This elegantly written historical romance details changing times with subtlety and care.
The course of true love never did run smooth—and learning that lesson comes too late for some couples. Amelia’s Prayer is an unflinching, powerful look at a forty-year marriage that is unsparing in its honesty about the power and price of commitment. Set against the vibrant backdrop of post-World War II and midcentury England, this debut novel begins with a love story and evolves into a life story.
At first, the romance between Amelia Sullivan and Sebastian Lavalle seems textbook. They’re clearly made for each other. She’s a lovely, dark-haired girl, the daughter of Irish Catholic parents. He’s a good-looking French sailor on leave for a week in Newcastle, England. It’s 1941 and the war is in full swing. At a tea dance hosted by a local women’s group, Sebastian is immediately drawn to Amelia: “He knew he had to ask her to dance, for to hold on to her for one moment would be enough to get him through the rest of this horror-filled war—just one moment.” One moment turns into hours, then days. When Sebastian’s leave ends, the spark between the two young people has only intensified, leading them to the altar. Sebastian kisses his young wife goodbye, promising her that when they are reunited, their life together can begin in earnest.
Christiane Banks writes with ease and confidence, spinning a romantic story that is by turns painful and transcendent. Unlike many historical romance novels, Amelia’s Prayer investigates the dark side of marriage, as well as its celebrations. The narrative doesn’t flinch from detailing its characters’ struggles: unwanted pregnancies, infidelity, illness, crippling loss, and conflict. Every bit of the family’s difficulties is here, but the narrative finds hope in the stories of Amelia and Sebastian’s eight children, particularly through Amelia’s daughter, Abby.
Abby, whose perspective is fresh and hopeful, becomes a vehicle to explore social evolutions, especially for women. As the narrative moves from the 1940s to the 1960s, the changing world is described masterfully, with architectural, cultural, and political details that help to enliven the story’s darker moments woven in with both subtlety and care, from Beatles songs to suburban homes.
Elegantly written, Amelia’s Prayer is a brave, engaging story of romance and disappointment. Christiane Banks’s confident style and complex characters make this debut novel a must-read for fans of historical drama, realistic romance, and fiction, one that begs to be enjoyed again and again.
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