Saturday, May 14, 2011
Review: A Race to Splendor by Ciji Ware
Category: Historical Fiction
Amelia Bradshaw has been living abroad completing her architectural studies at the prestigious school “L’Ecole des Beaux Arts.” Her time to return home has finally come. Unfortunately, the home she left, is no longer the same home. Much has changed. Her grandfather has passed away, leaving the grand hotel to Amelia. However, as she returns, Amelia’s father has just lost a winner-takes-all hand of poker, and J D Thayer claims the hotel is now his. Her father inebriated, apologizes. Amelia enlightens the men that her grandfather’s will stipulates that she is the sole owner, and not her father. J D Thayer is shocked but claims that as an unmarried woman, she is still under the control of her father, therefore the bet still stands. Amelia is infuriated and threatens to take J D to court. Unfortunately, a 1906 San Francisco judge agrees with J D Thayer. The hotel is gone, her mother has filed for divorce and fled to Paris, her father is nowhere to be found and Amelia has lost everything. In an attempt to start over Amelia meets with Julia, her mentor and seeks employment. While Julia is not able to offer Amelia a full-time day position, she offers her a trial night-time position. Amelia accepts, aware that she will be working alone and on her first night on the job, a huge earthquake hits San Francisco devastating the city. What wasn’t demolished by the earthquake, burned in the subsequent fires. Amelia’s beautiful, beloved Bay View hotel was among the many buildings that burned to the ground. Once everything has settled, architects were in high demand. The female architects that were once shunned, are now in high demand. Julia accepts two major offers, restoring the beautiful Bay View Hotel and the Fairmont Hotel. While both owners want to open before the other, Julia and Amelia must work together on the both projects. Amelia is told to focus on the Bay View while Julia concentrates on the Fairmont. In her heart, Amelia believes that she is the rightful owner but now she must work for J D Thayer...
I really enjoyed “A Race to Splendor.” Ciji Ware is an incredible writer, and her research is flawless. If you enjoy historical fiction, you will enjoy this one. The story starts off with a “bang.” An earthquake hits, and everything is in ruins, homeless people everywhere. When the rebuilding begins, many greedy hands decide this is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the needs of others. Amelia is a strong female character, and her determination is astounding. When Amelia and J D Thayer begin working together there is an obvious attraction, and Amelia must decide what that holds. I honestly had an issue with the relationship, after everything J D caused, how was there an attraction? Amelia is quite the feminist and she is not an easily swayed person. I thought the corruption, and social issues was immensely interesting. My one issue was the relationship.
I’ve read a few Ciji Ware books, and her characters tend to be strong, determined women. Women who are not afraid to break the mold. My favorite Ciji Ware book is “A Cottage by the Sea” and I highly recommend that one.