Until the Dawn
About This Book
Fascinated by Dierenpark, an abandoned mansion high atop a windswept cliff in the Hudson River Valley, Sophie van Riijn sees no harm in setting up a rooftop weather station for her work with the newly established Weather Bureau. While the villagers are suspicious of the mysterious estate and its tragic history, Sophie has come to see it as her own enchanted piece of paradise.
The first Vandermark to return to the area in sixty years, Quentin intends to put an end to the shadowy rumors about the property that has brought nothing but trouble upon his family. Ready to tear down the mansion, he is furious to discover Sophie trespassing on his land.
Instantly at odds, Quentin and Sophie yet find common ground when she is the only one who can reach his troubled son. There’s a light within Sophie that Quentin has never known, and a small spark of the hope that left him years ago begins to grow. But when the secrets of Dierenpark can no longer be kept in the past, will tragedy triumph or can their tenuous hope prevail?
Historical fiction is the genre I LIVE for, both as a reader and a writer, and as such I always love Camden’s unconventional historical settings and characters. When so many novels (far too many, in my opinion!) are western or “bonnet” romances about cowboys and damsels, Camden’s latest heroine is a country woman from upstate New York who dreams of working for the new national Weather Bureau, and her hero is a grumpy architect with plans to demolish the abandoned manor house girl uses as her makeshift weather station.
The uniqueness of this premise alone was enough to suck me in, but Camden also excels at rich historical detail. I was pulled right back into the summer of 1898 along with Sophie and Quentin, and thoroughly enjoyed the mix of nineteenth century society and twentieth century technology that epitomizes that Gilded Age.
Sophie and Quentin were immediately likable, too, and I was rooting for them before the end of Chapter One. Quentin’s son Pieter was a wonderful little character for them to dote on, and I particularly enjoyed the ragtag assembly of bodyguards, housekeeping staff, and townsfolk who rounded out the cast of characters. I started this book on my lunch break, and was so thoroughly pulled into it that I brought it back to work with me and boldly kept reading it right at my desk all afternoon!
But just about halfway through the book, the story took a turn that left me a bit disgruntled, as the heroine Sophie took a back seat and the plot that had hooked be was overwhelmed by what felt like a secondary storyline. As the last half of the book progressed, the faith element became a bit too preachy for my taste. Quentin’s evolution from devout atheist to doe-eyed Christian felt a bit too forced at times, although I did appreciate how Camden tried to show it as a gradual journey and not a lightning-strike reaction in a moment of desperation. But some plot points of the manor house’s mystery seemed a bit too contrived and coincidental to me, and the overall ending lacked the punch I’ve come to expect from Camden. What I suspect was an attempt to throw in a final plot twist at the very end felt too out of the blue to me, and as a result, I closed the final page with far less enthusiasm for the story than I had when I began it.
Still, Camden’s unique setting, thrilling historical accuracy, and wondrous sense of story world really make this a book any historical fan will enjoy escaping into. Parents of younger readers should be aware there is a rather gruesome injury and operation scene toward the end of the book, but otherwise this is a safe and clean read for teens and young adults as well as adult fiction fans. As always, I’m looking forward to Camden’s next book!
Available December 1, 2015 from Bethany House Publishers