Friday, April 09, 2010
Siri Mitchell's She Walks in Beauty ~ Reviewed
She Walks in Beauty
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Bethany House; Original edition (April 1, 2010)
For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage, 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 soon 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 marriage at stake--the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.
If you would like to read the first chapter of She Walks in Beauty, go HERE.
“Why do we have to pretend to be people that we aren’t? Why do we have to be thinner than we are, and happier than we feel, and know the uses of dozens of kinds of spoons when usually just one will do?”
Clara Carter was quite brilliant to ask so many intelligent questions! Although the society she was born to frowned upon women who attempted to learn anything at all beyond the required social graces, Clara was blessed with the fortitude not only to learn, but to continually question everything. The answers that eventually reveal themselves are both shocking and heart-breaking!
From the moment her aunt tightly laced her into her first corset and began to teach her to talk about nothing in particular, Clara felt the falsehoods of proper society deeply. Clara’s father and aunt acted with unnatural determination to ensure that her debut in society coincided with the heir of De Vries’s return from abroad. For you see, the pursuit of a spouse among properly suited society was painfully purposeful and included the act of cutting – literally and completely snubbing someone. Both Clara and her best friend Lizzie are set upon a collision course in an effort to become engaged to the heir of the DeVries fortune. Eventually, one of the two would be cut from the race!
She Walks In Beauty carried my heart and mind into the very depths of the Gilded Age. New York’s upper class in the late 1800’s was as opulent and ostentatious as the imagination was able to reach. Young women were molded and poured into a set of social graces as rigid and unforgiving as the corsets they wore beneath their gowns, and the results were often just as deadly! Clara’s situation was particularly heart-breaking, because her mother had died at a young age, and her father paid her little attention. When the decision was reached that Clara would debut a year early, her aunt fired her governess and truest confidante. The moment Clara lit into her aunt over this rash decision I knew that there was much more to her character than even she realized!
And oh! How I praised God for Harry De Vries! And his sister Katherine! Harry may have been the younger of the two brothers, but he had more character in his pinky finger than old Franklin had in his entire body!!
All in all, every detail of this social setting is carefully designed and cleverly paces so the reader’s anxiety reaches “hysterical” levels as the story nears its end. On page 341 Clara’s thoughts finally become crystal clear and these thoughts come to mind: “Just in case, I whispered a prayer. I prayed that if God truly cared for me, just as I was, that He would make a path for me. Because there would be no undoing what I was about to do.”
Praise God, He answers prayer! The last chapters of this book will leave you breathless! You cannot imagine where God’s hand moves in the lives of these characters! After all of the pompous, self-centered depravity of New York’s society pours its filth upon Clara Carter, she discovers the truth behind these wise words: “I must insist that you matter to Him much more than you seem to realize.” (p. 159)
Reader, this review has waxed too long, but I want to make sure you understand the full scope of Siri Mitchell’s She Walks in Beauty! There are moments that will make you laugh out loud (the visit with the mortician’s wife!), and there are moments that will make you weep. You will shake your head in wonder that two seventeen-year-old girls would be thrust into such extreme social settings. You will also feel like shouting in glorious praise when these same young women blossom into ladies who reflect all that is truly precious in the human heart. She Walks In Beauty is most excellent!! I cannot recommend this novel highly enough!!
Reviewed by: Kim Ford
Siri Mitchell's historicals have been some of my favorite books. She Walks In Beauty is not an exception.
With poignancy, grace and beautiful prose, Mitchell, takes the reader back to the late 1800's. In a time when women had few choices and society had many expectations, Mitchell introduces us to Clara Carter, a young lady who must debut and must catch the most eligible and desirable bachelor in the city.
The story is full of rich details of the gloss and glitter of the affluent and powerful and stark glimpses of what lies beneath the glitz.
If you love historicals or Siri Mitchell, run , don't walk, to a bookseller.
Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer
Siri Mitchell is one of my favourite writers of contemporary romance and and her recent foray into historical fiction has been equally impressive. She Walks in Beauty is her third stand alone historical romance that highlights an element of fashion women felt bound to pursue. In an effort to ensure a marriage to the eligible de Vries heir, Clara Carter's father and aunt chart a course for young Clara which includes corsets, the latest fashion, etiquette training and exacting social behaviours. While Clara deplores the preening and parties, her loyalty and devotion to her family sees her acquiescing to the standards set by her aunt. Siri has created a wonderful character in Clara, a young woman struggling to understand the strictures of her society yet eager to do right by her family. Extremely well researched with fascinating details of corsetry and societal expectations, a gorgeous romance and enthralling plot, She Walks in Beauty is a beautiful story that highlights Siri's consummate talent. Simply brilliant!
Reviewed by: Rel Mollet
In the past, you may have read my opinions of Siri Mitchell and seen that I enjoy the writing, but that the story was imperceptibly depressing. I was shocked and appauled with the lack of soul in Constant Heart, A yet the historical elements were incredible and the writing so true. It was in reading Love's Pursuit that each page was not able to turn fast enough and I was truly stumped until the end but still taken aback and frustrated with the circumstances and sadness of the situation. Yet She Walks in Beauty is a delight, a breath of fresh air, and quite the heart titillating beat within a prose of words met by the ear as poetry.
I loved this novel. Each page was another treasure. Every time I had to leave the novel and come back to the story it was as if I were returning to a friend. In years passed I have always wanted to read a tale about the Golden Age in New York City and this novel was not one to disappoint. Yes it had the historical details and some harsh facts which I have come to know Siri's books for. Yet this one has a heart and a soul with tons of personality that laced through the pages and made the next chapter more than just a little something worth coming back for.
Clara Carter is a debutante, and this is her story. It is a suspense, it is a hard life and facts historical, it is a romance, and it is a tragedy. I highly recommend it.
Reviewed by: Margaret Chind