Above the glistening waters of Trillium Bay, the majestic Imperial Hotel awaits its first guests. It’s the summer of 1888, and names like Carnegie, Astor, Pullman, and Bostwick line the premier resort’s registry as society’s elite gather on its grandiose front porch to see – and be seen.
But Chase Bostwick isn’t interested in being seen. As the second son of a wealthy financier, he’s only interested in work – in Chicago – so being tasked by his father to chaperone his wearisome mother and boisterous little sister during their Michigan summer holiday is Chase’s personal purgatory masquerading as paradise – for never was a man more ill-suited to leisure.
Emerson McKenna isn’t interested in being seen, either – but she does want her artistic talents to be noticed. As the illegitimate daughter of a renown portraitist more infamous for his romantic dalliances than for his work, Emerson has schemed her way into a position at the hotel teaching doe-eyed debutantes to paint. She says her goal is to commission enough portraits from the resort’s wealthy patrons to finance her dreams of studying in Paris.
But Chase has his suspicions…
Thinking to ease his ennui, he sets about to unravel the mysteries of this enigmatic Miss and her tattered satchel full of secrets, but what he learns – from her questionable marital status right down to the potentially felonious embellishment of her artistic credentials – leaves him feeling captivated. And protective. When his misplaced chivalry sets in motion events which may do more harm than good, Chase and Emerson must work together to keep her safe – and in his arms.
Tracy Brogan uses charm, laughter, heart-tugging emotion, and an immersive sense of place to bring the Gilded Age version of her popular Trillium Bay to life in Art of the Chase, book one of her new historical romance series: The Bostwicks of Trillium Bay.
If you've ever visited Mackinac Island, stayed in the Grand Hotel, or viewed it in photos - or on the big screen in Somewhere in Time - you will no doubt recognize it's elegant influence on Trillium Bay's Imperial Hotel. Brogan brings every nook, cranny, sweeping lake-front lawn, and iconic front porch niche to life in her fictional version, evoking sweet memories for those of us who have visited the real thing and vivid mental paintings of how it - as well as her fictional version - might have been in years gone by. The hotel, like the island itself, is a nuanced character is its own right in this book, helping to offer insight into the lives and personalities of both hard-working staff and privileged guests.
As for the actual characters, Brogan offers up a collection of diverse, well-developed individuals who open windows into the lives of the rich and famous of the time and those whose job it is to serve them. There's the snobbish society maven, who may or may not be more complex than she seems, a teen society miss with a kind heart and unexpected ambitions, a supercilious desk clerk, hyper social director, business-savvy hotel owner, awkward wallflowers, and more. But at the heart of the tale are Chase and Jo (Emerson), two characters from different social classes with more in common than one would imagine, an undeniable attraction, and future plans that do not include the other. I really enjoyed the deft touch Brogan used in bringing them to life, how she slowly unfurled their layers, allowing us into their thoughts and hearts as they, and their relationship, evolved; the light hand she used that celebrated the laughter and joy of falling in love while at the same time keeping the realities of their situation firmly in play. It's a delicate balance between the magic of a summer romance on the island and the reality of city life within an elite society that is likely to never accept the choice of Chase's heart.
Art of the Chase is a story that is charming, humorous, thought provoking, glittering, heart-tugging, and utterly romantic. I turned the final page with a smile on my face, a happy sigh in my heart, and eagerness for the next chapter of The Bostwicks of Trillium Bay.