I fell in love with Anna Godbersen’s Luxe Series when I was in middle and high school, so when I found out When We Caught Fire was releasing this October, I knew I had to get it. This book is the beginning of reading books for my grad class on YA literature as well and fills the prompt: student choice with a copyright of of 2017, 18, or 19. We have to read a historical fiction book later on as well, but I didn’t want to put this book off any longer! I read the first chapter before starting my Christmas travels and then set down and read the other 350 pages in one day, if that tells you anything.
Set against the backdrop of the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, When We Caught Fire is a historical romance with a love triangle, an impending wedding, a lot of talk about “society” and a great ominous foreboding sense about the whole thing. Emmeline Carter, a former nobody who is new money, is set to wed old money, very to-do Freddy Tree on Sunday, but before she can do that, she needs to say goodbye to her childhood love, Anders. So she sends her lady’s maid and childhood best friend Fiona to fetch him. Fiona finds him in a boxing ring, fighting for his life and ultimately on the wrong side of gambler’s luck, and so begins a chain of events that will leave everyone in danger and the city on fire. Emmeline and Anders instantly reconnect, but at what cost to themselves, and to Fiona, who has never truly been honest with herself about what she wants. There’s gambling debts, maid drama, an overbearing father, fancy dresses, society dames, and a few fires along the way, but will Emmeline go through with the wedding? Who will end up with Anders? And how did that fire get started, if not via cow?
I used to love historical fiction, but now I realize I just loved Godbersen’s historical fiction. Her Luxe series was spectacular, full of drama and intrigue and fancy dresses without relying on royalty tropes. She makes you feel like you’re there, in that time, without getting clogged up in olde timey language and objects you need a glossary to understand. The pacing of this book was great, kept you wondering what was going to happen next. The juxtaposition between Fiona and Emmeline chapters was well done and I liked the little asides we got into the lives of others, like maid Georgie and firefighter Gabriel, though I do wish they’d had their own chapter sections to make it a little more cohesive throughout. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and might just reread the Luxe series in 2019 if I finish my coursework early!