Men I Have Loved is a series of interviews with male characters I’ve adored in today’s fiction. I am thrilled to begin this series by interviewing the incredibly lush Thomas Whitman from Natasha Lester’s novel, A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald. To celebrate Valentine’s Day, Natasha has very kindly donated a signed copy of her book. All you need to do is sign up for my newsletter (I promise not to bombard you with emails) and tell me why you would love a copy of A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald in the comments section on this post.
A little bit about Thomas Whitman before we begin:
Thomas Whitman is the President of the Whitman Bank, which has grown under his leadership to have branches across America and Europe. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1921 and is well known for his generous support of numerous charitable institutions.
NLK: What were your first impressions of Evie Lockhart when you found her in the apple tree outside your mother’s dinner party?
TW: That she’d changed a great deal from the noisy and mischievous child I remembered her to be. She’d obviously grown into a woman who knew and cared about what was happening in the world outside Concord, which is a rare thing for a woman in 1922. She had opinions and she wasn’t afraid to share them. I admired that about her. If we hadn’t been called in to dinner, I would have been happy to sit in the apple tree and talk to her for the rest of the night.
NLK: What did you think when you heard about Evie’s dream of becoming a doctor, and worse still, an obstetrician? This is the 1920s, didn’t you find it scandalous?
TW: Her passion and determination to do something meaningful in spite of what society thinks was more attractive than a pretty face could ever be. I wanted more than anything for her to succeed, and I was very happy to help her whenever I could, although she was more than smart enough to do most of it on her own.
NLK: What qualities does your ideal woman possess?
TW: Courage, because it will take you anywhere you want to go. Oh, and a love of dancing the tango late at night at a speakeasy in Greenwich Village.
NLK: As a male leader in 1920s banking, what do you hope readers will take away from A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald?
TW: That we don’t all have to follow the same path. Without people who take chances and try to do something extraordinary, the world would be a much poorer place.
NLK: How do you demonstrate your love?
TW: Romantic weekends at the cottage in Newport with many a moonlight picnic and dancing on the lawn beneath the stars. And by supporting and encouraging Evie to do whatever she chooses, despite what everyone else might think.
Excerpt from A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald
Thomas sipped from the flask and held it out to her again. ‘What shall we talk about instead?’
Evelyn took a large swallow this time, because she wanted to loosen her tongue, to say something she’d never said to anybody. ‘I’ve heard some of the universities in New York are starting to accept women into their medical degrees.’ She said it lightly, as if she was just making conversation and the answer didn’t matter a great deal.
‘Columbia has. Unlike Harvard.’
‘If more women were doctors, perhaps they could help women like Rose.’
‘Perhaps you could help women like Rose.’
Neither spoke for a moment. Evelyn stared at Thomas. He’d read her mind. And he’d said it as though it was actually possible. ‘I helped a baby into the world today,’ Evelyn said. ‘I’ll never forget it.’
‘Thomas!’ It was a woman’s voice, probably Alberta, calling from the top of the terrace.
‘I think dinner is about to be served.’ Thomas’s words, bringing them back to the world they’d briefly forgotten, made Evelyn laugh, a gush of released tension.
Thomas jumped down from the tree. ‘I won’t offer you a hand,’ he said from the ground, ‘because I know you’re more than capable of making your own way down.’