"The Pursuit of Lucy Banning" is a historical romance set in 1892 in Chicago. Though the book description mentions the 1893 World's Fair, there is actually very little about that in this book. The author liked lists (like listing the menu for every meal), and this tended to slow the pacing. However, there was some fairly nice historical detail about the city and events worked into the story.
Using only 282 pages to tell even one story well can be tricky, but this novel was essentially three stories (Lucy's story, Charlotte's story, and Daniel's story) in one book. (Love-interest Will was a minor character until page 161 after which he disappeared from the story for nearly 50 pages, which is odd for a romance.)
Several important scenes were missing, like the scene where Lucy tells her mother/parents that she just broke her engagement, the scene where she enjoyed viewing the art with Will (and started falling in love with him), scenes of her with the orphans (as we see little interaction between them), and the scene where we could see her father's reaction to the stolen items being found.
If Daniel was meant to be a controlling personality (or somehow "off") from the start, I needed to see that from the start rather than a caring, permissive fiancee. If her parents made her worry that they'd react really badly to her taking university courses, we need a scene showing that and subsequent scenes need to back that up. As it was, Lucy's worries seemed unfounded.
I also didn't like Lucy in the first half of the book. I grant that Lucy and Daniel weren't a good match in interests, but that doesn't excuse how badly Lucy behaved toward Daniel in scene after scene.
She also had no problem with lying to her parents about how she spent her time ("I'm being so righteous helping those poor orphans and spending your money to make their life better!") when she's really spending most of that time taking an art history course. And we have no real reason to believe her parents would actually stop her from taking the courses if she'd just asked. They hadn't denied any of her other requests even when they didn't quite approve of them.
By the end, Lucy was a nice person, but not because she saw the error of her ways. It's like those errors never happened. The author just started writing her as nice. Worse, what she learned from all her lying was that, if a man "truly loved her," he'd "trust" her by not showing any interest in what she's up to when he knows she's hiding activities from him. Hmm. It was her who didn't trust those who loved her.
The two characters that bothered to think about God didn't have positive thoughts. Charlotte didn't have time for God because she believed He didn't have time for her. Lucy was more interested in mentally criticizing the church architecture, the preacher, and her fellow rich Christians than in God. She also felt very self-righteous because she helped orphans. I would have thought this novel was a secular one, but it came from a Christian publisher.
There was no sex. There was no bad language. Overall, I wouldn't recommend this book due to the critical, missing scenes.
I received this book as a review copy from the publisher.
Okay, all together now; let's sing: I Love Lucy. The title character, Lucy Banning, is polite, intelligent, pretty, kind hearted, and mannerly. Why, she's close to perfect and therefore, lovable and deserving of our song. And that is the major flaw in this otherwise interesting historical work of fiction. The characters are rather flat.
Nonetheless, the book is enjoyable. The setting of Chicago preparing for the World's Fair allows the reader to appreciate how different times were.
Thank you to Donna Hausler at Baker Publishing for my copy. Available May 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
Lucy Banning is a privileged young woman of the 1890's determined to do something with her life. Lucy is engaged to her childhood friend, Daniel, but when her brother, Leo, brings home Will Edwards, "a friend from Princeton" and promising young architect, Lucy has some decisions to make. With the friendship of the newest maid, Charlotte, Lucy tries to keep her activities hidden from her family and fiance, as well as keeping the secrets of those around her. Are all these secrets helping or harming the ones that she holds dear?
A wonderfully paced book, that evoked memories of Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey, with the grand houses and the relationships between the servants and the grand folk of the house.
This was a really fun, and fast read. The characters were for the most part very likable though, Daniel scared me more than a bit! The character of Leo really reminded me of my brother, and wouldn't you know, his name is Leo too!
Ms. Newport has a lovely attention grabbing style, that took me quickly into the story's depths. I really enjoyed being swept into a different time and place. The I will most certainly be keeping my eyes out for more books from this author! The 1890's have always fascinated me because the setting is so different depending on location, the bustling city or the rustic country, and being set during this time is one of things things that set thing book apart and made it fresh.
Overall I would say that this was a highly enjoyable book, that I will definitely be recommending often. Lucy was a feisty character with a sort of no-nonsense approach to things, which made her a strong lead. And I look forward to visiting the Bannings again sometime soon :)
I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. Thanks!
About the book: This is a story of love, wealth & secrets as historic Chicago prepares for 1893 World's Fair
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 found this to be an interesting story presenting the contrasts of privileged and poverty classes in the late 1890s in Chicago. During this period in American history, women were usually cared for, shelteredÂ¸ and protected but with no voting or business rights and privileges. If not from privileged circumstances, life could be very hard.
We see in The Pursuit of Lucy Banning, the contrast between Lucy and Charlotte. We also see that Lucy is a lady ahead of her time and who resorts to deceiving everyone in her family and acquaintance to pursue her dreams and ideas.
Charlotte on the other hand is a lady of mystery and in great need. She is a servant in the home of Lucy and her family. Charlotte, too, has to resort to deceit to hide circumstances in her life that would prevent her employment to continue.
Daniel is the long-time family friend who is also the finance of Lucy. We meet Will who is a talented architect and friend of Lucy's brother. Do you sense the beginning of a romantic triangle?
Author, Olivia Newport, describes the extensive wardrobe of Lucy beautifully and gives a glimpse into the life of formal meals, parties, beautiful dresses, frequent changes of clothes during the day and evening depending on the activity, extensive settings of fine china, and dining of the privileged class. She also lets us look into life in the orphanages of the time - an institution that served to provide shelter and sustenance for destitute children of the time. Contrasts.
I recommend this book as a good read with good visualization of the period in which it is set, fine character development, and a somewhat surprise ending to the plot.
"Available May 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group."
Author interview & review posted on my blog: "Chat With Vera"