The Pursuit of Lucy Banning
by Olivia Newport
Trade Paperback: 293 pages
Released: May 1, 2012
Source: Review copy from the publisher.
Book Description from Back Cover:
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 the classes she is secretly taking at the newly opened University of Chicago. When she meets 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?
[Note: This description is deceptive since no one was forcing her to give up her charity work or forcing her to marry the banker or keeping her from living life on her own terms. And the architect is not working on the World's Fair buildings. It's about Lucy sneaking around fearing people won't allow her to do certain things and hurting the people who love her, only to find out no one was stopping her from living life on her own terms.]
The Pursuit of Lucy Banning is a historical romance set in 1892 in Chicago. Though the book description mentions the 1893 World's Fair, there is actually very little about that in this book. The author liked lists (like the menu for every meal), and this tended to slow the pacing. Beyond the lists, there was some fairly nice historical detail about the city and events worked into the story.
Using only 282 pages to tell even one story well can be tricky, but this novel was essentially three stories (Lucy's story, Charlotte's story, and Daniel's story) in one book. (Love-interest Will was a minor character until page 161 after which he disappeared from the story for nearly 50 pages, which is odd for a romance.)
Several important scenes were missing, like the scene where Lucy tells her mother/parents that she just broke her engagement, the scene where she enjoyed viewing the art with Will (and started falling in love with him), scenes of her with the orphans (as we see little interaction between them), and the scene where we could see her father's reaction to the stolen items being found.
If Daniel was meant to be a controlling personality (or somehow "off") from the start, I needed to see that from the start rather than an apparently caring, permissive fiancee. If her parents made her worry that they'd react really badly to her taking university courses, we need a scene showing that and subsequent scenes need to back that up. As it was, Lucy's worries seemed unfounded.
I also didn't like Lucy in the first half of the book. We have no evidence that her parents pushed her to marry Daniel (though they hoped for it), and they gave her every opportunity to meet men locally and abroad. She chose to marry Daniel, yet the moment she meets a man she knows little about but who has irresistible cobalt eyes and dimples, she decided she didn't actually want to marry Daniel after all. But she didn't tell Daniel. She just paid unusual attention to Will the few times they meet, and it was to a degree that her mother felt it necessary to remind Lucy that she's engaged and Daniel was rightly jealous. Lucy just got angry at them for censoring her behavior.
I grant that Lucy and Daniel weren't a good match in interests, but that doesn't excuse how badly Lucy behaved toward Daniel in scene after scene.
She also had no problem with lying to her parents about how she spent her time ("I'm being so selfless helping those poor orphans and spending your money to make their life better!") when she's really spending most of that time taking an art history course. And we have no real reason to believe her parents would actually stop her from taking the courses if she'd just asked. They hadn't denied any of her other requests even when they didn't quite approve of them.
By the end, Lucy was a nice person, but not because she saw the error of her ways. It's like those errors never happened. The author just started writing her as nice. Worse, what she learned from all her lying was that, if a man "truly loved her," he'd "trust" her by not showing any interest in what she's up to when he knows she's hiding activities from him. Hmm. It was her who didn't trust those who loved her.
The two characters that bothered to think about God didn't have positive thoughts. Charlotte didn't have time for God because she believed He didn't have time for her. Lucy was more interested in mentally criticizing the church architecture, the preacher, and her fellow rich Christians than in God. She also felt very self-righteous because she helped orphans. I would have thought this novel was a secular one, but it came from a Christian publisher.
There was no sex. There was no bad language. Overall, I wouldn't recommend this book due to the critical, missing scenes.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.