Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow Review

The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow (Avenue of Dreams, #2)

The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow 

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.

My rating: 6/10
I was pleasantly surprised to find Charlotte give her own story as I found her infinitely more interesting than Lucy.

I can't really say that I enjoyed the story itself but that was due to the subject matter.  Ms. Newport did an excellent job with the suspense; I really had no idea who or what Charlotte would choose for most of the book. But it was just too agonizing for me. It wasn't even bittersweet; I remember Charlotte remarking that at least Henry was in the same house now. But I disagreed. I'll bet she got a lot more time (and much better quality) with her son just getting to see him once or twice a week than she did with him living in the Banning house and being exclusively taken care of by someone else. Sarah's actions were appropriately nerve racking. I could barely stand it. I kept waiting for that situation to be rectified, and felt cheated by adjustments being made for such a short time.

I could appreciate and sympathize with Charlotte's situation. And I enjoyed the gentle weaving of the love story in the background. Though I felt the themes of faith could have made the book so much stronger if they had appeared as more than bookends, I liked the parallels to Moses' story, and I loved that Archie questioned her judgment and challenged her to trust in God and wait on Him. How often do we make the same mistakes- trying to fit circumstances into a divine mold so that we don't have to rely solely on faith? I know I've done it plenty of times; I'd almost always rather hear 'no' than 'just wait' in answer to my prayers. But back to the story...

The situation with Charlotte's 'husband' was rather twisted and I didn't really buy into it. But what was worse was Archie's response at the end when she balks at the truth of her situation. "Shhh. Don't." Yes, let's dismiss the ugliness and all the emotions that go with it, just pretend it never happened. Charlotte's subsequent reaction, or lack thereof, was not at all realistic. Any woman would be deeply affect, traumatized even, by such events. And any man claiming to love her would help her heal, however slowly, by listening and slowly working away doubts, fears and trust issues. The whole, "just forget about it because I'm here now" attitude was too much for me to take.

Lucy did nothing but disappoint. Honeymoon or no, you can take a few minutes here and there (over a period of several months) to check up on your closest friend/confidante. Her letter, especially after all that build up, was rather empty. True to form, I say, despite her reputation.

I thought the staff and supporting characters were very well done with the exception of Sarah. You loved to hate her, with her arrogance, selfishness and total lack of empathy until she randomly pulls a 180 at the end, in what I suspect was just a way to tie things together. Or maybe the author couldn't deal with not redeeming her character. Or maybe she was setting things up for the third book. The world may never know.

All in all, this was a decent, middle of the line read. From a historical standpoint, the attention to detail to really flush out the lives of the serving class was interesting and well done. I'll give the third and final book a try, hoping it continues in this upward trend, despite my contempt of the lead character.

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