The World’s Fair is nearing its end, but the danger in Chicago lingers.
It’s mid-September of 1893 and Eloisa Carstairs is the reigning beauty of Gilded Age Chicago society. To outsiders she appears to have it all. But Eloisa is living with a dark secret. Several months ago, she endured a horrible assault at the hands of Douglass Sloane, heir to one of Chicago’s wealthiest families. Fearing the loss of her reputation, Eloisa confided in only one friend. That is, until she meets Detective Sean Ryan at a high-society ball.
Sean is on the outskirts of the wealthy Chicago lifestyle. Born into a poor Irish family, becoming a policeman was his best opportunity to ensure his future security. Despite society’s restrictions, he is enamoured with Eloisa Carstairs. Sean seethes inside at what he knows happened to her, and he will do anything to keep her safe—even if he can never earn her affections.
Eloisa longs to feel normal again in the midst of the danger surrounding the Chicago World’s Fair, but a killer is on the loose. In the last month, three debutants have been accosted in the city by an assailant wielding a stiletto. As the danger in the city increases, and as Eloisa’s and Sean’s romance blossoms, they both realise they want to be seen as more than how the world views them. But will they catch the killer before all their hopes come tumbling down?
Firstly, I want to say that I really enjoyed this book. It wasn’t perfect, and there were a few things here and there that I would have changed, but I LOVED the location and the era, I LOVED that the book covered so many layers of society, and – yes – I even loved that it was a fairly chaste book (the romances – two of them – felt historically accurate).
I did get a shock when I opened up my review copy and realised this was a Christian book. I need to get the publisher’s name tattooed somewhere so I remember what sort of fiction they publish, because they never market the books that way.
HOWEVER, this is not really a Christian book. There’s a Bible verse before the book starts and then… there’s not really anything about it that makes it a Christian book. I think that these days you can write historical romances with lots of explicit sex, or you can write chaste books and sell them as Christian fiction, but really, don’t be turned off by the label.
A couple of chapters finished with the mention of God, but I’ve read much more religious stuff in mainstream fiction, and this was the Victorian era – if there wasn’t any religion I’d have found it anachronistic!
I think US history is fascinating, but most of the books we get about it are set in the Wild West. So I really enjoyed this look at nineteenth century Chicago. I loved the look into the lives of poor Irish immigrants, and I loved a look at snobby “society”, as we usually only see how it was in Britain.
One thing I had trouble with was that our heroine talked about her rape with our hero more or less the first time they had a conversation. A low class cop, and the princess of Chicago society tells him things she hasn’t told anybody else? No.
However, I did like how the relationship developed from there. There was also a secondary storyline with a secondary relationship that I also enjoyed.
I don’t have a problem with sex in other books, but I loved how in this the courting and the relationship development were much more period appropriate. One thing (supposed) Christian fiction forces authors to do is develop an attraction and a relationship before people start ripping clothes off!
This isn’t a book where everyone just attends fancy parties. I did wonder if I was going to believe all the class-crossing, but I think people marrying up or down worked fairly well in the end.
Another thing I had a bit of an issue with was the violence. A man is attacking women, slashing them with a knife and sometimes killing them – all of them young women from the upper classes. I don’t have a problem with violence in books, but it started to happen so frequently, I thought maybe it was excessive. I also wondered why everyone kept attending parties and balls and especially why they kept insisting on going off on their own. Nobody seemed at all worried about it! I can’t imagine it would have been business as usual when all the debutantes were being murdered!
However, for its faults, this was one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a while. I’ve been saying for a while that I want to read more books set in (non-Wild West) nineteenth century America. If only I could find some more like this one!
Review copy provided by NetGalley.