From the desk of Katie Jackson:
In 1837, a sheltered yet determined 18-year-old became Queen Victoria and ushered in an era of immense transformation. Increased educational and employment opportunities for women and an overall increase in literacy cracked open the previously elite worlds of journalism and literature and scientific invention in exciting new ways. It was a time when a lady bluestocking might finally earn the chance to collaborate with other intellectuals as an admired and respected equal. Master storyteller Jennifer Moore has created a lovely and well-researched representation of this unique era in the latest tale from The Blue Orchid Society series, Inventing Vivian.
During a fateful meeting in a library sanctuary while escaping the unwelcome pressures of a ballroom, science-minded inventor Miss Vivian Kirby had made a pact with four other remarkable young ladies to form the Blue Orchid Society and to achieve their private ambitions with each other’s support and encouragement. Vivian was thrilled by the thought that her dream “was actually achievable. And the difference, she realized, was that she had the support of people like herself.” (237)
Vivian “was positively compelled by science and invention and technology. Understanding the mysteries of the physical world was more than simply a hobby. It was Vivian’s raison d’être. Her passion.” (92) After years of disappointing exclusion, being disregarded as an insignificant female, her dream is to display one of her many inventions at a prestigious—and exclusively male—science exhibition. Yet as a young lady from a respectable, wealthy family, Vivian is expected to behave with appropriate decorum, focusing on her appearance and seeking a suitable marriage. Though the discomfort nearly unravels her sanity, she awkwardly attempts to follow the path laid before her—with miserable failure the repeated result. Her logical mind rebels as she struggles to meet societal expectations. “The idea of casting aside her own pursuits to make a pleasant life for someone who cared nothing for her interests was intolerable to Vivian. Why would she seek such a union? What was the point of it?” (100)
Lord Benedict, the second son of a duke, had traveled to China three years before seeking carefree adventure. “But what he’d found had transformed him in a way he’d not intended. He’d become a different man in the shadow of the Grand Temple, discovering a peace that came from moderation, humility, and compassion.” (278) After tragedy strikes, he returns to London under the tremendous pressure of high expectations. “Benedict was torn between the man he wished to be and the man he was expected to be. It felt impossible for the two opposites to live within one person. And knowing that if he were true to himself, he’d disappoint his family…that felt like a weight he hadn’t the strength to hold.” (283)
As childhood acquaintances, Benedict had thoughtlessly caused Vivian unimaginable humiliation, and an unexpected encounter as adults reminds them both of the painful event. Wishing to make amends for his appalling treatment of her in their youth, Benedict anonymously becomes Vivian’s sponsor for the science exhibition. “He’d seen what she was capable of and knew she deserved the opportunity to showcase her skill.” (1086) The two strike up a friendly correspondence even as they gradually develop a tentative friendship in real life, and as Vivian begins to feel torn between the two men supporting her ambitions, she remains unaware that they are the same person. When an urgent situation requires them to work together, Vivian sees the truth of her father’s words: “A person can tell a lot about a man by the way he treats those less fortunate.” (2898) But will Benedict’s secret identity cause their budding friendship to fail before it’s hardly begun?
Although I appreciate the strong friendship theme woven throughout the Blue Orchid Society series, I admit to a bit of disappointment over the subdued romantic elements. Even so, I still enjoy how the series feels like reuniting with old friends. In the first book, I was granted the privilege of becoming acquainted with Lady Sophronia, and in this book, it was Miss Vivian Kirby’s turn to share her innermost wishes and turmoil. Each character feels like a real person, and that’s a testament to the author’s considerable skill. The extensive research at the foundation of each story makes reading them an edifying experience.
In Inventing Vivian, it is lovely to see an intelligent, unconventional lady be appreciated for being herself. I am reminded of the old adage: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” The story adeptly examines how people tend to vilify what they don’t understand and how we internalize others’ biases and convince ourselves of our own unworthiness. “There’s something special about a person who believes in us, isn’t there?” (2903)
Inventing Vivian is a thought-provoking exploration of prejudice that underscores the timeless concept of accepting and loving a person for who they are, not who society insists they should be.
5 out of 5 Stars
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Enter a giveaway for one trade paperback copy of Inventing Vivian, by Jennifer Moore and a $25 Amazon gift card. (US addresses only). Ends July 21, 2021. Follow this link to enter. Thanks to Prism Book Tours and Covenant Communications for offering the giveaway. Good luck to all.
- Inventing Vivian, A Victorian Romance: The Blue Orchid Society (Book 2), by Jennifer Moore, by Jennifer Moore
- Covenant Communications (June 7, 2021)
- Paperback, eBook, and Audiobook (224) pages
- ISBN: 978-1524418946
Cover image compliments of Covenant Communications © 2021; text Katie Jackson © 2021, Austenprose.com