When you think of this period in time, your first thought is likely, “the Victorian Era,” but for Americans, it was, “A Gilded Age.” A term derived from Mark Twain’s 1873 satirical novel, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today. It was a time characterized by bustle dresses, good manners, wealth, immigration and political shift as social causes came to the forefront.
Despite it’s golden lining, there was an underbelly to this glamorized period. With the end of the Reconstruction Era, African Americans lost some of their protections, Unions fought for better working conditions and an end to child-labor and women pushed for suffrage. In the cities, a drastic distinction of class began to emerge, separating the working class and new European immigrants from the wealthy upper class. Ironically, this era also signaled the waning years of the gold mining industry and the dawn of land conservation (think Yosemite). I would be lying if I said the two weren’t linked. Visit my home page for a video on Hydraulic mining to learn more about this.
But it was also an age of invention and awakening. Americans were returning to religion as another revival began to sweep the country. New technology began to enter the scene with the the lightbulb, telephone, typewriter, automobile and phonograph. This is one of my absolute favorite historical periods.
One of the best novels I’ve read of the period wraps much of the conflict of the era into one package. Kristen Heitzmann’s Diamond of the Rockies books, beginning with the Rose Legacy, set in the year 1880. Heitzmann takes us into the world of Italian immigrant, Carina DeGratia, as she travels to Crystal, encountering the Colorado Silver King, a Protestant Revival meeting, and prejudice towards the lower class, immigrants and immoral.
Listed below are other novels for your perusing. I hope you enjoy this stop on our historical tour. Next, we’ll be headed into the twentieth century, beginning with Teddy Roosevelt and the Progressive Era.
As owner of the 57th Illinois Watch Company, Mollie Knox’s future looks bright until the night the legendary Great Chicago Fire destroys her beloved city. With her world crumbling around her, Mollie will do whatever it takes to rebuild in the aftermath of the devastating fire.
Zack Kazmarek, an influential attorney for one of Chicago’s finest department stores, is a force to be reckoned with among the city’s most powerful citizens. Bold and shrewd, he’s accustomed to getting exactly what he wants–until he meets Mollie Knox, the beguiling businesswoman just beyond his reach.
In the tumult as the people of Chicago race to rebuild a bigger and better city, Mollie comes face-to-face with the full force of Zack’s character and influence. Zack believes this may finally be his chance to win her, but can Mollie ever accept this man and his whirlwind effect on her life, especially with her treasured company on the line?
1875 From a Distance – Tamera Alexander
What happens when the realization of a dream isn’t what you imagined. . . and the secret you’ve spent a lifetime guarding is finally laid bare?
Determined to become one of the country’s premier newspaper photographers, Elizabeth Westbrook travels to the Colorado Territory to capture the grandeur of the mountains surrounding the remote town of Timber Ridge. She hopes, too, that the cool, dry air of Colorado, and its renowned hot springs, will cure the mysterious illness that threatens her career, and her life.
Daniel Ranslett, a former Confederate sharpshooter, is a man shackled by his past, and he’ll do anything to protect his land, and his solitude. When an outspoken Yankee photographer captures an image that appears key to solving a murder, putting herself in danger, Daniel is called upon to repay a debt. He’s a man of his word, but repaying that debt could bring secrets from his past to light.
Forced on a perilous journey together, Daniel and Elizabeth’s lives intertwine in ways neither could have imagined when first they met . . . from a distance.
1877 An Untamed Land – Lauraine Snelling
She had promised herself that once they left the fjords of Norway, she would never look back.
The promise of free land lures Roald and Ingeborg Bjorklund from their beloved home high above the fjords of Norway, and after three long years of scrimping and saving to buy tickets for their passage to America, they finally arrive at the docks of New York City. This new land promises a rich heritage for their children, and here they hope to build a good life.
After a long journey by train and then by covered wagon, the Bjorklunds finally arrive in Dakota Territory, where they settle on the banks of the Red River of the North. But the virgin prairie refuses to yield its treasure without a struggle. Will Roald and Ingeborg be strong enough to overcome the hardships of that first winter?
Proud of their heritage and sustained by their faith, they came to tame a new land.
*part of a series. Not a stand alone novel.
1880 The Rose Legacy – Kristen Heitzmann
She arrived with little more than what she could hold in her heart….
Crystal, Colorado, is known as the “Diamond of the Rockies,” a mining town where what lies beneath is the only thing truly valued. Overrun with men seeking their fortune and women bound by circumstance, it hosts both dreams and nightmares with little surety for tomorrow. Yet Crystal is surrounded by beauty of a natural kind and offers an independence that Carina Maria DiGratia could never find at home. Driven by hope and vengeance, Carina is old enough to be certain of her own strength, young enough to be caught unawares.
Two men take her under their wings, but both are not what they seem. Will Carina discern the truth and confront the turmoil hidden within her own heart in time to prevent tragedy?
*part of a series. Not a stand alone novel.
1893 Tiffany Girl – Deanne Gist
As preparations for the 1893 World’s Fair set Chicago and the nation on fire, Louis Tiffany—heir to the exclusive Fifth Avenue jewelry empire—seizes the opportunity to unveil his state-of-the-art, stained glass, mosaic chapel, the likes of which the world has never seen.
But when Louis’s dream is threatened by a glassworkers’ strike months before the Fair opens, he turns to an unforeseen source for help: the female students at the Art Students League of New York. Eager for adventure, the young women pick up their skirts, move to boarding houses, take up steel cutters, and assume new identities as the “Tiffany Girls.”
Tiffany Girl is the heartwarming story of the impetuous Flossie Jayne, a beautiful, budding artist who is handpicked by Louis to help complete the Tiffany chapel. Though excited to live in a boarding house when most women stayed home, she quickly finds the world is less welcoming than anticipated. From a Casanova male, to an unconventional married couple, and a condescending singing master, she takes on a colorful cast of characters to transform the boarding house into a home while racing to complete the Tiffany chapel and make a name for herself in the art world.
As challenges mount, her ambitions become threatened from an unexpected quarter: her own heart. Who will claim victory? Her dreams or the captivating boarder next door?
Could They Fulfill Their Dreams in this Untamed Land?
Driven by desperation, Grace Hawkins must forsake the affluent comfort of her upbringing to save herself from an arranged marriage. Disillusioned by her father’s insistence, she forges a daring plan to escape the sinister hand of her intended.
Peter Colton sees the Alaskan gold rush as an opportunity to establish his family’s fledgling shipping business. An unexpected partnership enables him to pursue those dreams and opens the door to an acquaintance with Grace, who has purchased passage north.
Drawn together by need and circumstance, Grace and Peter form a faltering friendship. But when her deserted fiance continues to manipulate her loved ones, can she find peace in the wake of his wrath?