Thursday, April 4, 2013

My Review of It Happened at the Fair

Here's a description of the book from Howard Books:

"A transporting historical novel about a promising young inventor, his struggle with loss, and the attractive teacher who changes his life, all set against the razzle-dazzle of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Gambling everything, including the family farm, Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with his most recent invention. But the noise in the Fair’s Machinery Palace makes it impossible to communicate with potential buyers. In an act of desperation, he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.

The young teacher is reluctant to participate, and Cullen has trouble keeping his mind on his lessons while intently watching her lips. Like the newly invented Ferris Wheel, he is caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor, and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor. Can he keep his feet on the ground, or will he be carried away?"

My Rating


My Review

The setting steals the show in this engaging story about two talented people who meet at the World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago World's Fair, 1893). I really enjoyed the tour of the fair - from the exciting rides to the informative exhibits and eating establishments. And the pictures from the World's Fair in the edition I was provided for review really added a great nostalgic atmosphere to the reading experience. (According to the author's blog, the pictures are only included in the print version - vs. the e-version - and that might only be for the first edition.)

While I absolutely loved the historical setting, the hero and heroine make the story more than just an informational glimpse into the past. Cullen and Della are great characters with intriguing quirks. Cullen is a farmer with allergies who prefers inventing and fixing things, but a past tragedy, devotion to family, and former failures keep him from initially embracing the opportunity he's given to be a part of the fair. Della is a teacher with a heart for the deaf and a fear (planted by her father) of the deceptiveness of men. A girl back home, a debate about how to best help the deaf, and various insecurities make the romance as interesting to follow as the characters' nightly outings at the fair.

The story isn't all fun and games, as there are hardships and catastrophes to face, as well as deeper issues to consider. But all in all, this book is really a treat as sweet as the hot chocolate Della loves so much. I would have liked a bit more of a thrilling ending and a bit less of a superficial look at matters of faith (especially with the emphasis on patriotism), but for a creatively told story, I recommend finding out what happened at the fair.

*With thanks to Howard Books for providing me with an ARC of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Note ~ This book will be released on April 30, 2013.


Joy Tamsin David said...

After all these years, I think Deeanne Gist still holds the title of my favorite CF writer. As soon as I get out of this reading rut I'll be picking up her latest book. Did you read the e-book short?

Amber Holcomb said...


Not too surprising! ;) I've only read three of her books so far, I believe, but I really enjoyed them.

Reading ruts = not fun! Hope you can get out of the one you're in soon! This one is awesome; I think you'll like it! :)

I didn't read the e-book short. From the reviews and the description, it didn't really sound like one to get super excited over, especially since I was getting this novel for review. Did you read it? I'm eager for her future novels! :)


Rissi said...

As always, great informative review, Amber.

'Fair' sounds like a delightful historical. Love the character's names and the fact that they have unique quirks. I'll certainly be excited to read this one (I think I am on a tour - I am losing track! LOL!). Glad you enjoyed it.

As a side note: I think many books are lacking in their ending. The build-up is SO good and then, it's as if at the end, everything just "stops." Or that is what I have been noticing.

Gayle said...

BTW - the publisher decided to go ahead and put pictures in the eBook too, but they are a DIFFERENT set of pictures than is in the print book. So either version you get, you will get pictures.

Charity U said...

Need to read. :) Good review!

Unknown said...

I wanna read this !!! :)

Casey said...

Super excited for this one to hit in my inbox. Joy and I have super similar taste, I'm sure she's as excited as I am. ;)

Amber Holcomb said...


*Blushing* Thank you! :)

This really is a delightful historical! I think Gist did a great job of making these characters unique while still filling the hero and heroine roles for a good romance. :) That's too funny that you don't remember if you're on a tour for the book! I've taken to keeping track of review obligations in a Word document table... So much to try to remember, as I tend to spread myself kind of thin with these sorts of things. ;) Hope you do get to read this one! Have you read any of Gist's other books?

I think you have a good point about endings in general lately. Sadly, I think my first manuscript was lacking a bit in the "exciting ending" department. ;) I'm hoping BH has a little more to offer in that way!


Amber Holcomb said...


Thank you for the update! I was just going off of what I could find on the author's blog. :) Do you mind if I ask where you heard that or how you know? That would definitely be cool for there to be pictures in all formats, as I think they're a great touch!


Amber Holcomb said...


I'd say, "Yes, indeed!" ;) If you enjoy historical romance, this one is a treat! Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by!


Amber Holcomb said...


Aw, I hope you get to! :) I thought it was pretty great!


Amber Holcomb said...


This is a great read to look forward to, especially as summer approaches! (Even though our county fairs are on a WAY smaller scale, it still makes me excited for those summer festivities, LOL!) I'm sure you and Joy will enjoy this one. :) Hope you get it soon!


Rissi said...

Yes, I've read a couple of Gist's. Trying to remember which ones...

I think I read her first one(?), 'Bride Most Begrudging' or something like that (really liked that one!) and then maybe one another. Cannot think which though.

When I get the tour schedules, I do immediately write my date in my little date book so that at least I remember that! I think I got an email saying I was going to be on the tour but since I've not gotten the book, it makes me wonder if I am thinking about something else. Guess it would behoove me to check my email archives again. ;)

Yeah, my mother and I talk a lot about the endings of books. I think it is hard to have a really good one. Just thinking about the direction I'd like my own stories to take, I would probably only muster a "mediocre" ending - yet, the concept is one I'd prefer. I mean, I have this idea and yet, who knows, the more the writer puts into the story, perhaps it would drastically change. :)

So excited for your novels and any future news you may have - or even better an eventual release date for it! :D

Amber Holcomb said...


I've read A Bride in the Bargain and Love on the Line, in addition to this one. I think this one might be my favorite of the three, although I really did enjoy Love on the Line... :)

I have a little planner, too! (I love planners, LOL!) But the one I'm currently using is rather small (a freebie from a Hallmark store that is just too cute!), so I guess it helps me to have a separate place for review stuff. :) Anyway, hope you're on the tour, or get to read it sometime, regardless! I reviewed this directly through Howard Books, so maybe you're on a later Litfuse tour...?

That's awesome that you and your mom talk books! :) I'm eager to hear more about your work someday! And, I think having an epic idea in your mind from the get-go will really help make your ending awesome. I'm kind of a "pantser," although I do have general plot ideas as I go along. ;)

You're so sweet to share my excitement about BH!! I'm hoping to talk about the cover with a designer really soon, and I e-mailed my WIP to a freelance editor/author who will be looking it over this month. :) If everything goes well with all of that, maybe I can look at setting a date once May rolls around? I'm leaning towards July or August, although it might take a little longer for a print version to be finalized than the e-book version. I saw on MaryLu Tyndall's blog that she has a pretty countdown meter in her sidebar... Maybe once I set a date I can make one of those, LOL! ;)


Rissi said...

Oh, hooray. You have many exciting things coming this summer, Amber! Will be watching your blog/Twitter for any news. :)

Amber Holcomb said...


Thank you!! Not sure how/if it will all work out, but we'll see where God leads. :) I appreciate your support, my friend!