Thursday, 9 February 2012

Awake Unto Me by Kathleen Knowles

Kerry O’Shea’s mother died when she was born. Kerry grew up on the Barbary Coast of San Francisco, living her young life among prostitutes at the Grey Dog saloon. Kerry’s father, Jack does his best to do right by her, but he’s a con man and a gambler and doesn’t set the best example for a young girl.

After Jack dies, Kerry goes to live with Dr Addison Grant, an acquaintance of her father’s, and his prim and proper wife, Laura. Kerry is determined to make a better life for herself. She begins work at the Palace Hotel as a dishwasher. After a great battle of wits, she works her way up to become a cook.

Beth Hammond’s life hasn’t been easy. She grew up with unsupportive parents, her father was a domineering man, and seemed to think Beth should work all hours in his store. All Beth can think about is escaping and studying nursing. Which eventually she is able to do.

Kerry and Beth first meet at the home of Addison and Laura. For Kerry, it is love at first sight. But Kerry has known for years she prefers women. What will Kerry do? Will Kerry trust that Beth won’t run away if she tells her how she feels? Beth, although she has strong feelings for Kerry, has no idea why or what it means. Beth is also hiding a dark secret, which if she divulges, could lose her Kerry’s friendship forever. What will Beth do? Will Beth trust Kerry?

This is a wonderfully well written debut book. It doesn’t read like a debut book. Now and then I read a debut book and it is so good, I find it hard to believe the author hasn’t published before. This is one of those books.

The book is set in San Francisco and the story begins in 1880. It is quite obvious that Kathleen Knowles has done extensive research into the history of turn of the century San Francisco, for this book. It is far more than just a simple lesbian romance. The history comes alive.

As I began to read this story, I felt as though I had been transported back in time. The descriptive settings were so vivid, I could almost smell the aroma of the Bay area.

For anyone who has visited San Francisco, they will know some of these places still exist and some things haven’t changed at all. It is very easy to get lost into the story and to become a part of it.

The two main characters, Kerry and Beth, are well formed and loveable and there is a strong cast of supporting characters to progress the story along it’s way.

This is a story of courage, first love, romance and how women could make a life outside of marriage, which was the norm for women of those times.

The story of these two courageous women will remain with me for a long time. This is definitely a re-read for me. I look forward to more from this promising new author soon.

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