Brita Addams’ Beloved Unmasked is a story of second chances set against the backdrop of a bygone New Orleans where Storyville—the city’s former red light district—flourished with legalized prostitution and a regulated drug trade. NOLA herself is a character in this book, as it is in nearly every book I’ve ever read set in this vibrant city rich in history and famous for its music, food, cemeteries, and ghosts, and the author presents The Big Easy with not only an obvious love for the place but an intimate knowledge of it and its history too.
As World War I heralded a change in Storyville and New Orleans, prostitution became a criminal offense, and this novel’s heroes, David “Picayune” Reid and Spencer Webb, begin an arduous journey. David, the unwanted son of a prostitute, strives to become more than the nothing the woman who’d given birth to him labeled him, aided by the man who would become his friend and mentor and savior. Spence, a prostitute and Pic’s friend, heads off to war after he’s conscripted…where he faces his own mortality.
Beloved Unmasked is a story whose romantic theme is a simple and timeless truth: you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. The story is Picayune’s evolution–from the boy called “nothing” to David, the man who became the beloved.
Blurb: Born to a spiteful prostitute in Storyville, the red-light district in New Orleans, David comes into the world as Picayune, meaning “of little value,” or, as his mother reminds him, “nothing.” In the early 20th century brothels and clubs, his love of music sustains young Pic until a life-changing meeting places him on the road to respectability, and Pic reinvents himself as David Reid.
As David realizes happiness for the first time, conscription forces his friend and first love, Spencer Webb, into the Great War. While he pursues a law degree, letters from Spence connect David to his hopes for the future. After staggering news at war’s end, David must find a way to move forward. Under the tutelage of his benefactor, David’s career prospers, but specters from Storyville threaten all he’s worked so hard to achieve.
The past holds both pain and love. Will facing it head-on destroy David or give him everything he’s ever dared dream?