About the Book:
Author: Olivia Newport
Publication Date: 2013
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Series: Avenue of Dreams – book 3
Genre: Christian Fiction; Historical
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5
Review: Sarah Cummings has lived the only life open to her ever since she lost her parents as a young girl. Left an orphan, she grew up at St. Andrew’s and immediately went into service at the age of sixteen. Living on the prestigious Prairie Avenue at the home of the Banning’s, Sarah’s plans for a better more prestigious life is fueled by the parties and fine gowns she sees on a nightly basis – and getting the hand-me-downs from Mrs. Banning has honed Sarah’s skill with a needle. On a chance meeting with a recent Chicago transplant – Miss Lillie Wagner, Sarah invents a mysterious, Chicago socialite named Serena Cuthbert, and is put on a whirlwind of possibilities, one that involved a wealthy, politically ambitious suitor and possibly, the man who can give Sarah the life she wants to make for herself. But will the cost to Sarah and her real friends be worth compromising her values to achieve that success?
Sarah Cummings is likely a name we all remember or those of us who have, now read all three of Newport’s Avenue of Dreams series will. She made quite the impression on us as a bratty maid at the Banning home and now, has earned her own story in this, the final book of the trilogy. Early on, the story starts out lovely. There was more depth and interest to Sarah – she seemed to have matured and grown into a “better” person, despite her desire for something more. Being too harsh on the dream behind Sarah’s deception seems contradictory as all of us have some kind of aspiration we dream of making come true. It’s the way that Sarah goes about inventing her fate that is wrong – and walks a fine line between truth and deception. About three-fourths the way through the book, there was a 180 switch in her personality and suddenly, the little brat was back. That was an unexpected occurrence that I confess not to have seen coming.
Carried through the entire threads of the book is Sarah’s love of reinventing the gowns that she is gifted. It’s an interesting part of the novel, which of course, is paralleling the transformation Sarah wants to inflict on her own life. Reading through passages of Sarah re-patterning her gowns or picturing new work to an otherwise outdated design was a lovely part of the book because a.) it gave more detail to the costuming in literary form and b.) in the act of her love of accomplished seamstress, Sarah is herself rather than a put-on imitation of what she thought she wanted.
Not unlike its predecessors, I have to be honest in saying that the real flaw of the series is how underplayed the men are. I recognize that this is about three women coming-of-age and in most instances, living ahead of their time through their dreams, however, I think had there been stronger male leads, the romance aspects would have seemed more interesting if not more prominent. Had the male lead been better developed – in this instance, it’s Simon Tewall, the rush to end the book happily wouldn’t read so far-reaching. Minor in complaint, there was also a lot of uses of characters first names – not necessarily in conversation, but certainly in the second person prose. Despite the squabbles I’ve had with this series, they’re sweet one-time, weekend reads. There is some great historical detail and Sarah ended up making a more complex character that I’d have expected. Because of that, ‘Invention’ just may have been the best of the entire series. It was unique even if it was through subtle transitions and seemed a solid way to conclude the stories in the lives of those who live on the Avenue of Dreams.
Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes.
Available September 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.