Count the Nights by Stars

Written by Michelle Shocklee
Review by Bonnie DeMoss

This dual-timeline novel takes us to Nashville, Tennessee in both 1897 and 1961. In 1961, Audrey Whitfield is home from college after the death of her mother. She is helping out her grief-stricken father at the historic Maxwell House Hotel. While cleaning out the room of an elderly guest who has had a stroke, she finds a scrapbook of mementos from the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Hints of a long-ago romance, and possible evidence of the disappearance of young women at the exposition, start Audrey on an investigation into Nashville’s past. In 1897, Priscilla Nichols is staying at the Maxwell House Hotel and exploring the Tennessee Centennial Exposition with her driver, Luca Moretti, until a disappearance changes everything.

This captivating story takes us to the exposition as it begins in 1897. The descriptions of the shining exhibits at Exposition Park make you feel as if you are there. Through the wealthy Priscilla and the working-class immigrant Gia, we see the oppression of women of the time in different ways. The haughty privilege and power seized and abused by the rich is also portrayed, and is shocking to behold. In 1961, Audrey learns more about the American civil rights movement through Jason, who wants to be a civil rights attorney. The reader learns the history of the movement and is told of lunch counter sit-ins and the Freedom Riders, fighting for equality against the evil Jim Crow laws. In 1897, when the disappearance occurs and the mystery begins, it is shocking and compelling. Audrey and Priscilla unravel elements of this secret in two timelines. At the same time, shadowy figures from the upper class try to interfere. Rich in history and mystery, Count the Nights by Stars is a novel that will teach and inspire.