Thursday, December 19, 2013

Into the Whirlwind by Elizabeth Camden

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: December 13, 2013

After her father's death, Mollie Knox takes over his watchmaking company and uses her head for business to solidify the good name of the 57th Illinois Watch Company. Her future looks bright until the night her beloved city is destroyed in the legendary Great Chicago Fire. With her world crumbling around her, Molly must do whatever it takes to save her company in the aftermath of the devastating fire. Zack Kazmarek is an influential attorney with powerful ties to the political, mercantile, and ethnic roots of Chicago. His only weakness is Mollie Knox, a woman who has always been just beyond his reach. However, all bets are off after the fire destroys Chicago, and Mollie is in desperate need of assistance. Just as Zack finally begins to pursue the woman he loves, competition arises in the form of a hero from her past who can provide the help she needs to rise from the ashes. While Mollie struggles to rebuild, the two men battle for her heart. One has always loved her, but the other has the power to save her. In the race to rebuild the city, can she survive with her business and her heart intact?

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I've of two minds when it comes to Elizabeth Camden's Into the Whirlwind. On one hand, I like the period and the historic details that were worked into the plot, but on the other, I think the romance between Molly and Zach was too straightforward, predictable and repetitive.

The Great Chicago Fire takes place early on and while I don't feel Camden offered a comprehensive glimpse of the damage wrought by the flames of 1871, she did create an interesting and dynamic portrait of the massive reconstruction effort that followed. By this I mean the reader witnesses the metamorphosis of the city on a variety of levels. Mollie is forced not only to rebuild, but to reimagine her business model in order to keep her father's company afloat and Zach ultimately utilizes his legal expertise and firsthand knowledge to affect bureaucratic reform in the wake of the disaster. Their story plays out among both the upper and lower classes and combined, affords Camden’s audience a very well-rounded view the transition and reinvention that takes place after such a large scale tragedy. 

Unfortunately, I felt the strength of that message was undermined by the romantic elements of the piece. Excuse my impertinence, but the relationship between Mollie and Zach is routinely compromised by their tendency to jump to conclusions and act before seeking explanation. Camden dances circles round miscommunications in an attempt to fabricate intrigue, but I personally felt the repetition annoyingly redundant. I also wasn't impressed with the late addition of Colonel Lowe who in my eyes, never seemed a legitimate rival for Mollie's affections. 

A sweet if somewhat fluffy tale, Into the Whirlwind was a nice break from the hard hitting historicals I've buried myself in of late. A nice beach read, but in the end, lacked the drama promised in the jacket description. 

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In all the years she had known the impeccable Zack Kazmarek, there had never been a hint of a pulse beneath his tailored suits and starched collars, but now he looked at her with desperation in his eyes. He grasped her arms as though he couldn’t bear to let her go and it made her think... well, it looked as if he actually cared about her. Which was impossible... they barely knew each other.
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