculine approval or a merry homemaker fussing over dust mops and laundry. And who do we have to thank for that? The ad men of Madison Avenue! Now that we have all this good information, we can develop a plan of action! We won’t be second-class citizens any longer!”

Lunch arrived, and Nina continued to talk about Betty Friedan, her idol and a woman who many considered to be the founder of the modern women’s movement.

“Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique should be given to every college freshman woman!” Nina said, her voice growing louder with each sip of chardonnay. “They’ll quickly learn that the Mrs. degree they are frantically working towards is not all it’s cracked up to be!”

Andrew smiled, looking at Dana and then at Nina. “We’re behind you, Nina. It’s good to get these things off your chest, but maybe we should speak a little lower. I think the waiter has been giving us the eye for the past few minutes.”

“I’ll tell you what I got off my chest today, Andrew. Clothing! I’m not wearing a bra! What a symbol of oppression, as if women need to wear harnesses. Pour me another glass of wine please.”

Dana, Andrew, and Nina returning to New York from Winterberry Christmas Tree Farm in Bucks County with Dana and Brett’s Christmas tree

Not Everyone Likes Dana

Women’s Fiction: What Might Have Been l Lynn Steward


 My daughter Amanda inherited my love of riding, so much so that she’s a show jumper.  She’s excellent, if you don’t mind my bragging.


<img src= "girl.jpg" alt= “young girl in riding clothes siting horizontally in a window">
Amanda Senger after she meets her father’s girlfriend Dana

Read an excerpt below from What Might Have been  introducing us to Amanda


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Chapter Twenty-Five


Amanda Senger was five-four and had a small frame.  With blue eyes and brown hair, she’d inherited her father’s features.  She was highly intelligent, but she was more serious and intense than her father, whose wit and humor she appreciated but didn’t share.  At nineteen, she was a highly-focused young woman excelling in Cornell’s veterinary medicine program.  She loved animals and was equally passionate about her riding.  Although she lived with her mother in Greenwich, Connecticut, she spent a great deal of time with her father, who frequently joined her when she trained at Judd Baumann’s horse farm in Muttontown, Long Island.  Judd, a high school friend of Mark, had arranged the purchase of her Dutch Warmblood, Pepsi, and Amanda could never seem to find enough time to visit her beloved horse.  She loved Pepsi from the moment she’d first seen him, and she was allowed to groom the animal, given her equestrian knowledge and abilities.  When she rode the horse, the two functioned as one.  She instinctively knew each move Pepsi was going to make, and she felt that Pepsi, in turn, could sense the commands that she would be giving him.  In fact, her trainer, Paul Arnoff, had told Amanda years earlier that one of the most elemental traits of a great rider was to have a deep bond with a horse and always operate in tandem with it, especially when one reached the competitive levels of riding.

Amanda was currently training to compete for the first time as an adult exhibitor in the High Performance Hunter Division at the Hampton Classic, which was held each August at Bridgehampton, New York.  Starting at the age of nine, when she finished first place in the Pony Hunter Division, Amanda had been participating in this annual event.  Such hunter classes in the High Performance Division required horse and rider to clear a series of fences three feet nine inches high and four feet six inches wide.  When more than one competitor completed the course without missing a fence, they competed against the clock, with the rider posting the fewest mistakes and the fastest time taking the prize.  It was a demanding course and called for consummate skill on the part of the rider, and it was a foregone conclusion that all participants rode only the finest and most well-trained horses.

<img src= "girl on a horse.jpg" alt= “young girl on a horse jumping">
Amanda training to compete in the Hampton Classics

The competition was still a few months away, but the event was one that called for extensive training.  Classes for the semester had ended on Tuesday, and Amanda was heading into exams the following week.  It was Wednesday, and Amanda thought it would be wise to go to Muttontown over the weekend to resume training with Paul.  She was excelling at the basics, such as always looking in the direction she wanted Pepsi to go next after clearing a fence.  Horses could sense their next move based on a rider’s intention, which could be conveyed by something as subtle as a quick glance.  It was part of the close bond between horse and rider.  She also managed to keep her heels down to maintain balance, and she never rushed a jump, which could potentially send a rider catapulting over the horse’s head.  It was important to let the horse’s power execute the jump, not speed.  Lately, however, Amanda had developed a small hitch in her riding stance.  Her shoulders were leaning slightly forward, but it was imperative to keep them back in order to keep her center of gravity.  During a jump, a rider’s body left the saddle briefly except for feet in the stirrups.  To maintain equilibrium and land safely, riding posture had to be perfect.  Amanda and Paul had been working on correcting the problem, and she wanted to get in extra practice time.  With the semester’s “dead days” now upon her—time between the end of classes and the beginning of exams that allowed students extra time for exam prep—Amanda thought it was the perfect time to work with Paul and Pepsi.

