In Every Word Unsaid by Kimberly Duffy, we meet Augusta "Gussie" Travers. Gussie is an adventuress, writer, and photographer using Kodak's newfangled portable camera. It's 1897 and her family is the social climbing variety, her father a banker who has managed to marry off one of his daughters into New York's high society; a second daughter will marry soon. Gussie's readers know her only as "Miss Adventuress" and the family worries about damage to their reputations if her traveling is exposed.
As the book opens, Gussie is in Deadwood, South Dakota with a paid companion but she knows she will need to return home, soon. She just has one last place to photograph. After things get a little complicated and Gussie arrives home barely in time for an important event, everything goes downhill and the family decides Gussie must go stay with her aunt in Chicago till the fervor dies down. They hope everyone's memories will be short. But, Gussie is not interested in being stuck with a stodgy aunt in a town everyone's familiar with. She wants to go somewhere exotic.
With a guarantee that her adventures will continue to be published, Gussie sneaks away to India. There, her childhood friends Gabriel (aka "Specs") and Catherine live. Specs is a doctor and his sister Catherine has been recently widowed. They're happy to see Gussie but there's one small problem: there's an ongoing outbreak of bubonic plague in the area. And, then, a second problem arrives when Gussie realizes she is in love with Specs.
Will Gussie and her friends be able to stay safe from the plague? When Gussie also finds herself falling in love with India, will she be able to convince herself that it's possible to both settle down and still have an adventurous life? Or, will everything be halted by the arrival of her Uncle James, who has been tasked with chasing her down and bringing her back to Chicago?
Recommended - While I thought Every Word Unsaid was a bit overlong (it could have been trimmed by at least 50 pages, in my humble opinion), I liked Gussie from the first page. She's headstrong in a good way, a very likable character, and I liked the secondary characters, as well. I also found the author's vivid descriptions of India enchanting; she made me want to jump on a plane. It was clear the author has spent some time in India; she didn't just look it up on the Internet. One note: the conflict in the book is mostly internal. Gussie has been told she's not good enough since her family started climbing the social ladder and she rejected their wishes to be a compliant daughter in search of a wealthy husband. Her experiences in India force her to confront herself and her dreams and question whether it's time for a major change. But, it's also a nice, clean novel of romance and friendship and an examination of social constructs and how they impact individuals, particularly women.
Bethany House is a Christian publisher, so there is some mention of God and Jesus. I didn't find it preachy, although there is an uptick in talk of Christianity and God's will for various characters that some might consider a little heavy-handed in the last 100 pages. I'm a Christian, so talk of faith and God's will, etc., doesn't bother me, although I did find it interesting that there were only a few vague references to God till that last quarter of the book. If that kind of thing bugs you, I think it's worth overlooking; the writing really swept me away and judging from the author's note, she did her research. I really loved the learning experience; I spent a lot of time looking up various sites, types of carriages, etc., on my phone, and there's more I want to look up that I put off while reading. I love that!
My thanks to Bethany House and Laurel Ann of Austenprose for the review copy!
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