3 out of 4 stars
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A Promise in Autumn by Barbara Morriss is a historical fiction novel that follows Keagan Cadagan, an Irish immigrant, as she works at a boarding house owned by Raymond Woodrome during the 1910s. Together, they must navigate a variety of conflicts: differences in religion, as Keagan is a Catholic and Raymond is a Protestant; the World War One draft; and the flu pandemic of 1918. It's clear the author has done their research, as the crises both big and small feel not only realistic to the time period but somehow personal. Issues like war, religion, and sickness are timeless, after all.
I loved the amount of detail that went into this book. Keagan's religion and culture feel very realistic, and as a character, she is delightful without feeling forced. Many of her strengths are also her flaws: she has a sharp tongue and is unafraid to speak her mind, for example. These aspects are present with every character, even those who are relatively minor, but the narrative never feels bogged down by them, and everything is always period-appropriate.
This book handles a variety of nuanced subplots, from Keagan's accidental involvement in her former employers' shady activities to her large family struggling to take care of themselves while she works at the boarding house. Each of these is allowed its time to shine. They are never simply dropped into the narrative, and every sequence of events seems to meet a natural conclusion, for better or for worse.
Unfortunately, like many narratively excellent books, A Promise in Autumn falls short in its editing. I received this book in an ebook format, and, inexplicably, a series of capital A's breaking up the text every few pages. Since the book is only available in paperback format for purchase, I was willing to overlook this. However, the sheer variety of miscellaneous grammatical errors, from using "out" instead of "our" to odd italicization, was impossible to overlook.
Despite its engaging story and character development, I must rate A Promise in Autumn 3 out of 4 stars because of its lack of polished editing. I heartily recommend it to anyone looking to read a personal story set in this unique time period, especially those who love a strong female main character or highly detailed narratives. However, I would warn prospective readers about the grammar and formatting errors, and I'd suggest they look at the book's sample to make sure this won't be too distracting for them.
A Promise in Autumn
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