Friday, May 31, 2013

Review: A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin

Book Cover and Synopsis:
The World's Fair - Chicago, 1893.

It seems a perfect backdrop for what Violet Hayes longs to experience: a little mystery, a little romance.

To be honest, it is more than a little mystery. She schemed her way to Chicago to discover the mother she barely remembered. As for romance well, with the help of her grandmother and three great aunts, that is coming along nicely as well perhaps too well. Each of her relatives including her saintly grandmother seems to have a separate agenda for her.

In the course of a summer, Violet's world will open wide before her eyes. But in the wake of discovery, she must find a way to determine which path and which man will ultimately be the right lifetime choice for her.

My Thoughts:
This novel is jam packed with all sorts of great stuff! Interesting people, engaging circumstances, and an awesome historical setting (Chicago, 1893). The leading lady, Violet, is amusing and has a very vivid personality; she is spunkier than the average 19th century lady, but this is what makes her--and the story--so much fun.

It's quite interesting to wander around historic Chicago with Violet as she goes on various outings. Feeding the poor in the slums of town, marching in a women's suffrage rally, and even having tea with the city's socialites, Violet experiences all this and more, guided by her grandmother and three great aunts who each wish to involve Violet in their personal agendas.

I enjoyed observing Violet's interactions with all four of her prospective suitors. Each man is completely different, and it's interesting and often humorous to see Violet's reactions to them. I particularly enjoyed Violet's relationship with Silas, unconventional though he is. All the evidence points to him being a thief, someone she should have no contact with, yet she finds him oddly compelling and harbors no fear of him. In fact, Silas's "underworld" connections actually come in handy as Violet attempts to search out information on her long-lost mother.

Ferris Wheel at the World's Fair - Chicago 1893
The 1893 World's Fair is quite a wonder, and the author excels at bringing the setting to life in vivid color. Violet has the opportunity to visit the fair several times, and each time a different aspect of it is presented. I was completely charmed by the first Ferris Wheel, and the other various exhibits are also intriguing and give a compelling look at the social issues and "modern" inventions of the late 19th century.

There are so many different layers and aspects to the plot that a review can hardly do it justice while refraining from spoilers; it's truly amazing how much content is covered in the course of the story. Even though there's a fairly large amount of characters, each one is very fleshed out and "real", with lots of depth and detail to their personality. I quite enjoyed the story, and even though the end was satisfying, I still find myself wishing there were a sequel. If you're looking for a great historical read, I would highly recommend this one!

My Rating: 5 stars

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