Thursday, September 1, 2011
She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell
"For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage in the late 1890's, so much depends on her social season debut. Clara Carter has been given one goal: secure the affections of the city's most eligible bachelor. Debuting means plenty of work--there are corsets to be fitted, dances to master, manners to perfect. Her training soon pays off, however, as celebrity's spotlight turns Clara into a society-page darling. Yet Clara wonders if this is the life she really wants, especially when she learns her best friend has also set her sights on Franklin De Vries. When a man appears who seems to love her simply for who she is, and gossip backlash turns ugly, Clara realizes it's not just her heart at stake--the future of her family depends on how she plays the game."
Mitchell's She Walks in Beauty is one of those delightful reads, one that is sure to please those who enjoy a charming love story.
Set against the glittering backdrop of banquets and balls during New York's Gilded Age, Clara's story is a real eye-opening experience of what the social season entailed for nineteenth century young ladies. Debutantes were strictly guided in the rules of the "game" for the coveted "prize". The rigid rules set by society forced uncomfortable and often painful lacing into tight corsets to achieve a tiny waist, and the slightest impropriety could likely cause a scandal. The prize, of course, was the proposal of marriage from the most eligible and wealthy bachelor.
Clara is forced by her father and overbearing aunt to do her best to attract the attention -- and a proprosal of marriage -- from Franklin De Vries, the wealthiest of all eligible bachelors. His younger brother Harry, however, is the one who captures Clara's attentions and she would like nothing more to have the freedom to make her own choices in life. If it were only possible, she would shun the endless rounds of parties and shopping and strict training for her role in society. When she expresses her fears to her aunt that marriage to the De Vries heir would not likely bring her happiness, her aunt's icy response was a reflection of the times:
"Marriage is not meant to be a paradise. It's an institution. One which
you are destined to enter."
Life becomes even more complicated for Clara when her dearest friend, Lizzy, becomes a competitor to catch Franklin De Vries. At every turn, Clara seems to have something to lose....her friendships, her freedom, her sense of self, her hope for a happy future....I felt so badly for her as she was a sacrificial lamb being brought to the slaughter for the sake of her ambitious father and aunt.
Family secrets add a bit of mystery to the main storyline...and a surprising turn of events finally provides Clara with an opportunity to take control of her own destiny. She Walks in Beauty is a truly heartwarming story with lessons for all girls and women without being preachy.
Title: She Walks in Beauty
Author: Siri Mitchell
Bethany House Publishers
genre: historical romance; Christian historical romance