This Chick Read: A Race to Splendor by Ciji Ware

I was recommended this book by Goodreads because I’ve read and liked books by Susanna Kearsley and Diana Gabaldon.  All of these authors write historical fiction, but that’s the only commonality I see. Kearsley’s novels are richly detailed and emotionally impactful and Gabaldon’s historical research gives her novels depth and her main characters have honor and heart.   A Race to Splendor could have used more imagery and character development and unfortunately was not on the same level as the other two authors.

The following synopsis comes directly from the authors website

Set in the tumultuous aftermath of San Francisco’s devastating 1906 earthquake and fire, and based on the lives of several women apprenticed to famed Julia Morgan, California’s first licensed woman architect, this historical novel tells of the fiercely-fought competition between Nob Hill hotels to re-open their doors by the first anniversary of the disaster–proving to the country and the world that the city would rise from the ashes. Amelia Hunter Bradshaw, fresh from earning her certificate in architecture at the prestigious L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, finds herself, through a series of flukes and mishaps, in the employ of the one man determined to best Miss Morgan, Amelia’s mentoress and friend. Intrigue, political corruption, and an undeniable attraction to the mysterious James Diaz Thayer threaten not only to jeopardize her personal life, but also prove fatal to all she holds dear.

I picked up this book because it was set in San Francisco. I grew up in Southern California and lived through the Northridge quake and other small quakes, so I thought it would be a really interesting setting, and that was certainly true.  However, I was disappointed that the city of San Francisco wasn’t a bigger character.  My opinion is that if the city and the earthquake had been given more detail, it would’ve added a layer to the story that may have made the characters and their efforts to rebuild after the quake mean more.  As it was written, I had a hard time overlooking the faults of the male lead, J.D. Thayer, even once I was given the background information to understand some of the rather bad choices he made up to the point of the earthquake.  I was not able to overcome my dislike, and unfortunately as Julia, the female lead, came to care about him, I didn’t have a lot of respect for her because of it.   It is always interesting to read how women have been treated in different era’s.  This book did give a hint of what women entering the workforce had to overcome, as well as the differences in the class structures.  I just wish it had gone into more detail.

Would I recommend this book to a friend?  I guess it would depend upon their expectations.  Mine were set a little higher than this book was able to deliver.  The cover art, however, is Fabulous!


Copyright 2015 Deborah Kehoe all rights reserved.