This review is one of those “I’m just going to write a short comment or two” plans that turned into a full review all about my love for Elizabeth Camden’s stories. Read on for my thoughts on her recent novel Carved in Stone, book one in the new Blackstone Legacy series. (Book 2 coming this spring!)
After years of tragedy, Gwen Kellerman now lives a quiet life as a botanist at an idyllic New York college. She largely ignores her status as heiress to the infamous Blackstone dynasty and hopes to keep her family’s heartbreak and scandal behind her.
Patrick O’Neill survived a hardscrabble youth to become a lawyer for the downtrodden Irish immigrants in his community. He’s proud of his work, even though he struggles to afford his ramshackle law office. All that changes when he accepts a case that is sure to emphasize the Blackstones’ legacy of greed and corruption by resurrecting a thirty-year-old mystery.
Little does Patrick suspect that the Blackstones will launch their most sympathetic family member to derail him. Gwen is tasked with getting Patrick to drop the case, but the old mystery takes a shocking twist neither of them saw coming. Now, as they navigate a burgeoning attraction and growing danger, Patrick and Gwen will be forced to decide if the risk to the life they’ve always held dear is worth the reward.
Carved in Stone is another smart and enthralling historical romance from Elizabeth Camden. Leave it to Camden to take an event I suspected would happen within the story and place it at the 20% mark, then let events unravel in a different way entirely. There’s always something wonderfully unconventional about her books. This time, the romantic pairing has the protagonists from two different classes and worlds (with a bit of a “forbidden” element to it), seemingly opposite, yet united in kind hearts and matched in intelligence.
This story has the fortunate backdrop of New York City near the end of the Gilded Age, with a distinct difference in the opulent and well-off higher classes and the middle-to-lower tenements and conditions. The writing style makes the reading an immersive experience, as the flow of the story meanders through elements of suspense, danger, and fantastic verbal sparring some social-climbing family members.
While I enjoyed many aspects of this story, my favorite part is how Camden often explores subtle gender roles within the era. Her heroines typically must assert equality in some way throughout the story. In this case, Gwen has an arc that sees her mature in subtle ways, making an effort to see beyond her class (and stubbornness) and determining what she really wants out of life. Patrick has the most dynamic growth arc, as he overcomes pride and gains an appreciation for Gwen’s tenacity. This results in an intellectually mature romance and even makes way for an endearing grand gesture or two. 🙂