Book Review: The Invention of Sarah Cummings by Olivia Newport

Last, I attended the MOPs Convention with a handful of gals from a local group.  While we were there, I signed up to be part of a review panel for new books published by Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing.  The deal is, I occasionally receive emails containing the title and description of a book.  It could be just about any kind of book… Christian fiction, parenting, homemaking, self-help, etc.  If it looks like something I’d like to read, I respond to the email, and a few weeks later, my book arrives.

I chose The Invention of Sarah Cummings by Olivia Newport because the description mentioned a handful of my favorite things: Chicago, Christian romance, historical fiction, and sewing.  It is the third book in the Avenue of Dreams series.  The back cover says:

Sarah Cummings has one goal in life–to break into Chicago’s high society. Desperate to stop serving dinner and to start eating at society tables, Sarah alters cast-off gowns from the wealthy Banning women to create lustrous, flattering dresses of her own. On a whim at a chance meeting, she presents herself as Serena Cuthbert, weaving a fictitious past to go with her fictitious name. But as she gets closer to Simon Tewell, the director of St. Andrew’s Orphanage, Sarah finds that she must choose between the life she has and the life she dreams of. Will she sacrifice love to continue her pretense? Or can Simon show her that sometimes you don’t have to pretend for dreams to come true?

sarah cummingsI haven’t read the first two books in this series, but I feel like this novel stands up well enough on its own.  It also leaves plenty of room at the end for the next installment, with a couple different options for who the main character might be.

Some of my feelings about this book are a little muddled, and I’m having trouble putting it into words that make sense, so bear with me a bit.

This is the first “Christian book” I’ve read that rarely mentioned anything about God.  I think that if I’d picked it up off the shelf at my local public library, I may not have realized that it was specifically “Christian.”  That doesn’t make it a bad story, it simply left me a little disappointed, based upon my expectations, that the lesson Sarah learned wasn’t more overtly spiritual.  Also, this was billed as a romance, but I could’ve used more.  There were tiny, sweet little romantic moments, but they were few and far between – at least based upon my expectation.

The one area that wasn’t lacking was the historical aspect.  It’s clear that the author has done her homework on the culture and other details of the era by the vivid descriptions she provided.  Readers can practically picture themselves walking through the halls of St. Andrews Orphanage, rubbing elbows with Chicago’s elite at the charity ball, or living in the servants’ quarters in the Banning household.  And it was really fun for me, as a “sewist,” to imagine what Sarah’s dresses looked like when she was finished refashioning them.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, and while I don’t really have an interest in reading those that came before it, I may read the next one (assuming there is one).

Available August 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
Disclosure: I was provided a free copy via the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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