I was recently given a chance to participate in the book tour for The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow by Olivia Newport. This is the second book in the Avenue of Dreams series.
Here’s a description of the book:
Charlotte Farrow, maid in the wealthy Banning household on Chicago’s opulent Prairie Avenue, has kept her baby boy a secret from her employers for nearly a year. But when the woman who has been caring for her son abruptly returns him, Charlotte must decide whether to come clean and face dismissal or keep her secret while the Bannings decide the child’s fate. Can she face the truth of her own past and open her heart to a future of her own? Or will life’s tragedies determine the future for her?
This compelling story set against the glittering backdrop of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition captures the tension between the wealthy class and the hardworking servants who made their lives comfortable. Author Olivia Newport expertly portays social classes while creating a story of courage, strength, and tender romance.
I was fortunate enough to read about Charlotte in the first book in this series, The Pursuit of Lucy Banning, which focuses more on one of the inhabitants of the household that Charlotte is a maid in. I was glad to be able to continue to read more about Charlotte’s story and also follow Lucy a bit further.
It found it fascinating to learn about all of the work that the domestic staff did to help upkeep the household and lives of the Banning household. They were expected to anticipate the needs and wants but keep everything confidential, nor were they allowed to have families or really lives outside of their jobs. When the character of Sarah Cummings is introduced, it also highlights how much the servants do and how they are expected to act.
I also must add that Ms. Newport did an excellent job of making me dislike Sarah. I did think Sarah would wind up causing more harm but I guess I was a bit too pessimistic.
I also appreciate the fact that Charlotte is romantically involved with another servant in the household. I think this is much more realistic than other similar novels where the servant becomes involved with a member of the household. I think this is representative of the time and social structure of the late 1800′s.
Finally, I had fun reading about the Columbian Exhibition and its glorious sites, like the Ferris Wheel. I think it would have been marvelous to be able to be at any of the World’s Fairs. Ms. Newport does a exceptional job of portraying the fair as a wondrous event.
I would say that The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow is one of the best books I’ve read recently. If you haven’t read any of Olivia Newport‘s books, I would urge you to read both this one and The Pursuit of Lucy Banning. However, I think anybody would enjoy this book without reading the first in the series.
Available January 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.