Violet Hayes has just recently found out that her father has deceived her all her life by telling her that her biological mother was dead. When he tells her that she is still alive yet divorced from him, she makes it her mission to find her mother-not to mention prevent her father's marriage to a widow whom Violet suspects for murdering her own husband. Through deception and conniving, Violet convinces her father to allow her to travel to Chicago-the supposed location of her mother-in order to stay with her grandmother and three aunts, not to mention attend the Chicago World Fair. But she reaps what she sowed through her deception by getting more than she asked for out of her aunts. She does her best to search for her mother-while her Aunt Agnes isn't constantly trying to marry her off, while her grandmother isn't constantly trying to get her to do mission and church work, while her Aunt Matt isn't constantly trying to convince her than women need to be free to vote and do many other "scandalous" things, while her deranged Aunt Birdie isn't always trying to ask her when her dead husband is returning from fighting the Civil War, and while Violet is trying to ignore the four men competing for her heart and her hand in marriage-all for different reasons. These abnormal encounters away from home force Violet to examine her own life to see if she is really living the way she needs to be living.
Lynn Austin spins a comical yet realistic tale set in the late 1800s around the time of the Chicago World Fair. There is almost too much in the book to contain in a single summary, yet this book is nonetheless entertaining and original at the same time. Through excellent character development and realistic plot development, Lynn vaults this book onto the Elite List-yet falls short of five stars for a single reason.
Violet is shown to the reader through a first-person point of view, the best point of view because it allows the reader to relate to the character and it forces the author to create at least a formidable character. All of Violet's family members-her father, her grandmother, her aunts, even her mother-are good characters with imperfection and personality. Three of Violet's suitors are good characters. Unfortunately, the fourth is the inevitable perfect male lead. Even when Lynn had a chance to make him imperfect, she fabricated an escape, causing him to become and unrealistic character. He is the only problem with the book, along with his situation. Had this aspect been amended, we could have been looking at a five star novel.
Otherwise, there are many good aspects of the plot. Violet's frequent conniving and telling of half-truths gets her into no small share of trouble. There were at least five situations that could have ended perfectly but instead ended realistically or imperfectly. The situation between Violet and Silas, her perfect male lead, is the only problem with the entire book, yet it is a fatal problem because it keeps it from being five stars.
All in all, Lynn Austin is a master at character development except in the area of perfect male leads. But once she works out these minor kinks, she will be a truly good author.