The Invention of Sarah Cummings by Olivia Newport

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

About the Book:
Author: Olivia Newport
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: 2013
Find the Review Elsewhere:
Series: Avenue of Dreams – book 3
Genre: Christian Fiction; Historical
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5
Sarah Cummings has lived the only life open to her ever since she lost her parents as a young girl. Left an orphan, she grew up at St. Andrew’s and immediately went into service at the age of sixteen. Living on the prestigious Prairie Avenue at the home of the Banning’s, Sarah’s plans for a better more prestigious life is fueled by the parties and fine gowns she sees on a nightly basis – and getting the hand-me-downs from Mrs. Banning has honed Sarah’s skill with a needle. On a chance meeting with a recent Chicago transplant – Miss Lillie Wagner, Sarah invents a mysterious, Chicago socialite named Serena Cuthbert, and is put on a whirlwind of possibilities, one that involves a wealthy, politically ambitious suitor and possibly, the man who can give Sarah the life she wants to make for herself. But will the cost to Sarah and her real friends be worth compromising her values to achieve that success?

Sarah Cummings is likely a name we all remember or those of us who have, now read all three of Newport’s Avenue of Dreams series will. She made quite the impression on us as a bratty maid at the Banning home and now, has earned her own story in this, the final book of the trilogy. Early on, the story starts out lovely. There was more depth and interest to Sarah – she seemed to have matured and grown into a “better” person, despite her desire for something more. Being too harsh on the dream behind Sarah’s deception seems contradictory as all of us have some kind of aspiration we dream of making come true. It’s the way that Sarah goes about inventing her fate that is wrong – and walks a fine line between truth and deception. About three-fourths the way through the book, there was a 180 switch in her personality and suddenly, the little brat was back. That was an unexpected occurrence that I confess not to have seen coming.  

Carried through the entire threads of the book is Sarah’s love of reinventing the gowns that she is gifted. It’s an interesting part of the novel, which of course, is paralleling the transformation Sarah wants to inflict on her own life. Reading through passages of Sarah re-patterning her gowns or picturing new work to an otherwise outdated design was a lovely part of the book because a.) it gave more detail to the costuming in literary form and b.) while lovingly recreating these gowns as an accomplished seamstress, Sarah is herself rather than a put-on imitation of what she thought she wanted.

Not unlike its predecessors, I have to be honest in saying that the real flaw of the series is how underplayed the men are. I recognize that this is about three women coming-of-age and in most instances, living ahead of their time through their dreams, however, I think had there been stronger male leads, the romance aspects would have seemed more interesting if not more prominent. Had the male lead been better developed – in this instance, it’s Simon Tewell, the rush to end the book happily wouldn’t read so far-reaching. Minor in complaint, there was also a lot of uses of character's first names – not necessarily in conversation, but certainly in the second person prose. Despite the squabbles I’ve had with this series, they’re sweet one-time, good weekend reads. There is some great historical detail and Sarah ended up making a more complex character that I’d have expected. Because of that, ‘Invention’ just may have been the best of the entire series. It was unique even if it was through subtle transitions and seemed a solid way to conclude the stories in the lives of those who live on the Avenue of Dreams.  

Synopsis:  Sarah Cummings has one goal in life--to break into Chicago's high society. Desperate to stop serving dinner and to start eating at society tables, Sarah alters cast-off gowns from the wealthy Banning women to create lustrous, flattering dresses of her own. On a whim at a chance meeting, she presents herself as Serena Cuthbert, weaving a fictitious past to go with her fictitious name. But as she gets closer to Simon Tewell, the director of St. Andrew's Orphanage, Sarah finds that she must choose between the life she has and the life she dreams of. Will she sacrifice love to continue her pretense? Or can Simon show her that sometimes you don't have to pretend for dreams to come true? - Goodreads

Coming Next from Olivia Newport: Taken for English, synopsis not available, coming February 2014

Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes.

Available September 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.


  1. Great honest review. You make an excellent point about the male lead.

    1. Thanks for dropping by and reading, Juju. :)

      That is the one "big thing" I felt about this series - the male lead was just too underplayed. They were sweet books, just not favorites.

  2. Rissi, you hit the nail on the head. I knew something was off about the romance but I couldn't set my finger on it when I typed up my review. You are exactly right, the guys were underplayed. I'm with you though, this is my favorite in the series. Great review! ;)

    1. Right there with you, Rosie - I've had that happen TOO many times when writing up reviews. I can for sure sympathize.

      I'm not a girl who always has to have a book that is overwhelmed by the romance, however a subtle romance doesn't mean the male lead should suffer. Authors can write a memorable hero without having to "up" the romance.

      Thanks for reading - I'm going to be catching up on your blog really soon; life's just been busy lately! :)

  3. This does sound interesting! I didn't put it on my reading list because of your rating, I think (I tend to only put it on my list if it's 4 or more out of 5); but it does sound cool!

    1. Awesome. Hope you enjoy the book when you read it, Hannah; of the three novels in this series, I think this was my most favorite. It's a sweet read. Happy reading! :)


Have a thought? Don't be shy, go ahead and leave one... or two... or three! I reply to every comment. If you're new to the blog, please don't hesitate to introduce yourself and your blog - we love chatting around here!

Feedback and every comment is appreciated and read - I always leave a response; your opinions are respected and I ask that you show mine the same courtesy.

(If you post under “anonymous,” please leave a name. If you don't have a Google account, you can type your name into the Name/URL and if you have no site, just leave "URL" blank.)

If you are still reading my ramblings, thank you for following this little blog and for being one of its supporters. I’ve enjoyed getting to know each of you, friends!

Latest Instagrams

© Finding Wonderland. Design by FCD.