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.
Readers of Olivia Newport’s first novel will already be familiar with the character of Charlotte Farrow. While the focus of that book was on Lucy, Charlotte’s story was introduced and was a significant part of the plot. For that reason, I suggest reading The Pursuit of Lucy Banning before picking up this title. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Lucy might not appear much in this book due to her being out of town, but her presence is definitely felt. When baby Henry is ‘discovered,’ family butler Penard makes the decision that he should not be taken to the orphanage the Banning family supports. Instead, the staff is to look after the child until Lucy can be consulted. Since Penard considers Charlotte a valued member of ‘downstairs,’ new scullery maid, sixteen year old Sarah, is made to look after Henry. It’s a chore she detests, until she overhears something very important. Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Banning are contemplating offering Henry to a childless member of the family for adoption.
The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow is an excellent second title in the Avenue of Dreams series and meticulously researched. It presents an insight of life in Chicago during the Gilded Age, at a time when the anarchy movement was causing chaos in the city and the labor movement was taking off. The Chicago World’s Fair took place in 1893 and, like similar expositions of the era, most of the amazing buildings constructed for it were demolished afterward. What we have left are photographs and descriptions of the event. The majority of the mansions on Prairie Avenue that are described in the book have also been demolished. The novel also includes a slightly embellished version of Mayor Carter Harrison’s assassination. There is no record of any witnesses to the murder, but the killer Eugene Patrick Prendergast really did turn himself in at a police station.
Publisher: Revell (a division of Baker Publishing Group)
Publication Date: January 2013
Page Count: 320
Thank you to Revell for my free copy of The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow, which I received in exchange for an honest review.