Title: When We Caught Fire
Author: Anna Godbersen
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
Anna Godbersen first won my heart way back in 2005, my freshman year of high school, with her bestselling Luxe series, so when I found out that she was writing a brand new standalone, revolving around a love triangle and the Great Fire of Chicago, I was so excited. She became one of my favorite authors with her first series, and I was so happy that she was finally writing another book. I reserved it at my library, and after another library haul return, I put it at my stack. It took me almost a week to read it, as my life has been insanely busy recently, but I really enjoyed this book: rife with romance, betrayal, disaster, both social and natural, secrets and danger, When We Caught Fire took one of my least favorite tropes: the love triangle, and framed it within one of the most horrifying natural disasters in history. When We Caught Fire was beautifully written, captivating, frightening, and surprisingly informative. One of the reasons that I so love historical fiction is that I can learn about things that happened before my time, in my favorite format: A story! When We Caught Fire is one of my favorite books of 2018. Lush, beautiful, and more than a bit painful, I expected nothing less from Anna Godbersen, and I hope that there’s more to come from her!
Emmeline Carter, Anders Magnum, and Fiona Brynes all come from different walks of life. Emmeline longs to be a wealthy, admired socialite, and that dream is all but realized when she becomes affianced to one of Chicago’s richest scions. Fiona is her maid and best friend, and she is hiding secrets of her own; she has been secretly in love with their best friend, Anders, a fierce boxer and their childhood friend. But there’s a dangerous catch: So, too, is Emmeline. As the three former friends try to hide their secrets and reconcile their feelings for one another, another sort of fire is beginning to build, literally. As Chicago is swept up in wild, uncontrollable flames, these three friends must do everything to survive and achieve their dreams, or everyone that they love just might go up in smoke…
I really enjoyed this book! The prose was gorgeous, lush, and captivating; I was entranced from the first line. The pacing was breakneck; I was immediately drawn into the dangerous, glittering world of early Chicago. I also loved the characters and the way the point of view moved between them: Emmeline, desperate for social standing and a romance straight out of a novel, Fiona, the lowly lady’s maid who longs for more in life than her class affords her, yet fiercely loyal to Emmeline, even as a young man comes between the two women, and Anders, the girls’ childhood friend, desperate to do right by them both even as their budding loves tear the three of them apart. But even more than I loved the character dynamics, it was so interesting to see an all-too familiar trope, the love triangle, framed within a survival scenario. I haven’t read much about the Great Fire of Chicago before this point, but to see it within the story, beautiful and deadly, was captivating, even as I wanted to turn away. The pacing really picked up as the fire swept through the city; the whole time, I was freaking out, hoping and praying that the characters I’d come to love would make it out. And that ending! It was so beautiful and bittersweet; by the end of the novel, I was in tears. At times, there were so many different names it was difficult to keep up; my only complaint was that I wish there had been a character list at the front of the novel. Nonetheless, Anna Godbersen makes a fantastic, exciting debut, reminding me of just how much I love historical fiction; I cannot wait until her next book! The bottom line: Bittersweet, gorgeously written, and meticulously researched, I loved When We Caught Fire, even though at times, it was hard to keep up with. Next on deck: Broken Things by Lauren Oliver!