Lucy Banning may live on the exclusive Prairie Avenue among Chicago's rich and famous, but her heart lies elsewhere. Expected to marry an up-and-coming banker from a respected family, Lucy fears she will be forced to abandon her charity work--and the classes she is secretly taking at the newly opened University of Chicago. When she meets an unconventional young architect who is working on plans for the upcoming 1893 World's Fair, Lucy imagines a life lived on her own terms. Can she break away from her family's expectations? And will she ever be loved for who she truly is?
Readers will love being swept away into a world of mansions, secrets, and romance as they follow Lucy through the streets of the Windy City during one of the most exciting times in the city's history. From opulent upper-class homes to the well-worn rooms of an orphanage, Olivia Newport breathes life and romance into the pages of history--and everyone is invited.
I know it is the peril of every reader to fall in love with a character every time they open a novel, and as a reader of many books, I try to not let that be my fate. Respect for the characters is natural, not all of them, but at least one. An admiration for the depth of character development an author has presented is usually more along the lines of what I take from a book, but I try to not let the people stay with me too long.
I say all that to simply state this: I love Lucy. I have never met a character from high society that has as much appreciation for those who were not born into money. She doesn't think about others in terms of what they can do for her, but what she can do for them. Lucy's behavior towards Charlotte was admirable, and I really loved how she kept Charlotte's secret despite the scandal that would have caused if discovered. An excellent read that gives us a glimpse of the past, and a story that brings 1893 to life.
The Pursuit of Lady Banning is the first in Olivia Newport's Avenue of Dreams series. The third book in this series is being released this month. Read more about it here.
Lucy Banning is a member of the prestigious Banning family. Her life on Prairie Avenue is filled with luxury, beaded gowns, elite social circles, and...living up to the expectations of her family. Her upcoming marriage to a successful banker was arranged by her parents when she was just a child and her family has brought her up to be an excellent wife. She should have no need for anything else!
But Lucy's heart longs for something more and even she has her secrets. How long will she have to wait before she can tell Daniel about her plans? What will happen when her family discovers that she has not been spending as much time at the orphanage as they think...and when they find out the reason she really goes into town two extra times a week is to attend a course at the new University? Her family does not understand her commitment to the children at the orphanage and Lucy regrets that even Daniel does not approve of her volunteer work.What will she do when things start going missing in the house and she discovers the new kitchen maid's secret? Then there's Leo's friend, Will - a pleasant young architect who is new to the area and seems to be able to bring out the best in Lucy. Can she trust him with her secrets? When Daniel's behavior leans more toward dangerous than dashing, will they be able to help him or will his bitterness lead to his demise?
I have always loved stories set in this time period. They leave me wishing, for a few moments, that I had lived in that era. The elegant clothing, adherence to etiquette, and the fine poise and grace women put on full display sometimes sounds so appealing and otherworldly. This story was no exception. Olivia chose such a beautiful setting for her story and I found that I could fully picture the Banning home, the neighborhood, the University, and the orphanage in my mind...even their food sounded delicious! The author brings her characters to life and I can't help but like them. The use of American history is cleverly woven throughout the book and it's easy to imagine the excitement of the significant events of that decade. Aunt Violet is a loveable character and I admire her gumption and support for Lucy's ambition. I only wish I could have seen more of the interaction between Will and Lucy, but since this is only the first book in the Avenue of Dreams series, I'm sure this isn't the last I'll be seeing them. I'm looking forward to reading more of Charlotte's story in Book # 2 and, of course, to meeting Sarah in the 3rd book.
Overall, I recommend this book. It's a charming, easy, and enjoyable read.
In the first novel of her Avenue of Dreams series, Olivia Newport introduces Lucy Banning, the daughter of a wealthy, upper class family in Chicago. While Lucy is an accomplished young woman, engaged to a family friend, and charitable by nature - a perfect daughter. However, she has a secret passion of which her family and fiance would not approve - she wants desperately to earn a college degree, and she has been taking a class at the university. Granted, she acquires another secret soon after they hire a new maid; Charlotte Farrow, the new kitchen help, has been hiding a newborn up in her room, and single women in service do not have children, or they will be sacked instantly, assuming they ever were hired in the first place. Lucy is trying to balance her schoolwork, charitable obligations at an orphanage, and Charlotte's secret, all while trying to find a way to break it off with Daniel, her fiance. Then, to top it off, her brother has brought home a middle class architect friend who tugs at Lucy's heart. How can she keep the peace while harboring such secrets?
While there is romance in the novel, the focus is more on the historical aspects and the relationship between Lucy and Charlotte - the daughter of the house and the maid. Newport writes a clearly well-researched novel. Her take on the upstairs-downstairs roles is well written, where the servants' jobs are held basically by whim of the butler - it is he whom the family will listen to when hiring and firing, if they bother to take active part themselves. Lucy and Charlotte come from two separate worlds - each is allowed in certain rooms of the house and not others, and they hold very few in common. However, by trespassing into the servants' areas, Lucy discovers Charlotte's plight and offers to help, forging a bond that is inappropriate for their stations. While Lucy and Charlotte become friends, there is still a significant divide between them - each knows her place, and they do not forget it.
Over all, it was an enjoyable novel. The main characters are very likeable, and I couldn't hate Daniel - just felt sorry for him, since what happens is not wholly his fault. The characters were not without a little spiritual growth, and it was fun to watch Lucy especially match her potential to become a strong and mature woman. The backdrop of preparing for the World's Fair was interesting, and the plot entertaining. 4 out of 5 stars
I'd seen this book at our library many times, and so finally I decided to read it. I didn't really expect it to be amazing, and it wasn't. It was well researched but I found the plot a little monotonous and the romance between our two main characters wasn't very exciting or clear. They were attracted to each other, it mentions that they kissed and then they're planning to get married. I personally was hoping for a little more then that. Lucy Banning was a typical heroine, outgoing, independent, and very considerate of the lower class.
All in all, I would recommend this book to those who love historical fiction set in the late eighteen hundreds. Nothing remarkable, but enjoyable none the less.
I would give this book a 4 1/2 stars instead of just a four stars to start with! I gave it a 4 1/2 stars only because it didn't end as I thought it would concerning Daniel. I was surprised to hear about what happens to Daniel having to go to an asylum because I didn't think it really realistic considering that my dad has mental problem issues. The author should have more cues to the reader that there was something up with Daniel before the engagement was broken between Lucy and Daniel. I say this because if someone has a mental illness there would be a lot more "cues" I guess you could say to the people around him that would have a good idea that something was wrong. Granted that was a life-changing event for Daniel when his engagement was broken, but I don't think that his "issues" would just all of sudden start happening and lead to speedy diagnosis of a mental illness. However, I loved the characters especially Charlotte! I admit that I was bummed that she didn't get Henry back and have a "happy ending," but I did see the second book in this series is about her (definitely can't wait to read it)! I thought the details of Chicago were amazing! Overall I really liked this book and will read it again in the future! I am glad that I had the chance to discover this author!