As San Francisco rises from the ashes, an age-old battle looms between corruption and the promise of new beginnings.
The devastating earthquake is just two years past, but the city of San Francisco is still trying to recover. Destruction of this magnitude is not so easy to overcome—and neither are the past regrets shadowing Elizabeth King's hopeful future.
Hoping to right her wrongs, Elizabeth dedicates herself to helping girls rescued from slavery in Chinatown brothels, even if it means putting her own life at risk to sneak through the gloomy alleys and rooftops where dangers lurk.
Putting her life on the line for a worthy cause is admirable. But opening her heart is even more terrifying. So when Elizabeth meets attorney, Charles McKinley—a man who dreams of reforming San Francisco's crooked politics—Elizabeth begins to doubt: Can she maintain her pretense and hide her past? Or will her secret jeopardize both their futures?
I've long been interested in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. (Just ask my poor high school classmates, who had to suffer through a speech I wrote about it. Trust me: no one back then would have ever believed I'd spend 12 years coaching high school speech!) So when I learned that Karen Barnett, whose Mistaken I really enjoyed, had written a series centered around the earthquake, I knew I wanted to read it. The first two books, Out of the Ruins and Beyond the Ashes, were both enjoyable reads. I loved the plots, but I felt a bit ambivalent toward the heroines. Still, the strong writing was enough to keep me coming back for more.
Through the Shadows features the same vivid writing found in Barnett's previous novels, but I liked it even better for one reason: I loved the heroine! Elizabeth is a spunky young woman unafraid to stand up against evil but terrified that she can never be forgiven for her past mistakes. I really appreciate that Barnett chose to gave Elizabeth a real past—she's not feeling guilty about circumstances out of her control; rather, she's regretting her sin. She moves to San Francisco to help the girls at the Mission Home, but she also believes that maybe, just maybe, if she does enough good, that will get her back into God's good graces. As danger swirls around her, she finally understands that God's grace is freely offered, not something she must work to attain.
I also enjoyed Elizabeth's romance with Charles. When Elizabeth was tentative, Charles was patient and kind, and all the roadblocks to their happily ever after made sense. (One of my biggest pet peeves in romance is when the hero and heroine are kept apart due to ridiculous miscommunication.) In the beginning, I wasn't so sure that I'd like Charles, as he was quick to take his (obviously shady) uncle at his word. But Charles quickly grew on me, and just as I rooted for Elizabeth to accept God's grace, I rooted for Charles to stand up to his uncle and make his own way in the world. Also, I enjoyed the look into law office politics.
The bulk of the novel takes place at the Mission Home, a refuge for girls rescued from forced servitude and prostitution in Chinatown. I loved reading about Elizabeth's interactions with the girls, as well as the rescue missions—so to learn the Mission Home was a real place (that still exists today!) and mission director Donaldina Cameron was a real person was just the icing on the cake. You can learn more about the mission—renamed the Cameron House—here.
Through the Shadows is Barnett's best book yet. I loved every second I spent reading it, and I highly recommend it! 5 stars.
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Read my reviews of Barnett's Beyond the Ashes (3-1/2 stars), Out of the Ruins (4 stars), and Mistaken (4 stars).
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Karen Barnett is the author of Beyond the Ashes, Out of the Ruins, and Mistaken. Named the 2013 Writer of Promise by Oregon Christian Writers, Karen lives in Albany, Oregon, with her husband and two kids. When she's not writing novels, she loves speaking at women's events, libraries, and book clubs.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."