Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review: The Invention of Sarah Cummings

The Invention of Sarah Cummings (Avenue of Dreams - Book 3) by Olivia Newport

Publication Date: 09/15/2013
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Imprint: Revell Books
Genre: Inspirational/Christian Historical Romance
Pages: 304
ISBN-10: 0800720407
ISBN-13: 978-0800720407

(Received for an honest review from Revell)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ChristianBook, IndieBound

Olivia Newport on the WEB: WebsiteTwitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning (2012), The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow (2013) The Invention of Sarah Cummings (2013)

Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.



Excerpt from The Invention of Sarah Cummings, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.

Synopsis:

Sarah Cummings has one goal in life--to break into Chicago's high society. Desperate to stop serving dinner and to start eating at society tables, Sarah alters cast-off gowns from the wealthy Banning women to create lustrous, flattering dresses of her own. On a whim at a chance meeting, she presents herself as Serena Cuthbert, weaving a fictitious past to go with her fictitious name. But as she gets closer to Simon Tewell, the director of St. Andrew's Orphanage, Sarah finds that she must choose between the life she has and the life she dreams of. Will she sacrifice love to continue her pretense? Or can Simon show her that sometimes you don't have to pretend for dreams to come true?

Olivia Newport brings us back to Prairie Avenue to explore the place where class, social expectations, and romance come together. Readers will enjoy following the intrepid Sarah as she searches for true love in a world of illusions.


Thoughts:

Olivia Newport once again transports readers to another time and place in The Invention of Sarah Cummings, the third book in the Avenue of Dreams series. Readers will appreciate the amount of research that went into this book and Newport's exacting attention to historical detail. With strong characters and an underlying theme of having it all vs. being happy, this novel will resonate with readers of the mainstream market as well as Inspirational/ Christian fiction enthusiasts. 

Newport knows her history and in The Invention of Sarah Cummings she introduces her readers to turn of the century Chicago in all it's glory. Her descriptions of the time and events that coincide with history are spot on. She does a fantastic job of letting the reader see the elegance and opulence that was Chicago at this time. Her re-telling of the political debates and climate were fascinating to read. America at that time was making decisions that would radically change the future and Newport is able to grasp that atmosphere of expectancy and use it in her plot. 

She also uses the distinct class differences between the elite socialites and the working class in her favor as well. Making the heroine of this novel a parlor maid, who has designs on a better life. I enjoyed reading Newport's idea of the upstairs/downstairs roles and stereotypes. It was interesting to me that there was essentially no way for the working class to better themselves or to become a part of the elite with out deception.

Newport has created some interesting characters for this novel. Sarah is a orphan and a parlor maid and a well accomplished seamstress. As a character, Sarah's motivations for her deception in this book were somewhat hard to swallow. Readers generally want to love the heroine. To have someone to root for and identify with. Sarah is willing to lie and deceive to get what she wants. But let's face it, the bigger part of our society is exactly like Sarah. The difference is even though we may not like Sarah and her deceptive ways in the beginning, she eventually comes clean and makes the right decisions. For three quarters of the book, I didn't like her too much. She was self serving and conniving. But in the end she makes a very heart felt turn around and gets back in the good graces of the reader.

Sarah has two men in her life. The wealthy man she is lying to, in order to possibly attain an engagement and marriage from, Bradley. And Simon the head of the orphanage where she grew up. She is trying to balance her life as Serena Cuthbert against her real life as Sarah Cummings and these two men represent that conflict. Both are well written and the reader will find them enjoyable to read about, but I don't really see the romance as being the main focus of this novel.

The history is the focus here and the romance takes a back seat to that idea. I'm not really sure that's what the writer was going for, but it does seem apparent that her research into the time period has a far greater impact than the love story. I didn't mind that at all, because I am a big fan of historical fiction as well, but some readers may be taken aback by that.

The underlying Christian theme of the novel is summed up in the verse describing how a person can gain the whole world and still lose their soul. Sarah was willing to do just about anything to become a part of Chicago's high society. She took cast of gowns and made them beautiful garments, she created a fake persona that almost got her what she wanted. But would it have been enough? Would it have really made her happy to be a socialite but be out of the will of God? I think Newport was able to convey this theme in such a way that the reader will recognize it, but not be overpowered by it. I loved that aspect of Newport's writing.

Though this may not have been my favorite in the Avenue of Dreams series, it was still a very well written and enjoyable book. The historical detail alone is exception, as is the Christian theme and message. I wasn't extremely fond of Sarah but I also realize that she was very realistic. Nobody's perfect and I think Sarah was a good example of that. We all sometimes have self motives for the things we do and I'm glad that in the end Sarah was able to humble herself and see where she truly needed to be.

Available September 2013 at your favorite bookseller, from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:

Olivia Newport is the author of The Pursuit of Lucy Banning and The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow. Her husband and two twentysomething children provide welcome distraction from the people stomping through her head on their way into her books. She chases joy in stunning Colorado at the foot of the Rockies, where daylilies grow as tall as she is. Find out more at www.OliviaNewport.com.


Giveaway Details:

Readers who would like a chance to win a copy of The Invention of Sarah Cummings by Olivia Newport should visit, Christian Bookshelf Reviews for an interview and giveaway ending September 29th.

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