The White City, by Grace Hitchcock

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Mysterious Disappearances Taint the Chicago World’s Fair

Step into True Colors — a new series of Historical Stories of Romance and American Crime

While attending the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, Winnifred Wylde believes she witnessed a woman being kidnapped. She tries to convince her father, an inspector with the Chicago police, to look into reports of mysterious disappearances around the White City. Inspector Wylde tries to dismiss her claims as exaggeration of an overactive imagination, but he eventually concedes to letting her go undercover as secretary to the man in question—if she takes her pistol for protection and Jude Thorpe, a policeman, for bodyguard.

Will she be able to expose H. H. Holmes’s illicit activity, or will Winnifred become his next victim?

First Thoughts:

I jump at anything connected to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and the HH Holmes murders from that year. I’ve been excited about this book since Barbour announced it. Continue reading

Where We Belong, by Lynn Austin

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Join Two Incomparable Sisters on Adventures That Span the Decades And Cross the Globe

In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules and expectations for Victorian women are strict, their roles in life limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents have taken them out of society ballrooms and delivered them to the Sinai Desert–and into the teeth of a sandstorm.

Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a plucky street urchin learning to be their ladies’ maid, the two women are on a quest across the desert chasing rumors of an important biblical manuscript.

As the expedition becomes ever more dangerous and uncertain, all four travelers sift through memories and adventures of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the journeys and providence that brought them to this very time and place.

First Thoughts:

I’ve enjoyed previous novels by Lynn Austin. I also like that this isn’t being marketed as a romance novel that happens to be historical.

My Take:

Sometimes, a novel will have an unexpected emotional impact on you. You’ll go through the motion of reading it – perhaps with a dislike of one of the major characters – but, when you’ve finished that final page, you’ll find yourself with a tear in your eye and a lump in your throat. Such was the case with me and Where We Belong.

Life is too short to deliberately pick up a book you know you won’t like. I expected to like Where We Belong, but the first part was dedicated to Rebecca and I didn’t like her. The novel is divided into four sections – each dedicated to a particular character – and the narrative within those sections jumps back and forth in time. Rebecca and Flora were raised by their widowed father, who didn’t appear to care about making them presentable for society until it’s almost too later. Young Rebecca likes to believe she’s acting as an adult, but I felt she came across more as a spoiled and selfish child. Her determination to have her own way continues into her adult years until something happens that turns her into a guilt-ridden woman trying to make up for everything in the past. She comes across as the main character, but the story doesn’t quite end with her. If it had, I don’t think I’d have been quite so emotional.

The storyline regarding Kate and Soren was something else entirely. While it has comedic value, this is where the notion of belonging really comes into focus. They’re teenagers lost in a desert wilderness, torn apart from everything they’ve known. They’re shown grace and, in return, come to realize what it means to extend that grace to others. I would’ve liked to known what happened to Kate and Soren as they got older.

This is a good novel and perhaps I would’ve loved it if Rebecca hadn’t been such an overwhelming force. There are some great descriptions of locations and events, such as the old cities of the Middle East and the Great Chicago Fire. The information about the documents at Saint Catherine’s Monastery, while informative, isn’t dry and lecturing. It’s fascinating to learn that the pivotal document Rebecca and Flora seek was actually discovered by two sisters on whom Lynn Austin based her characters. It’s just a shame I didn’t like Rebecca.

Thank you to Bethany House for my complimentary copy of Where We Belong, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Where We Belong? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 03 October 2017

Page Count: 480

Read more on:   Bethany House’s Website   Lynn Austin’s Website   Agnes and Margaret Smith

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

The Fruitcake Murders, by Ace Collins

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

As Christmas 1946 draws near, thirty-something marine officer-turned-homicide detective Lane Walker has his hands full. Three men with seemingly no relationship to each other have been murdered, including the powerful District Attorney. The only connection between the crimes? The weapons: twenty-year-old unopened fruitcake tins manufactured by a company that is no longer in business.

While some foods may be to die for, fruitcake isn’t one of them! This heaping helping of murder will be no easy task for Walker, and he certainly doesn’t need the determined and feisty Tiffany Clayton, the political reporter for The Chicago Star, getting in the way.

Employing witty dialogue and historical accuracy, The Fruitcake Murders offers equal parts murder, mystery, and mayhem in a perplexing whodunit set in the days just after World War II. Continue reading