A Race to Splendor

( 53 )

Overview

"Blindly, she inched along a floor pitching as violently as the deck of a boat in a midwinter storm. Her hands touched the threshold opening onto the ninth floor foyer at the instant the glass transom over her head exploded into a thousand pieces. Reflexively, Amelia cast her right arm in front of her face, but not before blood spurted from her scalp and ran down her checks. She crumpled beneath the doorframe, curling into a ball. Amelia screamed again as a twenty-five-foot expanse of wood paneling and masonry ...

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A Race to Splendor

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Overview

"Blindly, she inched along a floor pitching as violently as the deck of a boat in a midwinter storm. Her hands touched the threshold opening onto the ninth floor foyer at the instant the glass transom over her head exploded into a thousand pieces. Reflexively, Amelia cast her right arm in front of her face, but not before blood spurted from her scalp and ran down her checks. She crumpled beneath the doorframe, curling into a ball. Amelia screamed again as a twenty-five-foot expanse of wood paneling and masonry pitched outward and plunged nine stories to Montgomery Street below. She knew that no structure on landfill, no matter how well built, could withstand much more shaking without collapsing.

Then, just as suddenly, the convulsions subsided."

Early in 1906, the ground in San Francisco shook buildings and lives from their comfortable foundations.

Amidst rubble, corruption, and deceit, two women-young architects in a city and field ruled by men-find themselves racing the clock and each other during the rebuilding of competing hotels in the City by the Bay.

Based on meticulous research, A Race to Splendor tells the story of the audacious people of one of the world's great cities rebuilding and reinventing themselves after immense human tragedy. Filled with courage, passion, and conflict, Amelia Bradshaw's spirit will capture your imagination as she strives to redraft her life amidst the ruins with both help and hindrance from a wayward son of privilege who pulls her into worlds she'd never have known.

"Richly drawn characters...will keep you turning these pages!"
-Michael Llewellyn, author of Twelfth Night

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
For her sixth novel (after A Light on the Veranda), Ware returns to historicals with an unlikely romance framed around San Francisco's devastating earthquake of 1906. New architect Amelia Bradshaw returns to the city to claim what's left of the Bay View, her grandfather's hotel next to Chinatown, only to find that her drunkard father has lost it to J.D. Thayer in a poker game. After an unsuccessful court battle—at a time when women had no right of possession—Bradshaw takes a job as junior architect under Julia Morgan, the first licensed female architect in California history. When Morgan's firm is selected to rebuild the Bay View, along with its competitor, the Fairmont, Bradshaw is put in charge of the former, forcing her to work closely with Mr. Thayer, her adversary, who is determined to beat the anniversary of the quake and the opening of the Fairmont. In time, Bradshaw and Thayer learn that they have more in common than they think, and Bradshaw grows close to some of the Chinese workers, giving Ware a chance to chronicle the despair faced by that community during the disaster. Ware's trailblazing woman is a feisty host for an affecting story of the struggle to rise above the wreckage of mankind. (Apr.)
RT Book Reviews
Meticulously researched, this richly detailed novel, whose earthquake scenes are so real that readers will believe they are witnessing the event, will enthrall... an unforgettable story. 4 1/2 Stars
Library Journal
Amelia Bradshaw's return to 1906 San Francisco after earning a degree in architecture should have been cause for celebration. But her family hotel has been gambled away to J.D. Thayer by her sot of a father, and the law in the form of corrupt judges does not support her. Worse, school friend and mentor Julia Morgan is unable to make good on her offer of a position for Amelia. In an instant, an earthquake reduces Amelia's problems, along with much of the city, to rubble, and the aftermath brings changes she could never have foreseen. Drawn into the frenzy to rebuild San Francisco, Amelia is also drawn to J.D.'s potent allure. VERDICT Vividly evocative of the time and place, Ware's (Island of the Swans) first novel in ten years deftly blends history and romance in a page-turning story. From her gripping descriptions of the earthquake and its aftermath to the interplay between the protagonists, this is another winner from an excellent wordsmith.—Pam O'Sullivan, Coll. at Brockport Lib., SUNY
Kirkus Reviews
Floors pitch violently, buildings collapse, San Francisco disintegrates and bosoms heave.

