Title: Carved in Stone
Author: Elizabeth Camden
Series: The Blackstone Legacy, book 1
Major Themes: Historical Fiction, New York City, Mysteries
Synopsis: When a poor, determined lawyer decides to take on a case against one of the most influential families in the US, he doesn’t realize the size of the can of worms he’s uncovering until it’s too late.
I didn’t expect to enjoy Carved in Stone as much as I did in the end, but now I can’t wait to read the next book in the series! Camden is a new-to-me author, but when I heard a recommendation for her books from a trusted author, I knew I should try her out. And when the opportunity came up to do just that, I took it. This book starts with one of the best first lines I’ve seen in a long time: “How could a man buy a new suit with a dozen eggs?” I got a great chuckle out of that one—and soon found myself immersed in the story!
As a poor lawyer trying to find his way in the world, earn enough money to support himself and his mother, and give the immigrants around him a fair representation in court, Patrick O’Neill is a determined, busy man. Despite his clientele’s lack of resources, his work is fulfilling, and he couldn’t imagine doing anything else. When, one day, a man comes to him asking for help in a decades-old case that is being opened up again, Patrick feels like he should try to help him. It’s not that he agrees with the man—just like everyone else, he’s fairly sure the man is guilty, despite the jury finding him otherwise years ago. The main problem? By accepting this job, he’ll be taking on one of the richest, most influential families in the US.
For Gwen Kellerman, money has never been a problem. Now that her father’s life’s work—a private university—is in trouble, though, she realizes that if she doesn’t find a way to raise the funds needed, she’s going to lose not only his work but the only place where she’s found true fulfillment. Then, when her family’s dark history is dragged to the surface once again, can she find a way to work through it without losing everything she’s hoped and dreamed for?
This book is set in an interesting time . . . at the turn of the century in 1900, things were changing in the US, but not always for good and not always the easiest way possible. This book gave me a glimpse into New York that I doubt I would have found in many other books. Not only does this deal with one of the biggest industrial changes in the 1900s—the merging of many steel mills across the country into one big corporation (the largest of that type at the time), it also contains an intriguing array of descriptions of the poorest of the poor and wealthiest of the wealthy. One part of the story that I found especially gripping was when a character came down with tetanus—and the descriptions of what was done to try to help them recover. I don’t know how much of what was described in this book is pulled from history, but I found that fascinating, all the same!
Carved in Stone isn’t in my top list of books for the year, mostly because the romance was a bit more potent than I usually prefer, but also because some of the subject matter in here was very difficult. But as a glimpse into a portion of history I haven’t read a lot about, I’m thankful I got a chance to read it.
I was given a review copy of this book, and this is my honest opinion of it.
WARNING: Several times, there are mentions of a bomb that severely injured a man and killed a couple of other people. Throughout the book, there are mentions of a little boy who was kidnapped and never seen again—presumably killed; this is described, to some extent, in ch. 2, 6, and 14. People are drinking in ch. 10, and a man gets slammed against a wall. Tetanus’ effects are described some in ch. 11. There is more drinking in ch. 14. In ch. 19, a man talks about being “beaten to a pulp”, a man is stabbed with a knife, and another man is killed in the fray. A man talks about being punched as a boy in ch. 27, and in ch. 29, a man’s fingers are half-broken when he was intercepting a punch. People are shot at and a woman gets a bullet in her arm in ch. 34.
Ch. 4 mentions a kiss and “grope” with a husband and wife, and a man remembers a stolen afternoon with a girl behind an abandoned building (no details about what happened). Multiple times, there are mentions that a man had a mistress throughout his married life, and had a child with the woman. Characters are attracted to each other and/or kiss in ch. 7, 15 (some description), 16, 17, 20 (a woman thinking if she married somebody, it probably wouldn’t take her long to conceive), 25, 26, 28 (unmarried couple going away so they could be alone together), 31 (flirting), and 42.
There is lying throughout the book, heavens appears in ch. 5, 10, 11, 18, 24, 29, 32, and 42; swears appears in ch. 10 and 21; “pity’s sake” is in ch. 11; oh, Lord is not used to address God in ch. 13; “bull hockey” is in ch. 32; blasted is used in ch. 34; a man “spews obscenities” in ch. 40 and someone else curses in ch. 41; and goodness is used in ch. 42. Someone prays with a rosary in ch. 12, and a man goes to confess to a priest in ch. 21, where he is told his sins are forgiven. Self-defense is shown in a good light in ch. 21.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults