Sunday 3 April 2011

Review: A Race to Splendor - Ciji Ware

Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 544
Publisher: Sourcebooks, April 1st 2011

A tale of rivalry, redemption, and the rebuilding of a devastated city

New architect Amelia Bradshaw returns to the city to claim what's left of the Bay View, her grandfather's hotel next to Chinatown, only to find that her drunkard father has lost it to J.D. Thayer in a poker game. After an unsuccessful court battle—at a time when women had no right of possession—Bradshaw takes a job as junior architect under Julia Morgan, the first licensed female architect in California history. When Morgan's firm is selected to rebuild the Bay View, along with its competitor, the Fairmont, Bradshaw is put in charge of the former, forcing her to work closely with Mr. Thayer, her adversary, who is determined to beat the anniversary of the quake and the opening of the Fairmont. In time, Bradshaw and Thayer learn that they have more in common than they think, and Bradshaw grows close to some of the Chinese workers, giving Ware a chance to chronicle the despair faced by that community during the disaster. Ware's trailblazing woman is a feisty host for an affecting story of the struggle to rise above the wreckage of mankind.

My thoughts:
This was my first book by Ware and I certainly hope it will not be my last because it was a good one. It's set against the backdrop of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the fires that destroyed much of the city. Early on tragedy strikes and then we get to see how the city is rebuilt. Or should we say how two hotels are rebuilt.

Ware took the real historical character of Julia Morgan and let her finish her Fairmont hotel, and then she created the main character and let her work for Julia on another site. And it was not easy being a female architect at a time like this. But Amelia, the heroine, knows what she wants and this is it. She goes for it, and she works hard and she does not let any man put her down. I liked and respected her. The hero on the other hand was a scoundrel (I just have to use that world cos I love it). She feels that he stole the hotel from her family, that he uses prostitutes at his club, and that he is a lowlife. But then there is more to J.D.Thayer than meets the eye. I have the same concerns at first, I never dislike him though, I was just wary of him. But little by little the real person behind is revealed, and I fall for him just as Amelia unwillingly does.

There is so much more to this book than the building of the hotel and a slowly growing romance. There is an insight into the conditions of the Chinese, women kidnapped and forced to become prostitutes, and the how bad the whole population was treated. There is also the plot where the bad guy wants to destroy what Thayer is working for, one way or another.

A great historical novel set against an interesting time that I have not read much about, I also found it interesting that women could be architects at that time and was hired (even if it only was J Morgan.) This is a book that I would recommend to fans of historical fiction, and to the rest of you too. It has romance, suspense, and backstabbing.

I am going to read more by this author. A great story.

It does look nice but I wanna see her face

I got this book from the publisher, all thoughts are my own.

Come back tomorrow when I have Ciji over for an interview and I am giving away a copy of this book.


  1. Sounds good. I love the cover and the dress.

  2. It really sounds good - I would love to read that one! Cover is nice but a bit too tame.

  3. This sounds like a good one - the only book I've read of hers is Cottage by the Sea set in Cornwall and I just loved it!!

  4. The cover doesn't seem evoke anything that the book is about!

  5. Oh I like the sound of this one. I actually really enjoy when the hero makes me uneasy at first and I'm not sure whether or not I'm going to like him, and then slowly he starts to grow on me throughout the book. Like a fungus:) But a good one.

  6. This was my first Ware book too and won't be my last. Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did.

  7. The story is interesting and I think the cover is cool. I love the dress!

  8. I have this book on my wishlist. I thought that it's a light historical novel. I am glad to know that it has more depth and covers some relevant issues.

  9. I haven't read any of her books yet but I have Island of the Swans. This sounds great too and I like the cover too.

  10. I'm really interested in reading this one especially because I find that time period in San Francisco really interesting!!

  11. This looks like a really fun read! I have one of her other books on my shelf but haven't read it yet.

  12. I have never heard of the 1906 San Franscico earthquake. I love the sound of this book. To read how the city might have bee put back together sounds amazing.

  13. Sounds goos, I like the fact that it takes place during an actual historical event.

  14. JuJu
    The dress is stunning, I sure wish I had something like it

    And I hope you would like it, so hard to recommend his fic to you ;)

    I remember that book and I did want to read it when I heard about it, and now I really want to

    Well it is a race to splendor so I got it like that

    Haha, like fungus ;) Now that is a good one! But yes at first I was a bit taken back since he was a rake, a playboy, the bad boy, but then like fungus he just would not let go

  15. Nise
    I hoped I would after your review and I am glad I did :)

    I so want that dress! :D

    I would not call it light, there were some dark things in there too. It didn't go totally dark, cos it did still have this more light feeling, but it also dealt with some serious and horrible issues

    I hope you enjoy that book :D it sounds good

  16. Staci
    I can't recall ever reading about it, or seeing anything about it, so I am glad to learn more

    I have had my eye on her for a while now and I was happy to see that the book was as good as I hoped it to be

    It was a devastating one and then fires destroyed buildings that still stood. And the city was also filled with corruption after it. But good times to read about

    A book does have this other feel to it against a backdrop like that

  17. Surely seems a very intriguing read. I don't usually read that much historical novels, but I actually might grab this.

  18. Lae
    It was good and interesting, but then I am bias since I love his fic :)

  19. I keep hearing wonderful things about Ware's books. I need to add her to my list of authors to try.

  20. This sounds really good. I'm going to add it to my list. Even though I'm not big on historical fiction, I like the setting for this one.

  21. I could never wear a dress like that. It would make my butt twice as big as it already looks. Great review.

  22. Oh this is the reason I need to read more historical fiction. You really have sold me on this one.

  23. I'm not too much into historical fiction, but wow, I think the issues that this book explores and exposes are interesting.

  24. I do like that time period. I'll keep an eye for this one. Sounds good.

  25. I am still trying to get the first Ciji Ware book I read about on the blogs. This sounds equally good

  26. This sounds good girl. Very true not much books set up during that time. Thayer sounds!

  27. I'm glad to see you liked this one. I've got it coming up soon as well.

  28. I love San Francisco and Ware's books so I definitely have to read this one. Excellent review B!

  29. This sounds really good! I read Ciji Ware's Island of the Swans, and while it was a tad long, I really enjoyed it.

  30. Since I live in SF I totally think I need to read this one!

  31. San Francisco in the early 1900s sounds like an amazing setting, so much going on. Add women in a man's world and a romance - maybe I'll think about picking it up.

  32. Bermuda
    I can only say yes you should to that :)

    The good thing that even though it's a historical, it is still so close to our modern age so it feels modern too


    You do need to read more, they are awesome!

    Since it takes place only 100 years ago it isn't that big a leap ;) And yes the issues did give it another spin

    I hope you get to read it :)

    I have my eye on that one too. I do hope you can find one

  33. Ing
    I did imagine him to be hot too ;) He had some Spanish blood, and I do like my men with dark hair

    I can't wait to see what you think

    If you like her previous ones then I am sure you will enjoy this one too

    That is the one that speaks to em the most :)

    I forgot that, but yes then you really should read this book

    It had a bit of everything and I certainly like my books like that

  34. This sounds like a great book. A romance novel with some real substance to it. I'll definitely have to check it out.

  35. Simcha
    I sure recommend it :)

  36. I just finished this one and LOVED IT!

    Doing review this week but seriously I have to start Cottage by The Sea next. Another Ciji Ware winner!

    Great review and very happy to see you loved it too !

  37. I've got this one coming up soon, glad you liked it. It'll be might first Ware book too but I've been meaning to pick up her others.

  38. Aisle B
    I so wanna read another book by her! Perhaps cottage or island, they both sound good

    So your first too :) I hope you enjoy it as much as I did then

  39. Nice review, I think I will put this book and this author on my read-soon list. I sometimes like historical fiction like this, certainly with a good heroine.

  40. Aurian
    I am sure you would enjoy this one :) So very good and inresting

  41. I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE the dress on the front cover! I want it, I want it for my wedding...which isn't going to happen any time soon since I don't even have a boyfriend, but whatever! :-P Ok back to the review. You have such awesome short and to-the-point reviews! I love them for that because you just tell it like it is with not a lot of fluff! I know that this book has been placed on my TBR list for sure. :-D

  42. Deanna
    Thanks :D I always wonder what peeps think about my reviews, and I am happy to hear you say that cos that is just what I am going for.

    And the dress, awww, I want it too :D



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