For What It's Worth

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Review: Faithful by Janet Fox

Sixteen-year-old Maggie Bennet’s life is in tatters. Her mother has disappeared, and is presumed dead. The next thing she knows, her father has dragged Maggie away from their elegant Newport home, off on some mad excursion to Yellowstone in Montana. Torn from the only life she’s ever known, away from her friends, from society, and verging on no prospects, Maggie is furious and devastated by her father’s betrayal. But when she arrives, she finds herself drawn to the frustratingly stubborn, handsome Tom Rowland, the son of a park geologist, and to the wild romantic beauty of Yellowstone itself. And as Tom and the promise of freedom capture Maggie’s heart, Maggie is forced to choose between who she is and who she wants to be. (YA Fiction)

I’m not a big fan of Historical Romances and after reading this book I think I know why. They often portray the high society culture as glamorous and I just find the whole thing too oppressive to really engross myself in that world. The other approach is the girl that is promised to one man but breaks free from convention when her passions are awakened by another (usually an unspeakably hot libertine – not that there’s anything wrong with that!!). Then we have Faithful.
Faithful hits all the notes of the traditional historical romance but with a softer touch and it made the entire story more relatable to me. Maggie starts out as a young 16 year old girl readying for her debut - looking for a respectable and wealthy husband to keep her in high social standing. She does hope for love too but isn’t sure if that’s asking for too much.

Maggie: “I’m looking for someone special.”

 Kitty: “As in…”

 Maggie: “As in, I don’t know. Someone who can take care of me. But not take over me. Someone who will let me be who I am.”

At first Maggie wants all trappings of the upper crust lifestyle. She’s a snob. She’s afraid of becoming a spinster at the ripe old age of 16. Her fears may be warranted considering she is the daughter of a woman with a reputation for being rebellious and crazy. That is unacceptable in Maggie’s world and her mother’s embarrassing outbursts limit her prospects. There is also the fear that Maggie may have more in common with her mother than she cares to admit.
When Maggie’s mother goes missing after a walk along the cliff she is presumed dead. Her father becomes despondent and can’t let it go, following clues that lead them to leaving everything behind and moving to Yellowstone in Montana in the hopes that his wife is still alive.
Needless to say Maggie is a fish out of water in the rugged terrain of Montana but thoughts of finding her mother and reuniting her family keep her going.
Once there she meets the Tom, the son of the park’s geologist and he’s quite different from the boys she knew back home. He challenges her about everything she thinks she knows and calls her out when she’s being a snob. They have an obvious attraction but it’s not the driving force for the story.
Another important relationship in Maggie’s life in Yellowstone is with Mrs. Gale – a widower and self employed photographer for the park. The story takes place in 1904 when women were beginning to have more opportunities other than being married off. Her relationships with Mrs. Gale and Tom light a spark in Maggie and she starts believing that she can do more – be more – expect more than to just be a trophy wife.
The search for her mother is the driving force for the story but oddly held the least interest for me. It was  well written but dragged out a little too long for my liking. Without giving too much away, there was little background about the pivotal people involved in this plotline. Kula and her father just kind of pop in and out a little too conveniently. The story of Maggie’s mom could have been a book in itself - a prequel perhaps. I enjoyed watching Maggie’s transition more. She has to overcome her own preconceptions about people who don’t come from her background and learn that the world is bigger than Newport, RI.
The blurb for the book makes Faithful sound like an epic historical romance but it’s more a coming of age – self discovery story – in my opinion anyway. I enjoyed it though because it was more relatable to me than the over the top HR’s I’m used to. I really liked and ultimately rooted for Maggie because it seemed like a more realistic portrayal.
Fox’s descriptions of both RI and Montana were very detailed and spot on. I grew up in RI and my all time favorite vacation was in Montana (Glacier National Park – not Yellowstone).
Loved: The evolution of Maggie from spoiled and petulant to strong and independent woman. The characters – Tom and especially Mrs. Gale.
Nitpick: There is a scene where Tom describes Kula as a “good friend”…..why? He hasn’t known her very long and he gave Maggie enough grief about her behavior – why is Kula let off the hook…very minor nitpick though. I would have enjoyed an epilogue for Tom & Maggie.

Rating: 3 out of 4. Although this isn’t my typical type of book, I enjoyed the slower pace and more realistic look at that time period. It was a subtle – sweet story with the scenic backdrop of Montana.

Author's website: Janet Fox
Buy the book! Faithful

 *Janet Fox is a member of the Class of 2K10: . Go check out what's coming up next!
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  1. Lovely review! This book seemed to work for you a little better than it did for me. The mom stuff was just so far out there, and Kula really did feel kind of convenient. And Kula was held up to be this paragon of sassy, unbroken awesomeness, when I thought she was just rude! :-)

    The scenery was breath-taking, though, and Maggie's growth was nice.

  2. This one looks so good! thanks for the honest review :) Of course, you know I love historical romances :) But I am also interested in her journey since she's such a snob at the beginning. Is this YA or adult?