Thursday, October 11, 2018

When We Caught Fire by Anna Godbersen

When We Caught Fire by Anna Godbersen
Release Date - October 2, 2018
Publisher Website - Harper Collins Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Pages -  384 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received from the publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
It’s 1871 and Emmeline Carter is poised to take Chicago’s high society by storm. Between her father’s sudden rise to wealth, and her recent engagement to Chicago’s most eligible bachelor, Emmeline has it all. But she can’t stop thinking about the life she left behind, including her childhood sweetheart, Anders Magnuson. Fiona Byrne, Emmeline’s childhood best friend, is delighted by her friend’s sudden rise to prominence, especially since it means Fiona is free to pursue Anders herself. But when Emmeline risks everything for one final fling with Anders, Fiona feels completely betrayed.

As the summer turns to fall, the city is at a tipping point: friendships are tested, hearts are broken, and the tiniest spark might set everything ablaze. Sweeping, soapy, and romantic, this is a story about an epic love triangle—one that will literally set the city ablaze, and change the lives of three childhood friends forever. 
As someone who loves a book with a good love triangle I was immediately intrigued by the idea of a love triangle that literally burns down a city. When We Caught Fire pairs friendship, romance and betrayal with the great fire of Chicago. It’s a  character driven story that is both hopeful, and heartbreaking. It also happens to be a perfect read for those looking for a well done love triangle.

This novel is more of a character driven on than plot driven, at least until the final few chapters. The characters are put into place to set up that final dizzying act of the story where everything is rapidly escalating. This style ensures that we are invested in the characters at this point so any peril they find themselves in resonates with the reader.

I enjoyed the historical elements of this book quite a bit. The scenes in which the fire is ravaging the city seem to be especially well researched. The order in which things burned and how the people of the city reacted seem to be painted with an accuracy that comes from attention to detail. The end scenes where the fire is destroying everything in its path are tinged with urgency, a bit of excitement, and a lot of sadness. The resilience of the city is also highlighted as we see how the people of the city came together because of what was transpiring.

Emmeline, who is from a newly rich family, is adjusting to her new life. A life that has almost everything she has ever wanted. She has an admirable finance, and is making a place for herself with most influential members of society. It's something she has wanted for a long time and something that beckons to her. She just cannot let go of her past which includes a boxer from the wrong side of town named Anders.  Fiona, Emmeline's best friend (and employee), has her own crush on Anders which complicates things even more. These three characters are believable as friends. That foundation is something that feels solid, particularly between the two girls. They also feel believable as potentially something more. Both ladies have chemistry with Anders. The connections being built feel natural because of the foundation that is set up.

The triangle itself is well woven. Each relationship is given its chance to shine and progress. I dislike when a triangle is ended by the author taking the easy way out. I don't feel that triangles should be decided because of a death of one of the characters, or any similar means of making one of the possibilities unavailable or unsuitable. A decision should be made at some point. It should be clear and decisive and this book offers that. You can have the other elements come into play after, but a good triangle allows the characters to make an actual decision. The person being 'chosen' (for lack of a better word) should not feel like the default option in a successful love triangle.

The friendship between Emmeline and Fiona is a larger part of the narrative than I anticipated. It is also much stronger than I expected. This friendship is something entirely separate from their relationship with Anders and that makes all of the difference. I like that this friendship adds another complexity to the triangle while still not sacrificing the bond between the two girls. It doesn't turn into some backstabbing girl fight even though it could. Jealousy creeps in but in a way that didn't feel overwrought and still allowed them to be something outside of the boy they both cared for.

I don't want to give anything away when it comes to the romance so all I will say is that it eventually becomes very clear who should be together and it does become a very sweet love story that is set against the backdrop of this devastating fire. I, personally, feel that once you know the outcome it is the only outcome that could happen but I predict there will be people who wanted the opposite to happen. The two relationships both have good qualities, but one just sparked a little more for me than the other.

If you are a fan of both love triangles and historical novels I recommend picking this one up. It’s a look at both the bond of friendship, the thrill of romance, and the ways in which feelings can ignite both literal and metaphorical fires.

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