Happy Monday night, everyone! I hope yours involves plenty of relaxing and chocolate. The Easter candy is out at Target so you bet we got our first bag of Cadbury mini eggs of the season. Is there anything better than Easter candy? I think not.
I’m still playing catch up on my reviews so this one comes a bit late. I am really excited to share a few thoughts about Until the Dawn by Elizabeth Camden. This is my second Camden novel and was just as wonderful as With Every Breath (see my review here).
- I love the unique settings of Elizabeth Camden’s novels. I always learn so much about the time period and place that she sets her stories in (in this case: Hudson Valley, NY at the turn of the 20th century).
- I would love to eat a meal (any meal) that came out of Sophie’s kitchen. I wanted to eat fresh oysters after her description of them. In fact, my pregnant self totally had scrambled eggs and muffins after a description of Sophie’s first breakfast cooked at Dierenpark.
- Camden is a great storyteller. Not only does she give readers unique settings and engaging characters, but she also creates suspenseful plots that pull you into the story. You keep guessing how they will end but I never see the final twist coming. I can’t put her novels down. They are the type of books that I have to finish quickly so I can move on with my life.
- There are a few intense moments in this novel, especially in regards to Quentin’s health. I must admit I skipped ahead at a few points because my pregnant stomach is a bit weaker than my usual one.
Until the Dawn by Elizabeth Camden follows the story of Sophie van Riijn–a volunteer running a weather station for the national Weather Bureau atop the roof of the abandoned Dierenpark mansion. Her world collides with Quentin Vandermark’s, the first Vandermark to return to Dierenpark in years. He plans to tear down the mansion to remove a mysterious family curse. But he does not expect to encounter or fall in love with Sophie. She is the only one that seems to connect with his young son and the only one that can help Quentin and his family move forward. Can Sophie and Quentin find a way to save Dierenpark and build a life together? Or will rumors and trouble overcome their growing faith?
Sophie is one of those people that is instantly likable. You can’t help it. You root for her from the moment you meet her. You want to be her friend. And you want her to find true happiness by the end of the novel. I admire her constant optimism and determination to make something of herself and of her life, regardless of setbacks. I also admire her stalwart faith in God and strength to stand up for that faith in the face of intense opposition (aka Quentin). Sophie’s goals and ambitions in life mirror my own and perhaps that is why I appreciated her fight for love and family.
Quentin is basically the opposite of Sophie. He is rude, arrogant, and unwilling to hear others’ opinions at the start of the novel. He is a person I would not want as a friend or even an acquaintance. But the redeeming aspect of Quentin is that he changes. And as you get to know him better, you realize his cold exterior is hiding a warm heart and a fierce loyalty to his family. Quentin loves his son more than anyone in the world. And I may have shed a few tears during the scenes where he rescues him from the bees and sits up by his sick bed all night. I also love his love for Sophie and how he wants to be better for her. At first, he fights it, which is pretty funny. But embracing love makes him a better man.
Theirs is an unexpected and intense romance. I sighed when Quentin finally admitted his feelings for Sophie, swooned over their first kiss, and nearly cried my eyes at at all they are willing to sacrifice for each other. I so appreciate the strength, friendship, and work that Quentin and Sophie must put into their relationship. They are not perfect people, but they are closer to perfection together (as I think marriage should be for us all).
Dierenpark is such a compelling and mysterious setting. It creates a unique atmosphere of both paradise and fear for various people. Camden creates such an engaging story surrounding the strange history of the mansion and the Vandermark family that kept me turning the pages quickly. I was hooked on the mystery and how all the pieces fit together. The ways Camden blends magic and religion, superstition and science are engaging and exciting.
Faith plays a major role in this novel, and I appreciated the way it solves so many problems. As faith is such a central part of my life, I was glad to read of Sophie standing up for her beliefs, Quentin returning to his faith, and the ways faith illuminate the mystery surrounding Dierenpark. Camden incorporates religion seamlessly into her narrative. It helps to create a full, rich story without being overly preachy or self-righteous.
A few favorite quotes:
“For nothing was more debilitating to the human soul than the loss of all hope. Sophie didn’t have much to brag about in this world, but her ability to nurture the flame of hope in the face of despair had been her salvation all her life.”
“What I feel for you is illogical and irrational, but it’s not fading. You’ve inspired me to find a piece of my soul I didn’t believe I had, but it is awakening and coming to life. You’ve been leading me Into a sunlit world I never even knew existed. Don’t give up on me yet…Give us time.”
“Happiness wasn’t the absence of pain, it was the joy of life.”
Until the Dawn, pages 53, 287, 331
The title of this novel is so profound. I think for both Sophie and Quentin, they have been enduring a long night of trials and hardships in their lives. But together, they can greet the dawn. A fabulous novel from one of my new favorite authors. Highly recommend this one!
What are some of your favorite historical fiction novels?