Title: The Uncertain Season
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
When I stood on the shores of Galveston in 2013, I was clapping my eyes on the ocean after decades. I grew up in a town that was a little like Houston, only much smaller in scale. It was hot and humid and the seashore was at least an hour's drive away. Absence had made my heart fonder for the sea shore. The proximity of the ocean from the city charmed me. The sands, the rolling waves were the same as they were on the beaches of my childhood.
I have read the 1900 Galveston: Indignities series by N.E. Brown and enjoyed them immensely. I read up on the infamous 1900 storm and a book by Suzanne Morris Galveston.
Ann Howard Creel's book was recommended to me by a Kindle newsletter that sends me a list of books that are recommended and marked down as a special deal for the day. I usually browse through the newsletter and buy the book if it looks interesting, as this one did. I used the Look Inside option available on Amazon to get the feel of the book. This option reminds me of flipping through a few pages of a book in a library or a bookstore to see if it looked good. This method has rarely failed me.
The Uncertain Season gives us a prologue where a girl's family is lost during the 1900 storm in Galveston. She is saved thanks to the ingenuity of a fisherman her family is friends with. From the next chapter we learn about the main character, Grace Hilliard who is on her way to the railway station to pick up her cousin Etta. The girls know each other slightly, having met only once before as children. Etta is gorgeous but a poor relation. Grace is true to her name, talented, rich and graceful. She is engaged to Jonathan, rich and handsome. Etta tries to make a foothold in this rarefied world of the Hilliards, she wants to marry a rich young man and live this luxurious life they are accustomed to.
By contrast Grace finds herself doing charity work among the poor people of the city by the side of the Methodist Reverend Ira Price and is deeply affected by the life there. She also comes in touch with the Girl who lost her family in the 1900 storm and tries to help her.
The changes that Grace and Etta face changes their thinking and way of life. There are secrets that are uncovered and revealed dramatically which alters them forever.
We can call the book a historical romance. It is the story of Etta and Grace, girls who are related by blood but not class. All the divisions of that age, between rich and poor, colored and white are well etched. Etta is an outsider trying to fit in, she can hold her own in a conversation with the friends of Hilliards but when they start talking about travel or opera and the art scene, she finds she cannot compete. She isn't exposed to that kind of a privilege. Hence she has to use subterfuge and mystery to augment her appeal. Grace has been so ensconced in her privileged life that when she first steps into the alleys to work with the poor she is taken aback. She has lived her life barely a mile away from the alley but never imagined anything like it.
I liked how well etched the characters were. They seem so real with their angst and anxieties. It is easy to empathize with them even when they are doing something wrong, for we understand why they do it. The story is well crafted and it was easy to read. The writing style is simple and engaging. This a little gem of a book and I am willing to read more books by this author.
I love a good romance but find it hard to find one. There are so many romance novelists who wind up being tedious, most of them are too fluffy and the story feels like flat soda. This one was full bodied and it barely even felt like a romance, it was more like a slice of life story. The best kind in my opinion.