A young Appalachian woman escapes to Chicago during the Jazz Age in this historical romance.
Nineteen-year-old Grace Langdon is the only girl in a large family in the Appalachian town of Stones Mill, Virginia. Her mother alternates between coldness and abusiveness while her miner father is just plain mean and violent. Gracie is saved by her love of books—Jane Eyre, in particular—and her best friend and cousin, Ollie. Gracie thinks she has little interest in marrying until her childhood friend Charlie Hillard returns to Stones Mill for his father’s final days. Despite her initial attraction, she soon realizes that Charlie is a mean drunk like her father and tries to warn smitten Ollie away from him. When Gracie’s father orders her to marry Charlie, she flees to her older brother and sister-in-law, Jack and Alice, in Chicago. As she builds a new life, she becomes involved with Jack and Alice’s friends and neighbors, the Shaws. Henry, the older brother, carries scars—both physical and psychological—from the Great War while his younger sibling has a sunnier personality. Attracted to Henry, despite his occasional dark nature, Gracie embarks on a musical and dance career in the Shaws’ nightclub. Her budding romance with Henry is threatened by her own mistrust of men, Charlie’s refusal to accept her rejection, and an unthinkable accident. Hawkins (The Tempest: A Gisborne Novel, 2014, etc.) skillfully evokes both the mountain and urban settings. But Gracie’s ability to quickly adapt to a surprisingly privileged life in Chicago after her humble upbringing seems unlikely. And some problems with characterization mar the otherwise enjoyable story. Jack morphs from an indulgent, cosmopolitan urbanite to an overprotective warden, with some bumbling new-father syndrome thrown in. Henry’s dark side—inspired by Gracie’s devotion to Rochester—is also occasionally troubling (someone should warn her that a moody rich guy is fundamentally the same as a moody poor guy), while the stereotype of the abusive Appalachian man is becoming a bit trite. At over 350 pages, the story drags, with increasingly improbable obstacles tormenting the lovebirds.
Another tale—but a fun one—about a plucky mountain woman who finds success in the big city.