Were there women in the professions in 1906? Yes. Were they uncommon? Yes. Were any of them architects? Apparently. Were they full of bodice-ripping passion? Well, for that, you'll need to turn to this sometimes steamy, more often merely humid yarn. Amelia Hunter Bradshaw is a feminist pioneer, quite happy to shock the good citizens of California with her demands for suffrage and her perky proclamations: "It's a new century, Mr. Thayer, and we 'females,' as you put it, are quite capable of seeing to our own affairs." So it appears, though a brawny pair of arms and hungry set of lips have their place in the proceedings, too. Amelia knows her way around an I-beam, as we learn courtesy of Ware's constant exposition: "From what we've seen so far," Amelia's partner in the building trades asserts, "it looks as if we'll have to start in the basement and methodically work our way to the sky with reinforcing construction," to which our heroine replies: "At least the basement's already cleared of rubble and shorn up with support posts."Alas, the prose bumps along like a bowling ball descending a shaky staircase, as witness the opening sentence: "James Diaz Thayer scooped the deck of cards bearing his initials into a pile on top of the late Charlie Hunter's desk in the bowels of Nob Hill's celebrated Bay View Hotel." Anyone up for diagramming that one? Things don't get much better, though there are some competently imagined scenes of death and destruction, and even of smooching. The tale grinds along like a right-lateral strike-slip fault to a long-awaited end that, regrettably, does not include much elastic rebound. In her favor, Amelia is nicer than Howard Roark and a worse shot than Leon Czolgosz, but that's about the best that can be said for this book.

A novel in need of a solid foundation.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402222696
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/1/2011
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 990,203
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

Ciji Ware
Ciji Ware is an Emmy Award-winning journalist with tremendous media savvy and charisma in addition to being an author of historical fiction novels. She has appeared on the Today show to promote her books, and continues to be highly involved with her own projects in the television and film industries. She lives with her husband in San Francisco.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 53 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(19)

4 Star

(11)

3 Star

(18)

2 Star

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1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 54 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 29, 2011

    A masterpiece and most enjoyable read.

    Those of us who are fans of Ciji's Ware's maticulously researched fictional novels set it real historical places and situations, have waited a long time for a new book and the wait was well worth it! "A Race to Splendor" is an incredibly enjoyable book to read about the rebuilding of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake, by two female civil engineer/architects -- one real life architect Julia Morgan who actually did restore the Fairmont Hotel, and Ware's fictional Amelia Hunter Bradshaw, a protege of Julia Morgan. Ameilia's handsome adversary, J.D. Thayer is the perfect adversary "with beneifts" and the villans are dastardly, believable and probably the cause of many of the laws we have today. While reading this story it is particularly easy to feel one's self living in that era. I have loved all of Ciji Ware's books, but in my book this is her masterpiece.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 25, 2011

    Delightful!

    Vividly drawn characters and a compelling storyline propel the narrative of A Race To Splendor, Ciji Ware's latest historical novel. Set in San Francisco against the backdrop of the great 1906 earthquake and fire, the drama unfolds in the tumultuous grip of a city struggling to rebuild. Ruthless entrepreneurs, unsavory politicians, and ordinary citizens play supporting roles, as does Julia Morgan, California's first licensed female architect, in a nicely rendered cameo. The core of the novel revolves around its two main characters, the courageous, young architect Amelia Hunter Bradshaw and roguish man of integrity, J. D. Thayer. Their relationship dances throughout, creating palpable tension and a delicious sense of anticipation. Ware's reputation for masterful storytelling, meticulous research and brilliant creativity is more than confirmed by this delightful novel.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2011

    Historical Romance

    The author, Ciji Ware, takes the reader on a magical journey through San Francisco during the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. I enhaled every page. Her characters came alive through her descriptions, and she truly captured the history of San Francisco. A real treasure of a novel...wonderfully told!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 8, 2011

    REBUILDING LIVES AFTER DESTRUCTION! A RACE TO SPENDOR BY CIJI WARE...

