Title: Banished Love
Author: Ramona Flightner
Publisher: Grizzly Damsel Publishing
Release Date: January 2014
Length: 290 pages
Series?: Banished Saga #1
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Clarissa Sullivan dreams for more from life than sipping tepid tea in stifling parlors in Victorian Boston. She defies her family’s wishes, continuing to teach poor immigrant children in Boston’s West End, finding a much-needed purpose to her life.
As a suffragette, Clarissa is considered a firebrand radical no man would desire. For why should women want the vote when men have sheltered women from the distasteful aspects of politics and law?
When love blossoms between Clarissa and Gabriel McLeod, a struggling cabinetmaker, her family objects. Clarissa’s love and determination will be tested as she faces class prejudices, manipulative family members and social convention in order to live the life she desires with the man she loves.
Will she yield to expectations, or follow her heart on a journey of self-discovery as she learns what she cannot live without?
The year is 1900; the place is Boston, where high society still has a lasting impact on gossip and reputations. Clarissa is a young woman who caused quite a stir a few years prior to the novel starting, through no fault of her own whatsoever, but ugly gossip and remarks have made Clarissa out to be the one at fault, along with her continued insistence that she teach school in a poorer area of town.
Clarissa is also very clumsy, and known for it. She accidentally knocks a man from a ladder coming out of her uncle’s store, causing him serious injury. She ensures that he is well cared for, and discovers that he is a carpenter her uncle has hired – and he hires Gabriel to build Clarissa bookshelves for her school. Despite Clarissa’s clumsiness, a romance is budding between the two.
Clarissa teaches because it gives her life a sense of purpose. She enjoys it, and it grants her a certain amount of freedom, but a freedom she soon discovers is not so free at all. She is once again subjected to the rumor mill and gossips of society – including her very own stepmother, who is stirring that roiling pot, and simpering to her father when confronted with her wrongdoings. However, sometimes the damage is too great to be undone.
An unexpected and unwelcome ghost of Clarissa’s past shows back up in town and stalks her at every opportunity. Clarissa must eventually be escorted home from her school, but her stepmother is trying to play matchmaker, knowing fully how this ghost from Clarissa’s past has hurt her, and is tarnishing Gabriel’s reputation.
All the while, Clarissa is foiled against her cousin, Savannah, who is soon to marry a snobbish, well-to-do “gentleman” who at every opportunity reminds Clarissa exactly who she is and what she is in the most horrible way. Clarissa brings up a time or two the rift that is fast growing between the two cousins, especially after Savannah’s drastic retreat from The Cause.
Clarissa wants more from her life – and winds up the friend of an old, high society woman who has so much money nothing said can ruin her. Mrs. Chickering is an adamant suffragist, from the old days of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She becomes a mentor to Clarissa in so many ways.
Clarissa’s family is an obstacle in this book in so many ways. Her aunts and uncles, cousins and brothers love her, but her aunts hold to the traditional notion that a woman belongs in the home. Her brothers love and support her to no end. Her uncle adores her. Her grandparents detest her, her father and brothers because her mother “married down.” Savannah is the exalted granddaughter doing everything right. But there is one unlikely relative who surprised me in support of Clarissa’s choices and new love interest.
This book explores the deep patriarchal society structure of the time, and the vast complexities of the nature of genteel society. It gives context to a time when women as a collective were changing in their needs and wants of life. Indeed, it provided historical context from the original suffragist days through Mrs. Chickering, and the new suffragist agenda, which is vastly different and barely scratches the surface of a movement. This is a time when a person’s word could be taken at face value as truth, and many took advantage of that to manipulate situations, especially the character and reputation of others, as is made clear on more than one occasion in this novel. Clarissa is pitted against these ideas within her own family, which is a hard thing to face. She also falls in love with someone below her status in society, and again faces all of the complexities and ugliness that human nature can bring.
Clarissa experiences growth as a character, as do most of those involved. I was disappointed that her friend and fellow teaching colleague disappeared after a point in the book, and the focus was on the development of the plot and conflict regarding Clarissa and Gabriel. Mrs. Smythe, Clarissa’s stepmother, truly grows in character to the opposite end of the spectrum. Even after being chided, reprimanded and scolded by her husband, she won’t stop her personal efforts to hurt Clarissa. In fact, it seems to only serve to make her more grandiose in her efforts and schemes.
In essence, this is a Romeo and Juliet novel, with an unfinished ending in that as readers we don’t get satisfaction. The book ends on a definitive cliffhanger that has me pondering several things:
- Florence Butler, Clarissa’s fellow teacher, will resurface in a subsequent book (and perhaps her love issues will be solved)
- The second book will follow Gabriel instead of Clarissa
- Clarissa’s ghost will reappear, and her stepmother will continue to push and push until something completely drastic and unfixable occurs
- Clarissa become more involved in the suffragist movement
- Secretly (knowing it won’t happen) that Clarissa’s father divorces Mrs. Smythe
I loved this book. It was a wonderful read with several historical constructs, during a time that for women was very important. I fully intend on getting my hands on Ramona’s follow-up novel, which may be released sooner than expected! 🙂
About the Author
Ramona Flightner is a native of Missoula, Montana. After graduating from Tufts University with a B.A. in Spanish, she earned a Masters degree in Spanish Literature from the University of Montana. Her Master’s thesis, Chilean Testimonial Literature: the collective suffering of a people, highlighted her continued interest in the stories of those who were at risk of being forgotten or silenced.
She studied nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a Master’s in Nursing as a Family Nurse Practitioner. She has worked for ten years as a family nurse practitioner providing care to the poor and under insured at two community health centers, first in Wilmington, Delaware and now in Boston, Massachusetts.
An avid reader, she began writing three years ago. She enjoys the demands of research and relishes the small discoveries that give historical detail to her books.
Ramona is an avid flyfisher and hiker who enjoys nothing better than spending a day on a remote Montana river, far from a city. She enjoys research, travel, storytelling, learning about new cultures and discovering new ways of looking at the world. Though she resides in Boston, Massachusetts, Ramona remains a Montanan at heart.
Her dreams are to see the plains of East Africa, marvel at the wonder of Petra in Jordan, soak in the seas of the South Pacific, and to continue to spend as much time as possible with her family.
Banished Love is her first novel and is the first in the forthcoming Banished Saga.