A Race to Splendor

Written by Ciji Ware
Review by Wisteria Leigh

On April 18th, 1906, San Francisco residents awoke to waves of destruction when the earth’s Pacific plates shifted offshore. This April marks the 105th anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake that pummeled the city and destroyed nearly 400 city blocks.  Following the recent ruination of Japan by one of the worst earthquakes on record, and the subsequent wrath of the deadly tsunami, this historical fiction novel is an almost surreal reminder of our own frailty.

Ciji Ware has an admitted drive to tell the stories that weren’t told, those of the women who lived our past and contributed to history. This story surrounds the life of a formidable woman, Amelia Bradshaw, an emerging architect who arrives stateside to claim her inheritance.  She is shocked to learn that her foolhardy father has gambled away her fortune, the Bay View Hotel, in a winner-take-all card game.  Her court battle to capture her legitimate right is defeated as the corrupt cronies working with the new charismatic owner, J.D. Thayer, ensure his victory. Forced to seek employment, Amelia is offered temporary work by her friend and mentor Julia Morgan.

After the earthquake insinuates itself into the lives of the residents, the race to rebuild from the rubble begins in earnest.  Amelia’s voice tells the story, and through the survivors, prejudice and avarice embedded for years are unearthed.  Ware uses primary and secondary sources to support her opulent story of desire and greed. She sheds light on the influence of women professionals who, like Amelia and Julia, had much at stake and much to prove during the turn of the century.

Ciji Ware continues to shine a spotlight on women’s accomplishments in history.  Highly recommended, this novel glows with a careful blend of history and romance.