    A RACE TO SPLENDOR by Ciji Ware is another interesting historical fiction set in 1906 San Francisco. It is written with depth and details.It has the earthquake of 1906, rebuilding lives, corruption, splendor,power,fortune,tragedy,rivalry,heartache,intrigue,andrebuilding a city from ashes to splendor. This is the the story of two women,the destruction and rebuilding of San Francisco,and the people whose lives where changed forever. History and fiction is interwined to create an interesting and compelling story of San Francisco in 1906,its people,their truimphs and their tragedies.If you enjoy history,facts,and the people of this era you will enjoy this story.This book was received for the purpose of review from the publisher.Details can be found at Sourcebooks,Landmark,a division of Sourcebooks,Inc.and My Book Addiction Reviews.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    CIJI WARE'S "A RACE TO SPLENDOR" (A REVIEW)

    CIJI WARE'S "A RACE TO SPLENDOR" (A REVIEW)

    This book had everything I love, a strong woman, an equally strong man, headbutting, that ends in a love story... it was perfect. Ciji Ware definitely knows how to write a prominent historical novel with just the right amounts of drama, romance, history, and excitement. I fully intend to look for more of her works in the near future. The author constantly amazed me with her knowledge of the history in the early 1900's and just how hard it was for a woman to make her way in what was known as a 'man's world.'

    If you have not read any of Ciji Ware's novels you MUST do so, especially if you are a lover of great historical fiction. This author knows what she is writing about and it's not hard to see that she does her research thoroughly and to the fullest.

    -Kitty Bullard / Great Minds Think Aloud Book Club

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Historical Fiction Of The Early 1900's

    The year is 1906. Amelia Bradshaw has just returned to her beloved San Francisco from Paris, where she is one of the first women to become an architect. But her return is hardly a happy one. Her beloved grandfather has died. Even though he left her the family fortune built with one of San Francisco's most prominent hotels, disaster is waiting.

    Her father gambles away the family hotel in a drunken all night gambling spree. Although the will states that it is Amelia and not he who holds legal title, and although California has recently passed laws giving women the right to control their own property, laws must be interpreted in courts by judges. Amelia is unlucky enough to draw a judge adamantly opposed to the new freedoms given to women and he awards the hotel to her father's poker opponent.

    Left destitute, Amelia joins the first female architectural firm, headed by one of her college friends and mentors. But worse is waiting. Within a month, the great earthquake of San Francisco occurs. The city is almost destroyed. Amelia survives and now must do her part to make her way in the world and to help rebuild the city she loves, and the hotel she has lost to a charming scoundrel.

    Ciji Ware is acknowledged as one of the best historical fiction authors, and she does not disappoint in A Race to Splendor. Meticulously researched, she transports the reader to turn of the century San Francisco and makes them feel the devastation and the pioneering spirit that rebuilt the city. The characters are sympathetic and the romance between Amelia and her rival is believable. The world seems to be in another cycle of devastating earthquakes the last few years, and Ware makes the reader feel the devastation in a new light, not only the few minutes of terror, but the aftermath of months of privation and the strength needed to rebuild. This book is recommended for readers interested in historical fiction and the start of women professional lives.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 5, 2011

    Slow Reading, Never Got Better

    The premise was interesting, but the book was redundant and VERY boring, I only slugged through it because I paid so much for it.

    I would not recommend this book.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 1, 2011

    Very enjoyable. Easy to read.

    I read this during a week I was visiting Berkeley, and enjoyed being carried back to 104 years ago when society had different ideas of what male and female should be able to do. Also, the writer did a good job of carrying you back to the great earthquake that destroyed San Francisco, and gave you a taste of what it was like to survive not only the event itself, but to live in the devastation that followed.
    There was a little too much of the romance novel atmosphere in the relationship between the heroine and the man she had to contend with, though, so it fell a bit short of being a candidate for a classic book.

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  • Posted April 24, 2011

    Old San Francisco Lives Again!

    After brilliantly breathing life into historical London, Edinburgh, Natchez and New Orleans, Ware now sets her sights on fin-de-siècle San Francisco. Richly drawn characters set against the backdrop of the '06 earthquake and cataclysmic firestorm will keep you turning those pages. Ware's painstaking research and remarkable attention to detail cement her reputation as one of the most compelling authors of historical fiction working today. I can hardly wait to see where she takes us next!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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