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Myths and Misconceptions about the Roaring Twenties: It Wasn’t All One Big Party

by Stephanie Draven

Chances are that when you think of the 1920’s you think of wild liquor-soaked parties in speakeasies, incendiary Jazz music, and flappers wearing feather headbands dancing the Charleston. Consumers embraced new gadgets and inventions, the stock market was soaring and a Renaissance broke out in Harlem. All of these things are a true reflection of the time, but they’re only part of the picture. Underneath the glitz and glam, a turbulent culture war took place in the country–one we’re still fighting, in many ways, today.

The Roaring Twenties were a time of sexual liberation, experimentation and exploration. Having just won the vote, women were at the forefront of social causes and societal change. In spite of—or perhaps because of—Prohibition, the Twenties were boom times. Young women attended college, flocked to major cities to find work and lived on their own in numbers never before seen in the history of the nation. Homosexuality was more public and more tolerated. Rules for dating changed. Non-marital sex became common and women began to demand and use birth control.

Flappers changed the world of business, fashion, politics and popular entertainment. The Hays Code wouldn’t be adopted and enforced until 1930, which meant major Hollywood films pushed the boundaries of propriety and gave the country some of its sexiest stars, including Clara Bow.

In short, the Twenties were a period of social transition—one of those pivotal times in history when women took one step forward, before being shoved two steps back. People from all walks of life came together to agitate for progressive change in the Twenties and, in many instances, African Americans led the way.

At the same time, the era was marked by the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, inspired by D. W. Griffith’s race-baiting incendiary film of 1915, The Birth of a Nation. Immigration was suppressed and racial tensions rose. Even the nascent birth control movement was caught up in it, with Margaret Sanger arguing on behalf of eugenics. The suspicion of foreigners helped lead to the execution of two Italian immigrants, Sacco and Vanzetti, under suspicious circumstances. And the general fervor led to a red scare against suspected communists.

Much of the liberation of women in the twenties came about as a rebellion and reaction against the mores of previous generations. Whereas the women of the 1910s fought for the right to vote, the women in the 1920s had it–and didn’t do terribly much with it. The Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in 1923, but was never passed. And while women entered the workforce in great numbers, most of them left it upon marriage.

Another thing that harshed the buzz of the 1920s was the mob. Mob violence rose dramatically with Prohibition and organized crime used the ban on liquor sales to create criminal empires.

Of course, all this social turmoil makes the era not entirely unlike our own–and a perfect backdrop for fiction!



They vibrated with incendiary Jazz. They teemed with sexual abandon. The Twenties were roaring and the women–young, open, rebellious, and willing–set the pace and pushed the limits with every man they met…

In the aftermath of a wild, liquor-soaked party, three women from very different social classes are about to live out their forbidden desires.

Society girl, Nora Richardson’s passionate nature has always been a challenge to her ever-patient husband. Now he wants out of the marriage and she has just this one night to win him back. The catch? He wants to punish her for her bad behavior. Nora is offended by her husband’s increasingly depraved demands, but as the night unfolds, she discovers her own true nature and that the line between pain and pleasure is very thin indeed.

Meanwhile, Clara Cartwright, sultry siren of the silent screen, is introduced to a mysterious WWI Flying Ace. If Clara, darling of the scandal sheets, knows anything, it’s men. And she’s known plenty. But none of them push her boundaries like the aviator, who lures her into a ménage with a stranger in a darkened cinema then steals her jaded heart.

Working class girl Sophie O’Brien has more important things on her mind than pleasures of the flesh. But when her playboy boss, the wealthy heir to the Aster family fortune, confronts her with her diary of secret sex fantasies, she could die of shame. To her surprise, he doesn’t fire her; instead, he dares her to re-enact her boldest fantasies and Sophie is utterly seduced.

One party serves as a catalyst of sexual awakening. And in an age when anything goes, three women discover that anything is possible…


About the Author: Stephanie Draven
is a national bestselling and award-winning author of historical, paranormal, and contemporary romance. Her newest project, IT STINGS SO SWEET is a collection of 1920s historical erotic romances that celebrate sex, women, and the Jazz Age. Stephanie is currently a denizen of Baltimore, that city of ravens and purple night skies. She lives there with her favorite nocturnal creatures–three scheming cats and a deliciously wicked husband. And when she is not busy with dark domestic rituals, she writes her books.

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