Thomas Nelson (June 1, 2010)
While I’m catching up on my pile of books that have been read but not reviewed we’re back to June and July reads. This novel is James’ first volume in a new series titled “Ladies of Summerhill”. Being a historical novel that immediately appealed to me. Also being a “summer vacation” story made it fit quite well into my summer reading list but it could easily be an escape to sunnier, warmer weather during the cool, wet, and dreary fall or winter season here in the Northwestern corner of America, the US in particular.
Cara brings readers into an intimate and thorough peek at the behind the scenes life of a dime novelist who is not typical of the profession nor are her books. Because of the “reputed” character of many of the stories the profession in general carries a high stigma towards authors who “go public”. Writing as Fannie Cole and jealously guarding her time and manuscripts is the only way Lily Westbrook can feel that she is not besmirched in her connection to an industry with blurred lines of morality. Lily however has strong values that shine through in her characters and stories. Despite the appeal of the seedier plots to a wide audience or readers much of the difference in sales is simply a function of visibility and promotion to the readers themselves. Lily’s pseudonym of Fannie Cole is popular among the readers of dime novels in general but when her publisher faces a buy out and subsequently the competition of highly visible writers at their rival firm, Fannie (Lily) must make the hardest choice she has faced. She chose to write as a reflection of her faith and bring glory to God through the talent He has given her, but her life has always been her private escape from the rat race and visibility of popular scribes in her day. Though the books sell well and appeal to readers, the mystery and privacy of Miss Cole is threatened when her publisher determines that their best author should bring herself into the public eye and give readers a presence to relate to. In the midst of her private debate about letting her friends, family, and reading public see who this “mystery woman” is, Lily is also faced with the question of whether to give up writing altogether outside of private musings and keeping Fannie’s true identity secret by simply ending Miss Cole’s career.
James is a new author to me but this book has proven to be inspirational and an adventure that many readers will find appealing. It appears that this book is destined to have companion volumes releasing in the future and I hope that even if the Westbrooks are not central characters in subsequent novels they will still have a presence for readers to revisit as their lives and story progress in upcoming titles of the series.
(ISBN#9781595546791, 320pp, $14.99)