Here in 2020 we are in a bit of a historical moment, you might say.
Okay, yes we would all say that. Being confined to our homes (although some schools and businesses are slowly opening now), the fear of COVID-19, gathering limits … yes, I’d say it’s historic and—I don’t know about you but—I’m ready for it to be over.
Well, in the early 1870’s there was a rather historic moment in Chicago. A fire that, according to Jocelyn Green’s author notes, took 300 lives, 17,000 buildings and left 100,000 people without homes. As Green also noted, the monetary property damage to this area in Chicago was $192,000,000.00—in modern day, that would be about $3,692,307,692. Yikes!
And what an amazing backdrop for a story. The story of sisters Meg and Sylvie, and their father who suffered from soldiers heart. Basically, PTSD as a result of the Civil War.
The Flames Took So Much.
She Can’t Lose Her Father As Well.
Meg Townsend and her sister, Sylvie, seek a quiet existence managing the family bookshop. Meg feels responsible for caring for their father, Stephen, whose spirit and health are both damaged from his time as a prisoner during the Civil War. Her one escape is the paintings she creates and sells in the bookshop.
Then the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago’s business district. The fiery explosions and chaos stir up memories of war for Stephen as he runs from the blaze and becomes separated from his daughters. Days later, when the smoke has cleared, Meg and Sylvie manage to reunite with him. Their home and shop are lost, and what’s left among the ashes may be even more threatening than the flames, for they learn that a close friend was murdered the night of the fire—and Stephen has been charged with the crime. After he is committed to the Cook County Insane Asylum, where they cannot visit him, Stephen feels as lost to them as the shop that now lies in rubble.
Though homeless and suddenly unemployed, Meg must not only gather the pieces of her shattered life but prove the truth of what happened that night, before the asylum truly drives her father mad.
“Christy Award-winner Green sets this tumultuous, affecting tale against the backdrop of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. . . . Green engagingly weaves subtle faith elements into the mystery and romance. Fans of Lisa Wingate will enjoy this.”–Publishers Weekly
“History, mystery, romance, and faith combine in the first book in the Christy Award-winning Green’s Windy City Saga. Recommend to readers who enjoy Lisa Wingate and Elizabeth Camden.”–Booklist
“With strong supporting characters and historical facts woven throughout, Veiled in Smoke makes for a great read.”–BookPage
Now, onto my review. I’ll try to hold back from spoilers … really.
This wasn’t necessarily an easy read. A good read, but not easy.
I could see how these fictional characters could very well exist, in their broken state, physically and mentally for some.
My heart broke for Meg as she incurred a horrible injury that would forever impact her life and her art. I’ll allow you to find out for yourself what that injury was, but I will say that Jocelyn Green brought her characters and their injuries—inside and out—to life. You can really tell the extensive research Green puts into her work. And you read about it in her author’s notes (I believe I have mentioned that I am an author’s note junkie). I learned so much, right after enjoying this beautiful yet tragic story of family restoration. Of a family that wouldn’t give up on one another.
The fire in Chicago set the story up, but it’s the characters that won me over in this story.
All right, everything I try to type now contains a spoiler.
So I’ll sum it up. This story is as beautiful as the cover (and it is quite beautiful, isn’t it), you will love these characters and will cheer for Meg as jumps hurdle after hurdle … and even opens her heart for a man who is ready to protect it at any cost.
You will be moved with compassion for any soldier who suffers with PTSD. Jocelyn, the way you painted that asylum … well, I’m still reeling from it. It reminds me of some things I saw in a prison museum last summer here in Kingston. Appalling. Degrading. Dehumanizing.
But Stephen wouldn’t give up. I loved reading about his desperation as he cried out to God for his rescue.
I found the beginning a bit slow (for me), but it really picks up.
PS – I’m still astounded about that journalist making up the story about Mrs. O’Learly and her cow setting the fire. I can’t believe it took over a hundred years to clear her name!
About the Author
Jocelyn Green inspires faith and courage as the award-winning and bestselling author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books, including The Mark of the King; Wedded to War; and The 5 Love Languages Military Edition, which she coauthored with bestselling author Dr. Gary Chapman. Her books have garnered starred reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly, and have been honored with the Christy Award, the gold medal from the Military Writers Society of America, and the Golden Scroll Award from the Advanced Writers & Speakers Association. She graduated from Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, with a B.A. in English, concentration in writing. She loves Mexican food, Broadway musicals, pie, the color red, and reading with a cup of tea. Jocelyn lives with her husband Rob and two children in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Visit her at www.jocelyngreen.com.