STORY: Like his ancestors before him, Cullen McNamara is a farmer. Or this is what he tells himself. His father doesn’t want this life for his son. Taking out a loan, he arranges for his son to attend the world’s fair in Chicago, something Cullen balks at. He knows where he belongs and it certainly isn’t on some Chicago street. Then he meets Della. On the verge of losing his hearing, Cullen is desperate. He doesn’t know how he’ll function once that happens so he takes lip-reading lessons. Della is a teacher for the deaf who reluctantly agrees to give the man who rescued her lessons in exchange for him being Della’s escort at the fair exhibitions. Before either of them realize what all the time together may mean, Cullen finds his thoughts constantly shifting to his pretty teacher and Della begins to anticipate the nights she spends with Cullen.
It Happened at the Fair, by DeAnne Gist | Book Review
I’ve underestimated Deeanne Gist. There I’ve gone and said it. Way back when, I read her debut novel and my younger self did like it, however ever since then, it was never enough to visit one of her subsequent novels. How delightful it was to be a part of a tour promoting her latest. Gosh, golly, this book is interesting. The story is actually a unique one. Then there’s the quirks of both protagonists’. Something else I notice approximately halfway through is how the prose uses the characters as “background” rather than the setting. There is a turning point in which I feel as if finally the characters do come into their own – as if, finally, they fully bloom.
BOOK REVIEW | ‘Duchess’: A Historical Romance Set in the 1930s‘IT HAPPENED AT THE FAIR,’ BY DEANNE GIST #FWarchives #BookReviews #Historical Fiction Click To Tweet
Certainly one of the best things about this story is how Deanne teases her reader’s without revealing everything too early. We are aware that the protagonists must be more than a name and narrative but must follow the subtle hints; she ignites and enchants our senses with a rad setting and in the last pages, a tender, beautiful example of all-consuming love. Common sense says there is a reason behind Cullen’s brilliant mind, yet there is little chatter or reasons why for multiple chapters. Also interest is that readers don’t even meet Della until a handful of chapters in and even then, Cullen overpowers their banter. Because of their peculiarities not in spite of, these two are endearing and special.
Although she takes some liberties, this book is richly drawn in history and takes none for granted. Gist pays homage to an important event, weaving into the “fabric” of the story some unexpected (and sad!) dramatics as well as a leading couple easy to root for. At the beginning of the book, to add a visual touch, there’s also some real photos which adds some fun as does the sassy cover art with its gorgeous, soothing hues.
What I Don’t Like
Fans of character-driven novels will find weaknesses (albeit of an inconsequential fashion). The fair takes precedence over everything. If there would be one glaring mistake, it’d be what comes between Della and Cullen. This isn’t really a criticism of the book considering most stories have this same “type” of motivator to create a last-minute will-they-or-won’t-they scenario.
Early on in the book, words miss letters in sentence conversations which is for the benefit of Cullen’s hearing loss. It was more a distraction than anything.
Between a literal picture and the deft talent of Deeanne Gist, ‘Fair’ is a must-read for any historical fiction lover. Perhaps the romance doesn’t blossom the same as some of its counter-parts, no matter, the writing and setting far outweigh any minor (really minor!) flaws this reader may have found.
About the Book:
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With thanks to Litfuse and the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purpose.