The days leading up to and including Chicago’s Great Fire of 1871 are the backdrop for an eternally twisting love triangle.
A brief, intriguing introductory note from the three protagonists implicates the triangulated friends in the cause of the fire. (As the excellent afterword mentions, Mrs. O’Leary’s cow has long been cleared of culpability.) Unfortunately, there are many pages of relationship angst preceding the fire itself. Readers who enjoy romance novels may relish those pages, which veer between the third-person-intimate viewpoints of Emmeline and Fiona, the only nonstock characters. When they were younger, Emmeline, Fiona, and blue-eyed Anders were playmates in a grittier part of Chicago, where Fiona’s stereotypically poor-but-honest-and-loving-family-with-a-now-disabled-father still lives. Fiona now lives with Emmeline, supporting her own family by working as Emmeline’s lady’s maid. Emmeline’s father—having worked his way up in the world—is ecstatic that his 18-year-old daughter is about to marry Frederick Arles Tree, son of a banker. Anders—who has kissed each of the girls once—has meanwhile become a boxer. Will the vacillating Emmeline marry Freddy? Will Fiona reveal her secret yearning for Anders, who once pledged his troth to Emmeline? There is one tasteful, steamy sex scene and a plethora of descriptions of clothing and furniture. The action-packed ending leads to an apogee that will appeal to lovers of soap operas. Everyone is presumed white.
Danielle Steele for the younger set. (historical note) (Historical fiction.13-17)