- Carver: A Life (2015) 
  - Indecent Secrets (2006) 
  - Intimate Enemies (1997) 
  - The Hitler Kiss (2002) 

 Book Chapters: 
  - "The Country for Men
     with Nerve"
  - "New Orleans at the
     Time of Battle"
  - "The Czech Lands" 
  - "Dorothy Dix" 
  - "El Corazón de España" 
  - "Paris in the 18th

 Lecture Topics 

 Biographical and
      Contact Information

Intimate Enemies

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Do you know her?

She was born in New Orleans in 1795.

Her father-in-law shot her four times.

She built the US Embassy residence in Paris and the Pontalba Buildings in New Orleans.

Her life is a window into America and France in the 19th century.


The Two Worlds of the
Baroness de Pontalba
by Christina Vella

Louisiana State University Press (1997).

"Nineteenth-century New Orleans and Paris were towns of magnificent halls, squalid smells, unstable governments and bungling quack doctors. Both cities were home to Micaela Almonester, the Baroness de Pontalba, and both are still home to her legacies: the Parisian Hotel Pontalba [now the U.S. Embassy residence] and the Pontalba Buildings in New Orleans. The story of the woman behind these architectural triumphs is Gothic to the core, and Vella, a history professor, has woven a spell-binding historical narrative out of painstakingly meticulous research.
     "Born the daughter of a philanthropic Spanish real-estate baron in New Orleans, Micaela Almonester was married at fifteen and shipped off to France to live at the Château Mont-l'Evêque gloomy, moated Château Mont-l'Evêque. Her neurotic, obsessive father-in-law, incensed that Micaela's generous dowry was not greater, subjected her to years of legal and emotional abuse before shooting her four times, then taking his own life. More lawsuits and calumnies followed before the courts intervened to restore her money and her independence. At last with two bullets permanently lodged in her chest and two fingers missing, the now middle-aged and epileptic lady came triumphantly into her own as a savvy developer and the power-wielding matriarch of a great family.
     "No one could tell Micaela's gripping tale better than Vella, whose passion for her subject infects every inch of her lively, witty, literate prose."

-Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
June 9, 1997


New York Times Book Review
Cover Feature, August 11, 1997

Chosen for "Best Books of the Year" list
Publishers Weekly
New York Times Book Review
The Times-Picayune

Praise for Intimate Enemies:

"There is hardly a contemporary story—not in the National Enquirer, not in Fortune—to match this one for violence, cruelty, hunger for wealth, and sheer verve . . . an excellent yarn."
                                                                —American Historical Review

"A rare, unsentimental account of a woman' triumph...History and biography meet in a story that a novelist would die for."
                                                                —Chicago Tribune, Sunday book feature

"A charming biography...dramatic easy elegant style."
                                                                —Kirkus Reviews

"A bizarre, real-life tale of 19th century family values."
                                                                —New York Times Book Review

"A narrative of a troubled life that also describes old New Orleans."
                                                                —The Boston Sunday Globe

"A riveting, well-researched biography... stylistic aplomb and understated wit."
                                                                —Orlando Sentinel

"A story surprising as it is true, and Vella tells it beautifully."
                                                                —Brazosport Facts, Texas

"Vella brings the muddy dangerous streets of 18th and 19th century New Orleans and Paris to vivid life...Dramatic, fascinating!"
                                                                —The New Orleans Times-Picayune

"Disease, urban squalor, lifestyles of the rich and famous, surprising affections and attempted murder—all dance through the pages."
                                                                —Preservation in Print

"A scholar's meticulously reconstructed biography of the woman at the middle of an excessive 19th century scandal in France."
                                                                —New York Times Book Review
                                                                "Notable Books of the Year 1997"

"A suspenseful narrative peopled by dynamic characters...haunting, insightful...a hard book to put down."
                                                                —Shreveport Times

Intimate Enemies was adapted as the opera Pontalba by Thea Musgrave.

Commissioned by the New Orleans Opera, Pontalba had its world premiere in October, 2003.

Dr. Vella's works are distributed locally by Octavia Books

513 Octavia Street
New Orleans, LA 70115

Autographs and personal dedications are available on request.

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