Lucy Kendall returns from a tour of the Continent, her luggage filled with the latest fashions and a mind fired by inspiration. After tasting Europe’s best confections, she’s sure she’ll come up with a recipe that will save her father’s struggling candy business and reverse their fortunes. But she soon discovers that their biggest competitor, the cheat who swindled her father out of his prize recipe, has now hired a promotions manager–a cocky, handsome out-of-towner who gets under Lucy’s skin.
Charlie Clarke’s new role at Standard Manufacturing is the chance of a lifetime. He can put some rough times behind him and reconnect with the father he’s never known. The one thing he never counted on, however, was tenacious Lucy Kendall. She’s making his work life miserable…and making herself impossible for him to forget.
Who would have thought the candy-making industry of 100 years ago could be so cutthroat? Throughout Unrivaled, two competitors resort to do whatever it takes to get ahead. One wants to keep her family’s business, the other wants to completely remove her and her family from the industry. He’ll do whatever he has to in order to speed up the process, even if that means employing his estranged son to do the dirty work; a son who soon concludes he and his father have vastly different ideas.
“Mama had always wanted Papa to be something other than what he was. Papa had always wanted more than what he’d had, and I’d always wanted to be something I never could. I didn’t want to be a daughter. I wanted to be a partner in the business.” – Lucy
Lucy was born into society but desires to go where no woman of her standing should. Charlie comes from poverty and an environment where he lived on the edge in order to survive. Lucy’s well-meaning mother wants her married; Charlie’s father wants an heir. Their worlds collide as they attempt to outdo each other in commerce while trying to stay out of love, also with each other. Everywhere Lucy goes, even in her society role of The Queen of Love and Beauty which has nothing to do with candy, there’s Charlie. Worse, everyone seems to love him almost as much as the toffee his father’s company produces.
Unrivaled is a book I could easily imagine as a period romantic comedy movie. I say comedy because, as much as there is drama, there are wonderful moments of lightness. The heaviness comes in the descriptions of appalling working conditions that existed during this time, the poverty, and the situation in which the reader first meets Charlie. But a fantastic scene had me chuckling in which the Queen of Love and Beauty has to open a series of Christmas windows at a well-known St Louis department store.
In Unrivalled, Siri Mitchell has taken us to a place few have probably contemplated. I’ve certainly not read any other novels written about the confectionery industry of the early 20th century. She also reminds us that every generation and social class has its dysfunctional families, of which the Clarkes and Kendalls are but two.
What got me, however, was the Christian message of the book. It comes from a minor character called Winnie who is a friend of both Lucy and Charles. “It’s about God, Charles Clarke, and what He’s done,” she tells him. “It’s not about you. It’s never been about you. Because you’re not good enough and you never will be.” She later tells Lucy the same thing when Lucy feels bad over events that took place during their school days. The week I read this happened to be the same week this theme was discussed in the weekly Bible study I attend. When the same message comes from two different sources in such a short space of time, I tend to sit up and take notice.
This is the second book by Siri Mitchell I know I’ve read. (The other being She Walks in Beauty.) It’s possible I may have read one other, but I’ve no record of it. Mitchell writes books that are not only romantic in nature but include wonderful observations of the historical period in which they are set. If you love romance and history, this is a book I would definitely recommend.
Click here to download the first three chapters of Unrivaled from Bethany House
Publisher: Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing Group)
Publication Date: 01 March 2013
Page Count: 400
Thank you to Bethany House for my free copy of Unrivaled, which I received in exchange for an honest review.