She Walks in Beauty
by Siri Mitchell
Genre: Christian Fiction
Published 2010, Bethany House
Paperback, 395 pages
For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage in the late 1890s, 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.I knew next to nothing about New York City's gilded age before reading this book, so this was both a history lesson and an eye-opener to the practices of that time period, expecially among the wealthy young women. I had no idea of the extent that corsets were damaging to the body and health of a woman, and it really explains much of the female behavior that has been epitomized in Hollywood's classic films, such as the common fainting spells. It shows that the "modern" world really has not changed very much in regards to the demands put on women to look and act a certain way to be regarded as attractive. The similarities between Hollywood and the Gilded Age are both remarkable and quite sad, from the encouragement of anorexia and the overindulgence of luxury to how the popularity of an individual can be solely determined by the words of the press.
I did enjoy following Clara's rise to fame and infamy, even if the glamour and mystery of it was stripped away, so to speak. The Christian themes of God loving you just as you are and having a purpose beyond the practices of "society" seemed muted and understated throughout the book, but rather than detracting from the plot, it only seemed to enhance it. While I have been under the impression that books that fall in this genre of Christian Fiction should focus mostly on some Christian theme, this particular book did not seem to. The focus seemed more on revealing the truth about what really happened in New York City's Gilded Age through the eyes of a debutante.
The Cover: This book I actually picked specifically because I loved both the cover and the title. The dress Clara is wearing is just gorgeous, which the back cover further embellishes. It even reminds me of the famous yellow gown that Belle wears in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, a favorite of mine.
First Line: "Get dressed, Clara. In your visiting costume. We are going out."
While it gives the name of the main character and gives a hint to the formalities of the era, I still find this opening rather boring and uneventful.
Favorite Quote: "Even elderly spinsters, especially elderly spinsters, seem to have a deep and abiding, if secret, affinity for true love."
Read For: Pages Read Challenge, Celebrate the Author Challenge
*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*