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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Book Review: A Race to Splendor by Ciji Ware

A Race to Splendor by Ciji Ware
Paperback, 544 pages
Sourcebooks Landmark
April 1, 2011
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Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Borrowed from my local library
“Set in the tumultuous aftermath of San Francisco’s devastating 1906 earthquake and fire, and based on the lives of several women apprenticed to famed Julia Morgan, California’s first licensed woman architect, this historical novel tells of the fiercely-fought competition between Nob Hill hotels to re-open their doors by the first anniversary of the disaster – proving to the country and the world that the city would rise from the ashes. Amelia Hunter Bradshaw, fresh from earning her certificate in architecture at the prestigious L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, finds herself, through a series of flukes and mishaps, in the employ of the one man determined to best Miss Morgan, Amelia’s mentoress and friend. Intrigue, political corruption, and an undeniable attraction to the mysterious James Diaz Thayer threaten not only to jeopardize her personal life, but also prove fatal to all she holds dear.”
While the previous book I read about the 1906 earthquake took place in the days prior to and during the trembler, A Race to Splendor takes place during the quake and the next year afterward as the city starts rebuilding. You get a unique perspective of what it was like to be a refugee after this disaster – in the Presidio make-shift hospital as well as trying to find somewhere to live amongst all the crumbled buildings. Most of the plot focuses on the competition between the Fairmont and the Bay View hotels to be the first hotel to open after the extensive damage from the quake. You learn a lot about architecture and all of the problems that go along with trying to rebuild in a city knee deep in graft – pay-offs, deals, shanghaied workers, the outrage over a Chinese workforce, and other types of corruption.

Ware’s characters are phenomenally written and solidly constructed. They all grow as the story continues – not necessarily changing who they are but blossoming into a different version of themselves. The author has created full back stories for the main cast and we learn why they are how they are now and understand the decisions that they make. We see characters that are flawed, admirable, and real. For me, the writing of the characters was the strongest part of the novel.

I also loved how the story and events developed and unfolded. You didn’t really know what was going to happen next – but the decisions made sense to the plot and to the pace of the story. There were also romance threads throughout the novel – it certainly kept things interesting. It was also most interesting to see the interplay between the two characters and how the romance affected the rest of the plot of the book.

Overall I absolutely loved this book and cannot wait to read others by this author.

If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?


Reviews of this book by other bloggers: 

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Ciji Ware

a cottage by the sea
A Cottage by the Sea

island of the swans
Island of the Swans

midnight on julia street
Midnight on Julia Street

that autumn in edinburgh
That Autumn in Edinburgh

a light on the veranda
A Light on the Veranda
[My Review\

that summer in cornwall
The Summer in Cornwall

wicked company
Wicked Company

that winter in venice
That Winter in Venice

that spring in paris
That Spring in Paris

Find Ciji Ware: Website | Facebook | Twitter 

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Ciji Ware has been on my list for a long time but I've yet to read one her books. This is a good reminder to move her up the list.

  2. I really adore Ware's writing. Have this on my shelf at home but just haven't been able to get to it. So glad you enjoyed it :)

  3. Justbookreading - I had not really been interested in any of her books until after reading this one - I knew who she was and her works but they weren't on any list for me. Then I knew I wanted to do a feature on the earthquake, so I picked this one up. Now she is for sure going on my list!

    Jenny - Now I have to get to reading some of her others. I'm not sure what to start with but I'm leaning toward Wicked Company.


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