Beyond All Dreams
By Elizabeth Camden
Bethany House, 2015
Anna O'Brien leads a predictable and quiet life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across the baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. Thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.
Luke Callahan was one of the nation's most powerful congressmen before his promising career was shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by the winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship. Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglements with members of Congress.
From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?
Luke wore tourmaline cuff links from his family's mine
There's just something special about an Elizabeth Camden novel because of the way she combines setting, historical detail, lyrical writing, and rich characterization into a highly entertaining read. I enjoyed every minute spent reading Beyond All Dreams and Elizabeth's novels are a "must read" for me.
One thing I particularly like is that Elizabeth draws from events that wouldn't necessarily be found on the front page of newspapers. Beyond All Dreams is set around the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., 1897-1898, and is loosely based on the true account of an American ship that disappeared in the Caribbean in 1873. Elizabeth did a wonderful job fleshing out a fascinating period of history with lively characters and storytelling. In her questioning of the Navy's record of her father's death, Anna discovered that she had "turned over a rock and exposed something that wanted to remain safely hidden in darkness."
Another of this story's strength is characterization, for Anna and Luke are an unlikely pairing and quite memorable. Luke was an outspoken critic of the library that was so important to her. If you're reading this review, you probably love books - and let me say that the Library of Congress is a wonderful setting for book lovers! Anna was a cartographer's daughter and map librarian, and it was so easy to identify with the way she cared for books and desired to help others unlock the mysteries inside them. And they were exact opposites on the surface - Luke was outgoing and confident, while Anna was quiet and reserved - yet their backgrounds forced both to deal with feelings of abandonment in an uncertain world.
Library of Congress building & reading room
With his family back in Bangor, Maine, their tourmaline mine, and struggles with alcoholism, Luke is almost a larger-than-life character - brash, overconfident, realistically flawed, and not always likeable. But as his background unfolds, I found him to be a sympathetic character, whose deepest fear was mirroring his father's uncontrollable rage, and I was easily drawn to him. This description of Luke's family says it all: "There was a dangerous beauty to his family. The Callahans were like comets streaking through the sky, burning brightly with a passion that lit the night, but destined to flame out quickly, leaving a cold path of destruction behind."
The romance between Luke and Anna was great - lots of time together, strong chemistry, as you might expect, yet tender and sweet. I love these quotes that vividly contrast their feelings: Luke to Anna, "I was like an unlit match, and then suddenly you were there and everything flared to life. Nothing's been the same since" . . . and "If Anna had to imagine what the inner rings of Dante's Inferno looked like, it would be life as a politician's wife."
The overarching spiritual theme is one of letting go of anger to forgive those who have greatly wronged us, for anger held tightly only poisons the one holding it. "There's no statute of limitations on extending forgiveness," Anna tells Luke. And that's something to which most of us can relate.
I enjoyed Beyond All Dreams so very much and highly recommend it. You can also see my review of one of Elizabeth's previous books, Into the Whirlwind, by clicking on the title.
Elizabeth Camden is the award-winning author of four books, including Against the Tide (2012), winner of a RITA Award, Christy Award, and Daphne du Maurier Award. With a master's in history and a master's in library science, she is a research librarian by day and scribbles away on her next novel by night. Elizabeth lives with her husband in Florida.
Connect with Elizabeth online at elizabethcamden.com and Facebook. You can also visit the Litfuse Blog Tour page for more information.
Thank you to Litfuse Publicity and Bethany House for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Posted on Mary Hill's Literacy Musing Mondays