Sunday, September 15, 2013

Book Review: The Invention of Sarah Cummings

The Invention of Sarah Cummings (Avenue of Dreams Series #3)Author: Olivia Newport
Publication Date: September 15, 2013
Publisher: Revell Books
Series: Avenue of Dreams Trilogy # 1

Sarah Cummings has one goal in life--to break into Chicago's high society. Desperate to stop serving dinner and to start eating at society tables, Sarah alters cast-off gowns from the wealthy Banning women to create lustrous, flattering dresses of her own.

On a whim at a chance meeting, she presents herself as Serena Cuthbert, weaving a fictitious past to go with her fictitious name. But as she gets closer to Simon Tewell, the director of St. Andrew's Orphanage, Sarah finds that she must choose between the life she has and the life she dreams of.

Will she sacrifice love to continue her pretense? Or can Simon show her that sometimes you don't have to pretend for dreams to come true?
Olivia Newport brings us back to Prairie Avenue to explore the place where class, social expectations, and romance come together. Readers will enjoy following the intrepid Sarah as she searches for true love in a world of illusions.

Serena Cuthbert, that’s what Sarah wanted – not just for a random, serendipitous evening. Serena Cuthbert did not come from an orphanage dormitory or sleep in a servant’s narrow attic room. She did not cook and serve meals and sweep floors. If she liked a hat, she bought it. If she wanted a gown, she had it made from fresh, unspoiled textiles direct from New York. Sarah’s own father would have been proud of Serena Cuthbert.

But where was Serena Cuthbert going to stash Sarah Cummings?

Sarah felt as if she had stepped into her own skin for the first time, and she was not going back. This was too easy.

Sarah had not been back to the orphanage even one time. Why should she go there? She wanted a future, not reminders of her past. Wasn’t the point to get children out of the orphanage and on their own? Wasn’t that why she had gone into service in the first place? Going back to St. Andrew’s was movement in the wrong direction.

Sarah Cummings is tired of spending her life working for others as a simple housemaid. Sarah has always dreamed of being a part of high society, attending extravagant balls, and being the talk of the town. However, after her parent’s tragic death she was whisked off to an orphanage and never got much of a chance to become anything more than what she is now. After a chance encounter with Lillie Wagner, a real socialite, Sarah invents herself a new persona – Serena Cuthbert – and before she knows it she is strutting about town being seen at all the most popular social affairs. Not only has she finally gotten the life she has always dreamed of, but she is usually in the presence of Mr. Bradley Townsend, Lillie’s handsome friend. Sarah believes she has it all, until she runs into Simon Tewell, the director of her old orphanage. Sarah is immediately drawn to him, but realizes that he cannot give her all that Lillie and Brad can. How will Sarah, or Serena, ever make a decision now?

I very much enjoyed entering the Banning household again, and I think the way that Newport continues this series is phenomenal. They are tied together, yet tell the stories of different, unique, strong, and intelligent women all on different walks in life. Watching Sarah leave the Banning household and try to become something that she is most certainly not brought me much entertainment. I loved watching Sarah transform, and honestly she is my favorite character of the three other women from this series. I have always been most excited to hear her story. I loved watching her blossom outside the Banning household because that was the really the only setting I had gotten to watch her in until now. For some reason this particular storyline never gets old: the hopes of going from rags to riches. Newport fills it out with many moments of added humor and moments where I was holding my breath hoping no one would notice Sarah as the Banning’s maid.

The romance in this book was not quite as heavy as it might have been in some of the others, or as heavy as we often expect it to be. I was glad of this at least because I often think the romance can outweigh the central message in any book. The main focus here was Sarah, and that’s what it should have been. Sarah was quite a complex character to develop and she needed most of the spotlight to herself. I learned quite a lot about Sarah, her passions, and sewing. The last one was a pleasant surprise! While the romance was there, it was just enough, or at least in my opinion!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Revell in exchange for my honest review and can be found at any local book retailer***


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