Mountains of Love is the latest novel from the prolific pen of Great Lakes Romances author Donna Winters. It also represents a new departure for Winters, who has previously set her novels along the Great Lakes where she has lived for many years. A few years ago, Winters moved to the Southwest and that has influenced her latest novel. Twenty-three-year-old Cedena Rossier, the book’s heroine, is from Fayette, Michigan, where Winters previously set a trilogy, but Cedena journeys to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and then to Kansas City and Las Vegas, New Mexico.
And Cedena’s journey is quite the ride. Like the Ferris wheel Cedena rides on at the World’s Fair, this novel is full of wonderful views of the United States at the end of the nineteenth century as well as some gasps over the excitement that runs throughout its pages.
The story begins when Cedena accompanies her mother, aunt, and uncle to the Chicago World’s Fair. Cedena and her mother have fallen on hard times. Her father and brother were involved in the iron industry in Fayette, Michigan, until the Jackson Iron Company pulled out of town. They then took to fishing to support the family, but two years ago, they were lost in a storm on Lake Michigan. Since then, Cedena and her mother have struggled to make ends meet and Cedena’s Uncle James has had to send them money just so they could survive. Now Cedena’s aunt and uncle have invited her to attend the World Fair’s in Chicago with them, where Uncle James has a booth for Paxton’s Pharmaceuticals, his own company based in Kansas City. Running the booth for him is a young man named Matthew who immediately takes a liking to Cedena.
Cedena, however, is more interested in seeing the sights at the fair than being involved with Matthew. She finds him somewhat overbearing, and when she meets handsome Orin Young and his sister Alice, who seems to like Matthew, Cedena hopes Matthew will fall for Alice while she gets to spend time with Orin.
One of the splendors of this novel is the Chicago World’s Fair. It was the spectacle of the decade, and Winters takes us on a tour of it, showing us everything from the camel races to the hot air balloon ride, the Fourth of July fireworks, and the Chinese Village. We feel drawn in, seeing it all through Cedena’s eyes, and only wish we could go back in time to see it for ourselves.
But eventually, Cedena’s visit to the fair draws to an end and she has to make some hard decisions. She realizes there is nothing in Fayette for her to return to, and she is also tired of her mother’s controlling ways. She has also met some people at the fair who make her want to remain in Chicago. When she takes her uncle up on his offer to stay and help him, she comes into immediate conflict with her mother, resulting in her mother disowning her. Worse, the Depression of 1893 is just beginning, and by the time the fair is over and Cedena returns to Kansas City with her aunt and uncle, her uncle’s business is in such decline that Cedena must learn to fend for herself. Then she has the brilliant idea to have the adventure of a lifetime by becoming a Harvey Girl.
To say more would be to spoil all the fun, but Cedena’s experiences in the Southwest are anything but dull as she meets new and unsavory characters, tries to be self-supporting, and struggles with the feelings of her heart and making the best decisions for her future.
Donna Winters has written many other novels and I have read many of them, from Mackinac to her Fayette Trilogy and her more recent Saving Mossy Point. After writing so many historical and Christian romances, one would think the books would become formulaic, but that is not at all the case. Winters writes about real people facing real-life struggles in historical settings that make you feel you are right there with the characters. I could feel Cedena’s excitement at the fair, her exhaustion after working long shifts as a Harvey Girl, her frustrations dealing with difficult people from family members to fellow employees, and ultimately, her courage in making the best decisions for herself. She and her fellow characters will remain with you a long time.
Anyone who loves historical fiction and romance will find Mountains of Love a wonderful saga to get lost in and wish there were mountains more of it.