[Note: Not only am I an author, I am also an avid reader. It is my hope to offer periodic book reviews to give you a glimpse at my bookshelf, and hopefully encourage you to pick up a good book. Most of what I read is from a Christian worldview, although I do read some secular books from time to time.]
An Unlikely Suitor
By Nancy Moser
Published 2011 by Bethany House Publishers
I really must stop going in Ollie’s Deep Discount store! Their book section is right next to the front doors and I can’t seem to step through without the books calling my name. Ollie’s book prices truly are “deep discount” and it’s impossible for me to leave there without three or four new books in my bags! How could I possibly resist brand new novels at $3.99 or $4.99 when these same books sell for $15.00 at most stores?
Anyway, that is where I stumbled across An Unlikely Suitor by Nancy Moser. This was the first book I’ve read by this author and I must say I was extremely impressed! The first thing that drew me to this book was the cover. It is lovely and a perfect depiction of the story within. The synopsis on the back intrigued me and so the book quickly found its way into my cart.
It has been quite awhile since I read a historical romance that had me wanting to stay up until the wee hours. I had a very hard time putting this book down.
Set in New York City in the summer of 1895, An Unlikely Suitor is the story of Lucy Scarpelli, an Italian immigrant working in a New York sweatshop. With her father gone, Lucy feels the responsibility of providing for her mother, Lea, and her younger sister, Sofia. At 24 yeas of age, her chance of marrying has disappeared and Lucy has embraced her role as caretaker of her family.
When the family receives notice that their crowded tenement is to be torn down to make way for a city park, Lucy is determined to find her mother and sister a better place to live. She chances upon Mr. Standish who owns Madame Moreau’s Fashion Emporium. He just happens to need seamstresses to expand his business, and also has an apartment above the shop to rent. Lucy embellishes her own and her mother’s and sister’s experience and lands them new jobs and a new place to live. And thus begins the plot of the novel.
In her job as seamstress, Lucy befriends a wealthy socialite, Rowena Langdon. Injured in a sailing accident, Rowena has an injury that has caused a physical deformity. Lucy is the first seamstress able to design fashions that hide Rowena’s crippled leg. Ignoring social convention, Rowena deepens the friendship and invites Lucy to her family’s summer “cottage” in Newport, Rhode Island.
An Unlikely Suitor gives you a wonderful glimpse into the world of the upper class during the Gilded Age of the late 19th century. There are plenty of snarky servants who don’t take kindly to Lucy going above her station, and uppity rich people who want to keep the lower classes in their place. The book reminded me a bit of the show Downton Abbey in its portrayal of the separation of the classes. I really felt Lucy’s confusion as she fit into neither social circle. When she meets a mysterious, handsome man on the cliff walk and love begins to blossom, the quandary of what world she fits into intensifies.
Rowena is set to marry a man of her parents’ choosing, a man she tries to love but knows he doesn’t love her. When Sofia and Lea are brought to the mansion to help with sewing costumes for Rowena and her family, Sofia falls in love with a man far above her station. The spoiled Sofia, who has always been jealous of her older sister, causes untold trouble for Lucy while she is in the Langdon’s employ. I must admit, she was the hardest character to like in the entire novel!
While considered a historical romance, the romance actually takes a back seat in this novel. The story focuses more on class differences, family, and sacrifice while untangling a web of secrets held by all the main characters. It draws to a very dramatic climax and has a satisfying conclusion. I appreciated the fact that the author included an epilogue that allows the reader to see where the main characters ended up. (All except Sofia, which makes me wonder if Ms. Moser is planning a second novel with her as the main character.)
I must say this is one of the more literary historic Christian novels I’ve read. Ms. Moser did a fabulous job of creating deep characters with both flaws and virtues. Also, the plot is much deeper than your average light romance. It takes you into the worlds of both the rich and the poor and unveils things about the segregation of social classes that will make the reader think. There is a twist at the end that I absolutely did not expect! The fact that I had not the slightest idea the twist was coming made me respect Ms. Moser’s writing even more.
Although written from a Christian worldview, and having references to faith and God, this is definitely not a “preachy” book and has very few Scripture references. The development of a stronger faith is not the impetus for the storyline. Faith plays a rather minor role in the lives of the characters although they each do come to realize that God has a plan for their lives and a mate chosen for each of them. Lucy has the most dramatic faith change as she comes to realize that she has spent much of her life trying to be in control of circumstances, taking care of things on her own, and not trusting God to provide.
Some reviews on Amazon complain that the entire storyline is very “unlikely” and the plot contrived, but then, isn’t that true of most novels? The purpose is to transport you out of the everyday into a world of what-might-be. That’s what dreams are made of!
If you enjoy historical romance, I definitely recommend An Unlikely Suitor. I enjoyed this book so much, I just might have to make another trip to Ollie’s. 🙂