She’d called her father the previous night, but he hadn’t answered.  She then remembered that he was at a meeting supporting his friend Joseph Papp’s proposal for a theater in Central Park that would offer free performances of Shakespeare.  He was clearly as passionate about this project as he was the previous year, when he formed a committee to save Claremont Riding Academy.  The stables, condemned by the city and marked for demolition, were to be replaced by a residential building.  The day the Parks Commission announced a two-year reprieve, Mark sent Amanda flowers, saying he couldn’t have achieved the win without her for inspiration.

As an only child, Amanda was extremely close to Mark and her mother, and although there was tension and frequent arguments between her parents, she was devastated when they separated.  Fortunately, Mark and Amanda’s shared passion for riding and horses kept their bond strong.  After two years, Amanda had not only adjusted to Mark being out of the family home, she preferred her undivided time with him in the city as well as their private conversations on the trails.  She didn’t mind that Pepsi was in Muttontown or that she had to ride a Claremont horse in Manhattan.  Amanda loved her precious “dad time.”

<img src= "girl on a horse.jpg" alt= “young girl sitting on horse, smiling and petting horse ">
Amanda at the Hampton Classic
Mark and his daughter Amanda

Amanda phoned the office of Senger Display and was lucky enough to catch Mark between meetings.  She explained that she wanted extra training time with Paul and asked if her father would call the airline and purchase a plane ticket from Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport to LaGuardia for Friday afternoon and a return ticket for Monday morning.

“Sure, sweetie,” Mark said.  “Do you have time for dinner with me Friday night or do you want to go right to Judd’s.”

“I want to see you first,” Amanda said.  “I’ll head to Judd’s early Saturday morning.  I’ll  take a taxi into Manhattan, but you can arrange a car back to LaGuardia early on Monday.  My first exam is at three Monday afternoon.”

“Okay, sounds good.  I look forward to seeing you, sweetheart.  Ready for exams?”

“I’m almost there.  See you Friday.  Bye, Dad.”

Amanda hung up and reviewed notes for her first two exams.  She felt prepared but, like her father, she was organized and left nothing to chance, especially when it came to her schoolwork.  Later, she packed a suitcase even though the trip was still two days away.  She couldn’t wait to see Pepsi again and work on her jumping.

*                                  *                                  *

Mark hung up the phone and smiled.  Amanda was conscientious about school and riding, and lately she talked of little else but her training sessions with Paul and the approaching Hampton Classic.  He was fortunate to have such a mature, intelligent daughter, although she was a child when it came to her parents, still hoping they would get back together. The broken marriage was a heartache Mark wished he could have spared her, but she finally seemed to be adjusting to the new family dynamics.  Now that she was in college, she was busy planning her future as an equestrian and a veterinarian. On balance, he thought he’d been a pretty good father.  Amanda was turning out to be a mature young woman with poise and promise.

He was about to rise from his desk when he remember his plans with Dana.  How could he have forgotten?  Dana was coming over Friday evening after work.  Should he ask her to come over on Saturday instead?  His hand reached for the telephone, but he pulled it back.  Dana was becoming an important part of his life and he believed Amanda was old enough to accept the relationship, even if it didn’t happen overnight.  Not one to hesitate, he decided that it was time for Amanda and Dana to meet.



Sniffen Court

Sniffen CourtSniffen Court, a flagstone-paved alley consisting of ten brick stables built in the 1850s, is located in the Murray Hill Historic District on 36th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues. Originally commissioned by local builder John Sniffen, the quaint buildings in the early Romanesque Revival style, were converted to private townhouses in the 1920s, with a studio on the south end and The Amateur Comedy Club on the north end. The private courtyard is gated and locked providing a peaceful and charming oasis in mid-town Manhattan.

In What Might Have Been, Book 2 in the Dana McGarry Series, Dana lives in a coach house in Murray Hill.

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