Friday, September 17, 2010
Book Review: Faithful, by Janet Fox (Speak, 2010)
When we first meet sixteen-year old Maggie Bennett in this engrossing historical romance, she seems like your typical upper-class young lady in 1904 Newport, Rhode Island, concerned only with her debutante ball, beautiful gowns, gossiping, and handsome young men. But her mother's mental illness and subsequent disappearance have made Newport society question Maggie's propriety as well. Having a "really fine debut, with everything done exactly right," will make them accept her, Maggie believes.
But an extravagant debut is not in the cards for Maggie. Instead, her father takes her on a trip out West to Yellowstone, where he finally admits that he has lost their family fortune and that they will not be returning to the lavish life she has always known in Newport society. Shocked by what she sees as her father's betrayal, Maggie no longer is sure of her place in the world. Despite her despair at her reduced circumstances, she nonetheless finds herself drawn to the raw beauty of Yellowstone, a place her mother visited years before, and to a handsome young man, Tom Rowland, the son of a park geologist. At Yellowstone, can Maggie solve the mystery of her mother's disappearance and figure out her own path?
In her first novel, Janet Fox combines a hefty dose of romance with mystery and suspense. She is particularly impressive at capturing the strange and spectacular landscape of Yellowstone, the world's first national park, as well as the sights, sounds, and even smells of the area; in fact, the book definitely increased my own desire to take a trip to experience this natural wonder for myself. The author is well-acquainted with the area, having had a family home in Montana for over 20 years, and her own background in geology provides her with an expert's eye in describing the Yellowstone landscape. The character of Maggie is particularly well-drawn, and changes and grows throughout the book, developing her own independent spirit. Some of the secondary characters, particularly Maggie's odious, self-assured and wealthy suitor, Graybull, seemed more like stock characters in a romance.
This book is likely to appeal to teen readers who enjoy historical romances such as Eva Ibbotson's teen novel A Countess Below Stairs. While there is plenty of romance, the characters do not progress beyond a kiss, and therefore the novel is a particularly good choice to recommend to readers who are looking for "clean" teen novels.
In addition to writing her own books, Janet Fox also blogs about kids books at Through the Wardrobe. Watch for her next novel, to be released in 2011, which will be set in 1906 Yellowstone and San Francisco.