Thursday, June 2, 2016
'From this Moment' by Elizabeth Camden
Genre: Christian historical fiction
Romulus White has tried for years to hire illustrator Stella West for his renowned scientific magazine. She is the missing piece he needs to propel his magazine to the forefront of the industry.
But Stella abruptly quit the art world and moved to Boston with a single purpose: to solve the mysterious death of her beloved sister. Romulus, a man with connections to high society and every important power circle in the city, could be her most valuable ally.
Sparks fly the instant Stella and Romulus join forces, and Romulus soon realizes the strong-willed and charismatic Stella could disrupt his hard-won independence. Can they continue to help each other when their efforts draw the wrong kind of attention from the powers-that-be and put all they've worked for at risk?
Wow, it's a romance and murder mystery rolled in one, all with a cool Steampunk sort of feeling. The story takes place in late nineteenth century Boston while their underground subway system is being built, which adds to the impression of constant movement.
Having read Summer of Dreams, the prequel, I was pleased (and not surprised) to see that Romulus would be the hero. No longer the restless college student, he is now the publisher of a well-known science magazine. But he's still just as quirky and flamboyant. And the inferiority complex he hides still ripples under the surface. If he lived in my time and place, he'd surely throw himself into the hipster movement.
Romulus and his cousin Evelyn each own half the magazine. He's anxious to acquire a renowned nature artist named Stella West as a member of their staff, certain that her talent will boost their profile even more. But as he sets out to meet her, he has no idea that Stella's real reason for being in the city is to prove that her sister was murdered, and track down her killer.
Stella is a great, gutsy character who's playing with fire. She knows her sister, Gwendolyn, probably met up with foul play while she was trying to expose some corruption in City Hall, yet she's still game to dig around in the same places in her search for justice. Since Stella and Romulus both have such strong personal agendas, they are not above using each other to get what they want. They are both aware of this, but the attraction still blooms, even at times when they wish they'd never crossed each others' paths.
The plot thread with Evelyn and Clyde puzzled me a bit at first. They ended on such a strong note in Summer of Dreams, I was trying to figure out a catalyst for their marriage breakdown. It gradually comes out in a credible picture, given what we know of their personalities, and we discover the story hasn't finished with them yet.
As for the 'Scientific World' partnership, it's hinted that both cousins are grasping the success of the magazine very tightly. It bolsters Romulus' fragile ego, and satisfies Evelyn's demanding sense of order and purpose when nothing else seems to work, including her marriage. Knowing all this, I was just waiting for that foundation to crumble. Still, the way it happens comes as a bit of a shock.
One fun way of boosting the profiles of characters is historical name dropping. For example, Clyde worked for a time with Thomas Edison, and Stella was given a William Morris scarf by the artist himself. Since these celebrities lived so long ago, their brushes with these fictional characters cannot be refuted and it's easy to nod and go along with it. In other ways, the story has a real up to date feeling. For example, Riley McGraff, the arrogant private investigator, keeps insulting Stella, who hired him. I was half expecting him to pull out some blonde jokes, but that would have been going too far.
In many ways, this is my favourite Elizabeth Camden novel so far. There's just so much in it. My main point stealer is that she didn't really convince me that Romulus and Stella's relationship will go the distance. By the end of this story, he's still moody and easy to distract, she's still gloomy and disappointed in his behaviour, and they're both still second guessing each other. I'd like to think it will last, but I just don't get a feeling that it's very strong. Still, you never know what will happen.
Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for my review copy.