Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning - Olivia Newport

Olivia Newport is an exciting new author for Revell, and "The Pursuit of Lucy Banning" is her debut novel.  The book is set in 1892 Chicago and is very grounded historically.  Eighteen ninety-two was a very busy time for Chicago.  Chicago hosted the Chicago World's Fair the following year, which influenced art and architecture for decades to come.  During this time, capitalist giants such as Marshall Fields, George Pullman, William Wallace Kimball, and John J. Glessner lived on Prairie Avenue, which is the street the author chose her main character to live on.  I was continually amazed at how much factual information kept popping up.  I soon understood why 1892 was the beginning of the Gilded Age of Chicago.  I believe this age has been very overlooked by many authors as potential reading material (with the exception of Judith Miller's "Postcards from Pullman" series).  I was hooked!  My only hope is that the author plans to write more books set during this timeframe, possibly a series?
The author did quite a lot of research, but you still feel like you are reading a fictional novel for entertainment.  I loved the storyline, and it just keeps getting better as you move along.  She introduces new plot material every so often, which builds on the existing story.  This keeps you interested and moving along.  I got more attached to the story and characters with every chapter.
The basis of the plot is that Lucy Banning is engaged to her longtime friend and respected citizen, Daniel.  However, when she meets someone else, she realizes she doesn't love Daniel and can't follow through with the engagement.  This causes great upset between the families.  She also chooses to attend art classes at a local university, which is very modern for young ladies at that time.  Her family does not accept that choice.  Drama is introduced with malicious acts begin to take place in retribution for her choice to break her engagement.  A second plot, and very important piece of the book, focuses on the house maid, Charlotte, who has brought a tiny baby with her to her job and hides it in her closet for fear that she will be dismissed if anyone learns of the infant.  This can't last long, and we follow Charlotte closely through the book.  Lucy's work with the local orphanage is very rewarding for her, but her family and friends don't agree that it's fitting for her station. 
The book is aptly named, and as I read it I felt empowered to make choices that were right for me in the short and long term.  Lucy shows great strength of character, and it was enjoyable to read.  There were a couple very late nights for me, because I couldn't put the book down!
Sometimes the author actually reads the book reviews published by the bloggers.  If this is the case here, my comment to the author is this... after finishing the book, I am so eager to read the second of this series.  I do hope this will become a series, because Charlotte's story has a lot of telling left to do.  A girl this sweet deserves a happy ending, don't you think?  Since she is so conveniently serving in a mansion on Prairie Avenue, this gives her immediate access to one of the most eligible bachelors in town -- Leo Banning.  Can you write that story, please?
This was a complimentary copy given to me by the publisher in exchange for an objective review.

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