As owner of the 57th Illinois Watch Company, Mollie Knox’s future looks bright until the night the legendary Great Chicago Fire destroys her beloved city. With her world crumbling around her, Mollie will do whatever it takes to rebuild in the aftermath of the devastating fire.
Zack Kazmarek, an influential attorney for one of Chicago’s finest department stores, is a force to be reckoned with among the city’s most powerful citizens. Bold and shrewd, he’s accustomed to getting exactly what he wants–until he meets Mollie Knox, the beguiling businesswoman just beyond his reach.
In the tumult as the people of Chicago race to rebuild a bigger and better city, Mollie comes face-to-face with the full force of Zack’s character and influence. Zack believes this may finally be his chance to win her, but can Mollie ever accept this man and his whirlwind effect on her life, especially with her treasured company on the line?
The Great Fire of 1871 changed the city of Chicago forever. Much of the city had been built of wood and, with only one inch of rain since July, the conditions were right for a conflagration. It happened on 08 October 1871, raged for over 24 hours, and was not caused by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicking over a lantern in a barn. In the aftermath, over 100,000 were left homeless and city officials and businesses raced to rebuild. By the time of the The Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 little evidence of the fire remained. Into the Whirlwind describes the fire, the immediate aftermath, and the rebuild, all through the eyes of a Chicago businesswoman.
From a history lover’s perspective, this novel gives excellent detail regarding the fire. The reader gets an idea of how terrifying the fire must have been for the city’s inhabitants. It was first presumed the fire wasn’t serious so the majority was slow to act. As a result, bridges and thoroughfares became crammed full of people trying to escape. Many ended up taking shelter on the shore of Lake Michigan and watched helplessly as the flames destroyed their city. Mollie’s watch company is named after the unit in which her father fought during the Civil War. Disappointingly, however, I could find no record of the battle Camden cites more than once as a pivotal engagement where the regiment met its fictional end. I can’t help wondering why she didn’t select an actual battle or skirmish to fulfill the same function in the plot.
The characters are a mixed bunch of rich, poor, young, and old. We have the lovely Alice who came from Ireland as a child to escape the potato famine. There’s Declan who suffers from what we would now call PTSD. There’s also privileged 10 year old Sophie who just wants “to do something hard.” Zack’s parents are the children of Polish refugees and work to maintain their Polish identity. Mollie is afraid of change and needs to always be in control. As the story progresses, she finds herself facing her fears so that the company remains in business. Even so, she still wishes she could turn back the clock to before the fire. The romance, however, comes out of left field and feels a little forced. It’s hard to explain without revealing a major part of the plot, but when you read the book you’ll understand. What I can say is that Zack refuses to give up, even when the odds are against him.
Thank you to Bethany House for my free copy of Into the Whirlwind, which I received in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Bethany House
Publication Date: 01 August 2013
Page Count: 384
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