Today I’m featuring one of my favorite kinds of stories: one filled with true history! While the characters and plot are fiction, Veiled in Smoke by Jocelyn Green features so many accurate historical details of Chicago and life in the 1870s in the shadow of the Civil War. If you want to take a trip back in time, pick up this book…
Meg and Sylvie Townsend manage the family bookshop and care for their father, Stephen, a veteran still suffering in mind and spirit from his time as a POW during the Civil War. But when the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago’s business district, they lose much more than just their store.
The sisters become separated from their father, and after Meg burns her hands in an attempt to save a family heirloom, they make a harrowing escape from the flames with the help of Chicago Tribune reporter Nate Pierce. Once the smoke clears away, they reunite with Stephen, only to learn soon after that their family friend not only died during the fire–he was murdered. Even more shocking, Stephen is charged with the crime and committed to the Cook County Insane Asylum.
Though homeless, injured, and suddenly unemployed, Meg must not only gather the pieces of her shattered life, but prove her father’s innocence before the asylum truly drives him mad.
Veiled in Smoke is a richly detailed story of sisters, family, love, and trust. Set during a fascinating time — featuring the Great Fire of Chicago in 1871 and the reconstruction period after the Civil War — it features a city and a family making sense of their lives in the aftermath of loss and destruction.
The many complexities of this novel are revealed at a steady pace along with the development and growth of characters. Meg, Sylvie, Nate, and Stephen share chapter points-of-view and convey the tension and emotions of events well – especially during the fire evacuation. From the dynamic of sisters to a love of literature, the trauma and aftermath of Andersonville prison, a couple new friendships and hints of romance, the way all of these elements work together is a feat in itself. This combined with a subtle mystery and suspense thread makes for a wonderful work of historical fiction.
A slight romantic element is there, too. While it is slowly explored from roots of friendship between the characters, it feels organic to the setting. Now I can talk about Nate! He is SUCH a likable gentleman. His character really shines a light on the theme of sharing everyday life with loved ones, with all its burdens and joys.
Author Jocelyn Green depicts history in a relatable way that always shines a light on unique or lesser-known aspects of the world. In a sense, this gives the past a voice, even in fiction. I’ve enjoyed each and every novel of hers I’ve read (3 to go!). Veiled in Smoke is just as enthralling and enjoyable. Its themes of second chances, trust in God’s unchanging nature, and the strength of love come to life along with the bustling city of Chicago as a backdrop. I am looking forward to the next book in this series — especially catching up with these characters and their bookstore!
Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.