Two hurting people, Sara Little and Christopher Lake. Sara is from England, an orphan whose mother died when she was twelve. Her father is unknown to her. In the late 1800's, all an orphan could expect from life was continual servitude. Christopher and his wife lived in Richmond, Virginia and owned a prosperous art gallery. They made it their mission in life to try to give someone a new start in life by sponsoring them. Christopher's sister and brother-in-law were often involved by scouting out someone for them to assist. This time, they learned about Sara and recommended her as their new recipient.
Sara's life had been a series of hardships. Her mother was a ladies' maid and life was wonderful when she was alive. But after her death, Sara bounced from employer to employer every few months; no one trusted an orphan. Often the recipient of verbal abuse, Sara's last employer too often made unwanted physical advances on her. Finally, she ran away to stay with a priest, a friend of her mother's, determined to start anew by going to American. Two years later she finally earned passage on a ship to New York.
Christopher Lake met Sara when she arrived in Richmond by train. It didn't take long before she realized that Chris's beloved Carla had died nearly two years before and he hadn't properly grieved for her. But he was determined to sponsor Sara as he and his wife had planned on when she was alive, especially after he discovered Sara's talent as an artist. She made friends with little Gwen, Mr. Lake's daughter, and with his sister and brother-in-law Dix and Paul. She became a long-term guest in his sister's home. It took Sara quite
awhile for her to get used to being on the receiving side of the serving tray. She even had a maid of her own. None of this turned her head, or made her proud.
What's impressive about Sara is her strength of character. Hardship and unfair treatment growing up had not embittered her or made her angry. It seemed to fortify her faith in God and in His faithfulness. He was her fortress and strength and she drew upon that source often while endearing herself with Christopher, his household and staff, the gallery staff, little Gwen.
Christopher himself was an artist, but since his wife's passing he had become cynical and angry--at himself, at God, at the world. He had lost his ability to see the images necessary to continue his art. So he withdrew into himself, unable to express his grief and pain in his loss.
When Sara arrived her sweet nature began to work on him, her natural empathy easing his torment. She sensed his need to move on and his inability to do so. She began to share her insights from her own experience in losing a loved one and he listened, if a bit reluctantly at first.
To me, this lovely story is a bit reminiscent of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Not only did Sara help Chris through the grieving process, she was able to reach his frozen heart and release his vision for art again. Her persistence aided his return to a closer relationship with God. Sara herself gained confidence in her new life as her art was exhibited in the gallery and enthusiastically received by the public
and art critics alike. And little Gwen blossomed under the attentions of a loving mother figure. Of course, no steps forward come without some conflict and difficulties.
I love the characters in this story. Sara just climbs into your heart and makes herself right at home. The author did a wonderful job of giving her a cockney accent that adds to her charm. The reader feels empathy for Christopher in his dilemma as an artist who is lost without his muse. Since this is the first book of a series, I can see that there will be more to the story to look forward to in time. I hope
it is soon.
(reviewed 44 days after purchase)