Review: Notions and daydreams are not something the hard-working Charlotte Farrow can afford. She is hiding a secret and trying to provide for her young son. Unable to share her burden, Charlotte has protected her secrets at all cost since it would mean immediate dismissal from her work in service at the Banning house. The only person who knows about Henry is Lucy Edwards, the Banning’s only daughter, and Charlotte’s advocate. All of her savings goes towards the care of Henry who was placed with a kindly woman but things are about to get complicated. Henry is dropped off at the Banning home leaving Charlotte in a horrible position. Coinciding with her son’s arrival is the Banning’s coach man, Archie talking of leaving service – and he wants to take Charlotte with him. Suddenly her once orderly life becomes a waiting game as she silently stands by while her employers determine what to do with a child they assume was abandoned.
If Downton Abbey is your cup of tea, then Christian fiction readers will be delighted by Olivia Newport’s gem of a series. Set in the 1800’s, it tells the stories of the wealthy Banning family who are living on the verge of what Samuel Banning calls an economic trouble. Backdropped by the World Exposition and set in historical Chicago, the story has flair and characters that are easy to adore if not completely explored. Immediately, Charlotte is pitted as a sympathetic but proud heroine and we love her for it. Her struggles are easy to accept and we are as upset about the life she once was forced to lead as she is, which we learn when she regretfully recounts it. Though it may be uncommon to enjoy such a proper, rule-follower, I couldn’t help how endearing she becomes each passing page. Lesser than in its debut novel (or that is my guess), the relationship between Lucy and Charlotte is genuine, leading the reader to believe not only in the characters but also their actions. Archie is a decent leading man who refuses to let Charlotte give up, he isn’t all that “deep” of a character meaning that unfortunately, sometimes he felt like an unneeded character – it read more like he was the “token” romantic interest yet I wanted him to be so much more.
The setting in which all of this takes place was elegant and refined making it any costume lover’s dream. Everything from the fair-minded employers to the stickler of a butler bespeaks of the ITV drama in ‘Downton’ and yet it has some spark of its own. A few things stuck out as being a bit of an irritant (like the too frequent use of character’s names) but nothing that dissuaded the enjoyment. There is drama, sorrow and happiness which cumulate into a sweet ending that seemed to be upon us in all too abrupt a manner. If it’s as good as Olivia Newport set it up to be, the third novel should be a joy.
In Summary: Fans of British drama – specifically Downton Abbey, will find delight in this Christian fiction series; it’s a way to tide us over until it returns to our screens, and it meets and surpasses those expectations! It’s a “keeper” story.
Synopsis: While the rest of Chicago focuses on the enormous spectacle of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, Charlotte Farrow’s attentions are entirely on one small boy—her boy—whom she has kept a secret from her wealthy employers for nearly a year.
When the woman who has been caring for her son abruptly returns him to the opulent Banning home, Charlotte must decide whether to come clean and face dismissal or keep her secret while the Bannings decide the child’s fate. Can she face the truth of her past and open her heart to a future of her own? Or will life’s struggles determine her path?
This compelling story of courage, strength, and tender romance captures the tension between the glittering wealthy class and the hardworking servants who made their lives comfortable.
Available January 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
With thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book for reviewing purposes.