Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Book Review: When We Caught Fire by Anna Godbersen

Pages: 384
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Other Books By Author: Bright Young Things,
Luxe, Rumors, Envy, and Splendor
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "It’s 1871 and Emmeline Carter is poised to take Chicago’s high society by storm. Between her father’s sudden rise to wealth, and her recent engagement to Chicago’s most eligible bachelor, Emmeline has it all. But she can’t stop thinking about the life she left behind, including her childhood sweetheart, Anders Magnuson. Fiona Byrne, Emmeline’s childhood best friend, is delighted by her friend’s sudden rise to prominence, especially since it means Fiona is free to pursue Anders herself. But when Emmeline risks everything for one final fling with Anders, Fiona feels completely betrayed.  As the summer turns to fall, the city is at a tipping point: friendships are tested, hearts are broken, and the tiniest spark might set everything ablaze. Sweeping, soapy, and romantic, this is a story about an epic love triangle—one that will literally set the city ablaze, and change the lives of three childhood friends forever."

Emmeline's family rose through the ranks and now are in "high society" in Chicago. The year is 1871 and since Emmeline needs a lady's maid, she employs her best friend, Fiona. After all. Fiona's family definitely needs the money.  Fiona and Emmeline grew up with Anders, whom both girls still have feelings for.  This is problematic as Emmeline is engaged to Freddy, the son of a wealthy banker.  Emmeline has it all, but why can't she stop thinking about Anders? Anders isn't in Emmeline's social circles anymore; in fact, he is boxing in a bad section of Chicago, which pretty much makes him the opposite of a possible suitor.  Since Emmeline is engaged, shouldn't this mean Fiona is free to pursue him or is Emmeline not quite ready to let go of her former life?   When We Caught Fire is a soapy and romantic YA historical novel that fans of romance will savor.  

I had issues with a lot of the characters in When We Caught Fire. They were not very likable.  While I could feel for Fiona at times more than Emmeline and was definitely rooting for her, I just couldn't connect with her.  She felt very much like a cookie-cutter of a character.  Then you've got Emmeline who is the stereotypical rich friend whom only thinks of herself and acts like a brat.  I found it unbelievable that both girls would still be pining over their childhood friend, Anders.  I will worn you there is, obviously, an epic love triangle in this novel.

What works for me regarding When We Caught Fire is the compelling time period and setting. Godbersen does a wonderful job bringing Chicago in the 1800s to life.  I loved her descriptions of the parties, the furniture, the clothing, and even the town of Chicago itself.  Readers can tell that Godbersen put a fair amount of research into it, not to mention the Great Fire of 1871. Obviously that aspect of the story had me glued to the pages.

The ending of When We Caught Fire a little melodramatic, but I will admit that it kept me on the edge of my seat.  While I prefer Godbersen's Luxe series over this novel, I think fans will still appreciate this historical tale, especially if you like your historical fiction with a strong side of romance.


  1. I love the time period and setting, but the love triangle turns me off a bit!

    1. Yeah, me too. I am really over triangles. The setting was phenomenal though. Godbersen does a good job bringing it to life and covering the Great Fire.


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