This past week, I finished Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden. Despite having picked up at least 4 of her earlier novels while they were on Amazon’s (free) bestseller list, I hadn’t gotten around to reading any of her books until this one.
I LOVED this book.
Now, I read a-plenty, and I’ve usually got at least one book around that I’m working on. And I tend to be choosy about what I read, so generally it’s something I end up liking. I don’t, however, always want to buy the books I read. A lot of the time I’m content to borrow a book from the library or from a friend when I want to read or reread it. Sometimes, though, if it’s an author I love or just a really good read, I’ll buy it. But I rarely want to purchase a novel if it’s a new-to-me author or I haven’t finished it yet. (Melanie Dickerson‘s novels were a lovely exception to this less than hard-and-fast rule of mine, for example. One of those rarities.)
This book? By an author I’d never read? I wanted to own it starting on about page 100 (out of 368 pages, mind you)! I still might pick it up for my Kindle one of these days, who knows?To start, Beyond All Dreams features a spunky librarian as the female protagonist, coupled with a brash Congressman from Maine as the male lead. Library of Congress librarian Anna O’Brien is a quiet yet smart and sassy young woman with some tragedy in her past, and House of Representatives member Luke Callahan has also battled his own demons.
Anna’s character resonated with me for several reasons, I think. I retreat into books and quietude, much like Anna. I, too, face uncertainty and personal challenges that are tied to my writing-focused, relatively introverted nature. I would have loved to be one of a fledgling set of female librarians in the late 1800s, creating a new opportunity for women as knowledgeable professionals.
Like Anna, I am determinedly protective and admiring of paper-and-ink books (despite my love affair with the aforementioned Kindle e-reader). Much like Anna, I am horrified when I see writing or damage in a book. (Although if it’s my sociology text from last semester, I’m sheepishly whistling and looking innocently anywhere but at your all-too-knowing smirk and raised eyebrows.) Anna is fascinated with new inventions and ideas, unlike Luke who romanticizes the past, but she also values history, as I do.
I won’t give away any spoilers, because this book was really good and you should go read it. (Read it NOW, I say!) But I will say, it involves political intrigue, 1897-1898 Washington, D.C., the original Library of Congress in the Capitol and the move to the nearby newly-constructed library building (well, new in 1897). This novel also has themes of the impact of childhood trauma on characters as adults, faith in God, and an adorably banter-filled love story. Somewhere in the first chapter or so, Luke and Anna’s initial interaction made me almost fall out of my chair with the giggles. That set the tone for their relationship and invested me in seeing how Luke responded to Anna’s unexpected humorous setdown, and her response to his, and on all through the novel.
I’ll definitely mark this novel as a to-reread. Really, I should just start a list or a Goodreads shelf for books I want to reread or own, if we’re being honest. I’ll never keep track of them otherwise.
Recommended for: lovers of historical Christian romantic fiction; mature readers (adults and older teens) due to some retellings of violent instances and child abuse/neglect; fans of historical fiction who enjoy themes of faith and romance mixed with creative inclusion of historical facts and events; those who enjoy library-focused fiction and history.
My rating: 5.0/5 stars
P.S. Check out loc.gov, the website for the Library of Congress! They’ve got thousands of old photographs and records, including many of the original Library of Congress in the Capitol and the construction of the new Library.