Sunday, May 13, 2012

Review of "The Pursuit of Lucy Banning" by Olivia Newport

Rating: 3 Stars
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Summary from Revell: She has a secret to keep. But will she give her heart away?

Lucy Banning may live on the exclusive Prairie Avenue among Chicago's rich and famous, but her heart lies elsewhere. Expected to marry an up-and-coming banker from a respected family, Lucy fears she will be forced to abandon her charity work and squeeze herself into the mold of the well-dressed wife who spends most of her time and money redecorating.

When she meets Will, an unconventional young architect who is working on plans for the upcoming 1893 World's Fair, Lucy imagines a life lived on her own terms. Can she break away from her family's expectations? And will she ever be loved for who she truly is?

Get swept away into the lavish world of Chicago's high society as Olivia Newport brings to life an age of glitz and grandeur, stark social contrasts, and one woman who dares to cross class lines for what she believes.

Review:  In her debut novel, Olivia Newport transports readers to the historic city of Chicago as both the city and its elite residents prepare for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893.  Through vivid descriptions based on historical research, readers enter a world that is brimming with the possibility of change and the emergence of new ideas, while holding onto strict rules regarding one's social standing and expectations.

Lucy Banning may belong to one of Chicago's most privileged families and live on the esteemed Prairie Avenue, but she has an independent streak and ideas regarding her role and contribution to society that her family and fiance are not ready to embrace.  In many ways, she is an outspoken and modern young woman who is somewhat ahead of her time.   Within the same household, Charlotte leads a much different lifestyle as a servant who attends to elaborate dinners and Lucy's wardrobe needs.  The lives of Charlotte and Lucy provide stark contrasts and an insight into the differing struggles among the classes.  Yet their lives and stories entwine within the Banning household in a manner that is reminiscent of the popular BBC series Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs.   

Because the setting was thoroughly developed, I was enchanted by the descriptions of Prairie Avenue and the opening ceremonies for the World's Columbian Exposition.   In fact, after being introduced to historic Chicago and learning about the Glessner House Museum in the "Acknowledgements,"  I would certainly like to visit the streets that Lucy traveled.  Unfortunately, I was less intrigued by the the characters within the story.  As I read the novel, I was hoping for more character development and additional focus on the budding relationship between Lucy and Will.   Although Newport alternated viewpoints among the main characters throughout the novel, I did not feel emotionally invested in the outcome of each of their stories.  The Pursuit of Lucy Banning demonstrates that Olivia Newport is a talented author with the gift to transport readers to another time and place, and it is a promising start to the Avenue of Dreams series.  

Available May 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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