Sarah Cummings, parlor maid for the wealthy Banning Family, has aspirations that go beyond her current circumstances. When she stumbles upon the perfect opportunity, Sarah invents the persona of Serena Cuthbert, a young, wealthy socialite. Soon she is swept into the world of Chicago’s elite.
But living two conflicting lives soon starts to take its toll on Sarah. Her work as a maid and with the orphanage where she grew up keeps her busy enough. Now she spends any free time that she has working on making her employer’s cast-off gowns into things suitable for Serena and her privileged life. In addition, as determined as Serena is to get a proposal from the wealthy and influential Bradley Townsend, the more time Sarah spends working with Simon Tewell at the orphanage, the more she comes to respect him and his compassion.
Before long, Sarah is in over her head. When tough times come and the ruse seems to be up, will Sarah choose the life she has invented or the one she has been given?
The Invention of Sarah Cummings is the third book in the Avenue of Dreams series by Olivia Newport.
Sarah Cummings was a character in the previous novel in this series (The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow) who I was not fond of at all. So I was interested to see what she was to be like in this novel that was all about her.
To begin, I was interested in how Sarah ‘invented’ the persona of Serena and how she went about trying to handle everything with that. Although I wasn’t able to completely relate to Sarah’s desire to be a part of Chicago’s elite, I could still understand where she was coming from. I’m sure everyone at some point thinks that if they just had more money or more success or more whatever that they would then be able to be happy. The part of the novel that related to Sarah juggling her two lives was very interesting and entertaining. I was nervous right along with her when she would come close to being found out. I also once again enjoyed the upstairs/downstairs aspect of this novel and those characters, such as Lucy, who would bend the rules when it came to the separation that existed between the two classes.
The romance in this novel, however, was a bit of a puzzle. Part of the story is told from the point of view of Simon Tewell, the orphanage director, but I didn’t fully understand that he was to be the other love interest (along with Bradley Townsend, who was interested in Serena) until I was well into the book. In fact, his interest in Sarah at the beginning of the book felt rather creepy to me. I just didn’t know enough about him, and his interest in Sarah seemed odd and seemed to come out of nowhere.
Politics and financial issues of the early 1890s in Chicago come up several times in this novel as well as the presidential election between William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan. While this time period was certainly a turning point for industry and for the economic climate in this country, I wasn’t really as interested in that as a backdrop for this novel as I was for the World’s Fair in the previous novels. I tend to zone out when people start talking about politics and economics, so that part of the novel didn’t really hold my attention. I’m sure, though, that those who are interested in those subjects would find it a nice addition to this story.
This novel is a nice, light story, but it doesn’t go much farther than that. It is extremely light when it comes to the spiritual aspect and any sort of growth in the characters. Any growth that did take place was not related to the characters admitting their need for Christ as their Savior as much as just recognizing that God loves them just the way they are. Yes, God does love us, and Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Sarah did seem to take this first step of faith – recognizing that God loves her – but Christ was not mentioned as having a place at all in this change. It just didn’t seem to go far enough spiritually, and the every aspect of the story felt very rushed at the end.
Even though the spiritual side was lacking, the upstairs/downstairs facet and how Sarah is able to bridge both worlds for a time was still an interesting plot for a novel set in this time and place.
I will give The Invention of Sarah Cummings … 3 BookWorms.
The Invention of Sarah Cummings
by Olivia Newport
Avenue of Dreams #3
Publication date: September 15, 2013
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."