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

Jack – Patti’s Conflicted Husband

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


In Book 1 – A Very Good Life in the Dana McGarry Series – Jack  and his wife Patti relocate from Houston to open a subsidiary of Hartlen Oil, but Jack discovers more than a new business opportunity.


Jack froze in his tracks like a deer caught in the headlights. A look of panic seized his face.


Jack Hartlen A Very Good Life l Lynn Steward

The Dana McGarry Series available on AMAZON


Chapter Eleven


Patti and Jack Hartlen, together with Jack’s parents, were also staying at the Sherry-Netherland Whistling a tune from Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” Jack was donning a gray business suit while his wife looked at apartment listings supplied by their realtor.

Jack was a tall, lanky man in his early thirties with slightly thinning brown hair and angular cheekbones. His laidback manner matched his pale blue eyes and measured speech that had the barest hint of a Texas accent.

“Where are you off to?” Patti asked, her index finger running down the listings.

“I’m going downtown to see Patrick Denner,” he replied while slipping on the coat of his gray Brooks Brothers suit.

“I thought your meeting with Patrick was next week.”

“It is, but we thought we’d get together today and tie up a few loose ends. It’s been a hectic few months, hasn’t it? Are you getting used to New York, honey?”

Patti sighed as she brushed away strands of hair from her forehead. “I can’t deny that I’ll miss Houston. We have so many wonderful friends there, but I’m sure we’ll make new ones. Yes, New York is growing on me after making so many trips here with your parents. I can’t wait until we get an apartment though.”

Jack worked for his father, Ralph Hartlen, the CEO of Hartlen Oil. The company was opening an office in New York City after the first of the year. Rumors of an impending oil shortage were rampant in the business community, and there was even talk of an oil embargo by certain Arab states that would stop the flow of oil from the Mideast to the United States and Great Britain. Ralph had decided it was time to better position his company if foreign oil production was going to tighten up in the foreseeable future, although Hartlen Oil also had several subsidiary companies. The main subsidiary, Hartlen Response, was run by Jack, who had taken the lead in laying the groundwork for opening an office in Manhattan. Jack’s company had certain techniques and equipment—cutting edge technology—not utilized by any other oil company, and Ralph thought that the equipment was going to be needed soon if the movement of oil around the globe was going to strategically change in the next year or two. The techniques and hardware were a well-guarded secret in the oil community, and Ralph had naturally deemed it necessary to obtain first-rate legal representation as a natural part of the move north. Competitors would almost surely attempt to copy the proprietary technology.

Jack picked up his black leather briefcase and headed for the door when Patti spoke up.

“Hold on a minute, Jack.” Her tone sounded foreboding.

Jack turned and saw Patti approaching, a worried look on her face. “Is something the matter?” he asked.

Patti drew near, her penetrating violet eyes examining Jack’s face and then his shirt collar. Her right hand reached for his tie and straightened the knot. “There,” she said, patting her husband on the chest. “It’s perfect.”

“Nothing gets past you,” he said with a grin. “What would I do without you?”

“You won’t ever have to find out,” she replied. “You’re stuck with me.”

“Which is my good fortune.” He kissed her on the lips and started again for the door.


He turned around a second time. “Yes?”

Patti was about to speak but stopped, closing her red, sensuous lips. “Nothing. Have a good meeting with Patrick.”

Jack gave his wife a second kiss and this time made it through the door.

The Sherry-Netherland opened in 1927 in NYC on the corner of Fifth and 59th Street at Central Park

Patti walked to the window and looked at the crowded city that would soon be her home. She had considered calling Cheshire Cheese to get the phone number of Brett and Dana McGarry since they seemed like the logical place to begin in forming new friendships in New York City. But she’d noticed something unusual in her exchange with Brett at Saks earlier that afternoon. He had obviously been shopping, but not with his wife, which is what she had almost mentioned to her husband moments earlier. As Jack had pointed out, nothing got past her.

Patti Hartlen – Jack’s wife – A Very Good Life l Lynn Steward

Patti walked to the sitting area of the suite, poured herself a cup of tea she’d ordered from room service, and sat in a wingback chair. She hadn’t completely adjusted to New York yet, and maybe she was being paranoid. Regardless, Brett was a virtual stranger, and his activities weren’t any of her business.

On Fifth Avenue, Jack glanced quickly at his wristwatch and then at the nearest street corner. The offices of Davis, Konen and Wright were downtown. He then pivoted, rapidly walking towards Madison Avenue, looking for a taxi to take him north.




Rosamond Bernier

Vertical RosamondRosamond Bernier was a world-renowned art lecturer who was a close friend to some of the most important artists of the twentieth century.  When Henri Matisse, for example, was bedridden, he invited Ms. Bernier to his home to show her his new creations from miniature cut-outs.  Picasso had urged her to travel to Barcelona and report on a collection of his early work.  Her interviews regularly appeared on television, and in 1955 she had co-founded the art magazine L’OEIL, which featured the works of the masters of the School of Paris. Leonard Bernstein, a close friend,  had proclaimed that she had a gift for instant communication, and she had lectured at the Louvre in Paris.  She’d begun a career as a lecturer in 1971 and gave yearly sold-out lectures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.      Ms. Bernier and Diana Vreeland, friends since the late 1940s through their connection working with Vogue¸ bonded “over little shots of vodka” in the 1970s when the world was behaving badly for them.  In 1975 it was a wonderful world, when Ms. Bernier married the love of her life, New York Times art critic, John Russell. Ms. Bernier was a role model to women who had suffered personal and professional misfortunes; the feminist admired her comeback in middle age, taking charge of her life, and not becoming a victim. At her last lecture at the Met on March 13, 2008, Ms. Bernier said, “In a naughty world, the Metropolitan Museum has been an oasis of civility and civilization.”

Diana Vreeland

Diana VreelandOn the devastating shock of being fired as Vogue’s editor-in-chief in 1971, Diana Vreeland mused  “I was only 70. What was I supposed to do, retire?” Instead, she embarked on a final act career as Special Consultant to the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Fitting her last great hurrah, Vreeland leaned in with conviction. She drew on her 40 years of experience as a fashion editor, knowledge of fashion history dating back to her childhood, and personal friendships  with the most gifted designers of the mid-twentieth century.  Now, instead of being confined to a magazine format, her talents were unleashed on a dramatic stage appropriate for her imagination and vision. Vreeland’s glamour, passion, and genius for style revitalized the established institution and the blockbuster exhibits drew unprecedented surges in attendance. Today, at any given moment, there are at least a dozen museums around the world offering major fashion displays and the Costume Institute’s gala preview balls are still the Party of the Year. Vreeland loved to quote someone who said: “I shall die very young. Whether I am 70 or 80 or 90, I shall die very young.” Diana Vreeland died August 22, 1989 at the age of 86