The Pursuit of Lucy Banning and The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow are the first two books, and I definitely recommend reading them in order to maximize the storytelling experience, not to mention avoid some plot spoilers!
You can click on the titles to see my reviews.
If you’re up-to-date with this series, you should be aware of Sarah Cummings character. She takes the spotlight in this book. Here’s a little synopsis:
It’s the turn of the century in Chicago, and a life of a maid – of an orphan – is not what Sarah was meant to have. She feels this through and through, every day that she mops a floor or serves a supper.
With her amazing sewing skills she has managed to take her wealthy Banning employers castoff gowns and make them into fashionable garments. It’s when she’s wearing one of her creations that she meets newcomer Lillie Wagner.
Lillie takes Sarah as an equal and speaks to her as such, confessing her desire to have a friend in this strange city. Unable to refuse an opportunity for better things, Sarah creates a new identity: Serena Cuthbert, affluent, independent lady traveler.
While she begins to sample the better life, carving out time to get away from her duties to join new friends, Sarah also has new burdens at the orphanage with the new director Simon Tewell. He wants her to help the young girls learn sewing skills.
It’s not long before keeping up with two polar opposite lives becomes difficult – and Sarah realizes one will have to unravel…
Olivia Newport really swept me away to this other time period with the two prior books, and she did that again here with The Invention of Sarah Cummings.
Yet, what I had a more difficult time with this go ‘round was the character.
Sarah is the least sympathetic and likable main characters of the novels. Her personality tends to be arrogant, ungrateful and resentful. Plus, the plot itself gave me a hard time as it appeared to lean more towards cliché regarding pretending-to-be-rich.
However, Olivia Newport’s strong writing persevered and as resistant as I was to like Sarah, with steady patience The Invention of Sarah Cummings finally paid off.
In my opinion, the novel really improved when everything began to blow up in Sarah’s face. How it all comes about, or what occurs, I will not say – but things start to not be so easy for Sarah, and it definitely helps the book begin to humble her.
Then there’s a horrifying, emotional climax that won back my affections fully. It ends up being very, very touching – this eventual turnaround.
So, by the end, The Invention of Sarah Cummings was quite gripping and effective – it just took a lot longer to feel that way than the prior two novels.
*Available August 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
*I received a copy of The Invention of Sarah Cummings from the Baker Publishing Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.