Title: Veiled in Smoke
Author: Jocelyn Green
Series: The Windy City Saga, book 1
Major Themes: Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction, Great Chicago Fire, 1800s, Mental Health
Synopsis: When the Great Fire sweeps all their family possessions away and leaves Meg without the ability to paint the way she used to, can she find hope for herself and her family?
Last year, I was somewhat startled (in a good way) by the story in Between Two Shores by Jocelyn Green—it ended up making my best-of-the-year list for 2019! Then when I saw Veiled in Smoke coming out, I knew I wanted to read that, too—if it was half as good as the other book, I knew I’d enjoy it. Though the books are quite different in history and setting, one thing that shines through both is Green’s excellent development of characters. The Christian faith also comes through pretty well in this story, which is something almost unexpected, but very refreshing. I appreciate authors who let their faith be a natural part of the stories they write.
Although Meg loves her father, she struggles to know how to give him the space he needs to heal. It’s been six long years since the Civil War’s end, six years since he came back a changed man. Most of the time, he spends his days out behind the house, trying to honor the friends who died while they were together as POWs. For Sylvie, Meg’s sister, things are even more difficult—she feels like her father has always been somewhat unreachable, and though he’s here now, his heart isn’t with them. Then the fire starts, and they must flee for their lives—will anything of theirs be saved? Can they get even a portion of their shop’s inventory safely to the train station before it’s too late, or will they have a total loss? And then what happens when a dear friend of theirs is killed during the fire?
After Between Two Shores, I wasn’t certain what to expect from Veiled in Smoke. I wondered if there wouldn’t be a romantic element in here, as well as telling the history around the Chicago Fire, but beyond that, all I wanted was a good story. And Jocelyn Green did excellently there! It’s hard to count, but I think there are at least four different threads of stories going on in this book, all interwoven perfectly, with a few other side-happenings along the way too. It’s the kind of book I dream of writing. Sweet, yet difficult, historical, yet relatable, sorrowful, yet hopeful. One thing I know I expected was hearing about Dwight L. Moody’s ministry right before the fire—likely because his story is probably the one I’m most familiar with—but I was surprised that that wasn’t even mentioned. However, the history was told in a very realistic way, and I felt like I just about got to smell the smoky ruins after the fire as the characters started to rebuild.
The characters, I felt, were well developed in this story. Each one was unique, and they had their own journeys in this book. Not once did they make me question which time period I was in—I was pulled into their world very well (even when I had to stop and then restart reading many different times!). I loved their different perspectives and seeing how that worked out in their individual lives as they dealt with the aftermath of the fire and their personal loses or gains.
But by far, my most favorite part of this book is the history. Besides just talking about the Great Fire, another major portion of this story dealt with Civil War veterans—I’d never made the connection before that those two events were less than 10 years apart! The way Green portrayed those veterans was fascinating, as well as how PTSD (at least, as diagnosed these days) was handled back then. The snippets about what an insane asylum back then was like were horrifying, but also very interesting.
In all, I cannot wait for the next book in the Windy City Saga to come out! This was an excellent read on both the historical, mystery, and Christian fronts, and it didn’t end up having a lot of romance in it, which I appreciated. Recommended.
I requested a free review copy of this book from the publisher, and this is my honest opinion of it.
WARNING: The Great Fire lasts from ch. 4–6, with people and animals burned; ch. 6 tells about a woman who was badly burned, and ch. 7 mentions charred human remains being pulled out of the rubble. A building collapses in ch. 25. A house is on fire in ch. 37. People are drunk in ch. 1. A man is smoking in ch. 9.
A man threatens to use a gun in ch. 1, 5, 8 (remembering doing so), 36, and 37. People remember the horrors of POW camps—often people hurting or killing each other—in ch. 1, 2, 7, 20, 34, and 37. A man unintentionally hurts his daughter in ch. 2. A man punches another man in ch. 5, 7 (remembering doing so), 8, 9, 21, and 36. A man remembers killing someone in ch. 7 and 9; and people are killed or it is told of in ch. 7 and 16. People get vaccinated and there is a description of a horrific wound in ch. 8. A man is accused unjustly in ch. 8 and 9. A man is tortured in an insane asylum in ch. 9, 13 (here, someone is thinking about the tactics), 18 (this includes a man thinking about being drugged and seeing a hallucination), 23, 27, and 29. A woman looks at pictures of a man who had been shot in ch. 11. In ch. 13, a character remembers a story of a war veteran who killed someone, didn’t remember doing so, and later committed suicide. A man has old injuries from the war in ch. 20 and 22. A man is attacked in ch. 22, and a different one in 36 (this time, he is hurt and bleeding). A man is knocked out in ch. 37.
There is lying in ch. 2 and 35. One character says “it was an honor to fight” in ch. 2. “Goodness”, in one form or another, is used in ch. 1, 2, 14, 22, 31, 32, 36, and the epilogue. People shout obscenities in ch. 3. The word “blasted” is used in ch. 5. A word or phrase that uses the word “hell” is used in ch. 6, 10, and 18. The word “swear” is used in ch. 8. “Heaven above” or a variant is used in ch. 10 and 34. The phrase “for mercy’s sake” is mentioned in ch. 29.
Unmarried people touch in ch. 6, 16, 20, 22, 25, 27, 28, 32, 35, 36, 37, and 38. Unmarried people kiss in ch. 28, 37, and 38. There is touching between married people in ch. 38.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults