A Roaring Twenties adventure unfolds in Jennifer Chiaverini's latest bestselling Elm Creek Quilts novel, another in "a series that neatly stitches together social drama and the art of quilting" (Library Journal).I read the last book in this series, Circle of Quilters, months ago. Whilst I normally don't read books in a series immediately one after the other, usually I do get to them within maybe 8 or 9 weeks. With this book I think I have borrowed it from the library at least three times, and just never quite managed to read it!
Newly wed in a festive yet poignant ceremony at Elm Creek Manor, bride Elizabeth Nelson takes leave of her ancestral Pennsylvania home. Setting off with her husband, Henry, on the adventure of a lifetime, Elizabeth packs the couple's trunk with more than the wedding quilts she envisions them dreaming beneath every night of their married lives. They are landowners who hold the deed to Triumph Ranch, 120 acres of prime California soil located in the Arboles Valley, north of Los Angeles.
"Triumph Ranch," says Mae, a traveling companion whom Elizabeth has let in on the promise of the Nelsons' bright future. "That sounds like a sure thing." But in a cruel reversal of fortune, the Nelsons arrive to the news that they've been had, and they are left suddenly, irrevocably penniless.
They are hired as hands at the farm they thought they owned, and Henry struggles mightily with his pride. Yet clever, feisty Elizabeth -- drawing on her share of the Bergstrom women's inherent economy and resilience -- vows to defy fate through sheer force of will. As her life intertwines with Rosa Diaz Barclay, native to the Arboles Valley and a fellow quilter, their blossoming friendship sheds light on many secrets that have kept each of them and their families from their rightful homes.
In the cabin where Henry and Elizabeth are living on Triumph Ranch, Elizabeth discovers quilts belonging to Rosa's mother, and in their exquisite patterns recognizes a misplaced legacy of love, land,and family. But her newfound understanding of the burden of loss that Rosa shares with the mysterious Lars Jorgensen places her in mortal danger. Only by stitching the rift between the past and the future can the inhabitants of Triumph Ranch hope to live in peace alongside history.
Even when I did finally start it, it took me a very long time to start to feel as though I was really invested in the story. I did wonder if that is perhaps because the story felt kind of disconnected from the rest of the books in the series with its different characters, different location. The disconnect was more magnified in my mind, because the one character that holds this whole series together is Sylvia. Even in the earlier historical novels, we spent a little time with her, and then flashed back in time, or the characters were directly connected to her. In this novel, she was mentioned a few times but when the book started she was a four year old cousin to the main character! Now I am not sure that it wasn't just my mood that made me feel this way, because by the end of the book I ended up enjoying it.
The main character is Elizabeth, Sylvia's cousin, who is moving to California to start her new life with her new husband Henry. He has invested all of his savings to purchase a ranch in California's Arboles Valley. Henry views it as a chance to be his own man, but things don't quite work out as they expect when they arrive. We spend time with Elizabeth and Henry as they must learn how to deal with the disappointment that they have experienced, as they readjust their expectations of their new life, as they become involved in the community around them, and as life becomes harder for everyone as the economic climate changes towards the end of the 1920s.
There were a couple of events that were alluded to within the novel, that I didn't think were probably fleshed out, whilst some of the other plot turns were telegraphed a mile away, but for the most part this was an enjoyable read. I was a little concerned by the pollyanna ending, but then again this whole series does have a feel-good vibe to it, so I didn't really expect much differently!