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foreword

This elegantly written historical romance details changing times with subtlety and care.

The course of true love never did run smooth—and learning that lesson comes too late for some couples. Amelia’s Prayer is an unflinching, powerful look at a forty-year marriage that is unsparing in its honesty about the power and price of commitment. Set against the vibrant backdrop of post-World War II and midcentury England, this debut novel begins with a love story and evolves into a life story.

At first, the romance between Amelia Sullivan and Sebastian Lavalle seems textbook. They’re clearly made for each other. She’s a lovely, dark-haired girl, the daughter of Irish Catholic parents. He’s a good-looking French sailor on leave for a week in Newcastle, England. It’s 1941 and the war is in full swing. At a tea dance hosted by a local women’s group, Sebastian is immediately drawn to Amelia: “He knew he had to ask her to dance, for to hold on to her for one moment would be enough to get him through the rest of this horror-filled war—just one moment.” One moment turns into hours, then days. When Sebastian’s leave ends, the spark between the two young people has only intensified, leading them to the altar. Sebastian kisses his young wife goodbye, promising her that when they are reunited, their life together can begin in earnest.

Christiane Banks writes with ease and confidence, spinning a romantic story that is by turns painful and transcendent. Unlike many historical romance novels, Amelia’s Prayer investigates the dark side of marriage, as well as its celebrations. The narrative doesn’t flinch from detailing its characters’ struggles: unwanted pregnancies, infidelity, illness, crippling loss, and conflict. Every bit of the family’s difficulties is here, but the narrative finds hope in the stories of Amelia and Sebastian’s eight children, particularly through Amelia’s daughter, Abby.

Abby, whose perspective is fresh and hopeful, becomes a vehicle to explore social evolutions, especially for women. As the narrative moves from the 1940s to the 1960s, the changing world is described masterfully, with architectural, cultural, and political details that help to enliven the story’s darker moments woven in with both subtlety and care, from Beatles songs to suburban homes.

Elegantly written, Amelia’s Prayer is a brave, engaging story of romance and disappointment. Christiane Banks’s confident style and complex characters make this debut novel a must-read for fans of historical drama, realistic romance, and fiction, one that begs to be enjoyed again and again.


blueInk

A sweeping family saga, Christiane Banks’ Amelia’s Prayer is an engrossing and emotional story that spans decades and generations.

Sebastian and Amelia meet in 1941 at a dance held for soldiers and sailors in her hometown of Newcastle upon Tyne, where Sebastian’s ship was temporarily docked. Immediately infatuated with one another, they fall in love and are soon married in a whirlwind ceremony. Sebastian must leave for duty right after, but when he returns, they settle into family life in Sebastian’s beloved France. Amelia is unhappy there, and they eventually return to her hometown in England, but Sebastian’s resentment over the move permanently colors the relationship.

Over the years, Amelia gives birth to nine children, although only eight will survive. Amelia, Sebastian, and the children suffer financial, physical, and emotional hardships, including death and infidelity. Their story is a richly woven tapestry that clearly illustrates the joys and sorrows of raising a large family and nurturing a troubled marriage.

The story does not belong completely to Amelia and Sebastian, however. Cleverly, Banks adds great depth by giving equal focus to the children’s perspectives and experiences, flawlessly weaving their views into the narrative. The story of one of the daughters, Abby, takes up much of the final pages and is particularly captivating.

The author manages the tale’s pacing perfectly; she covers several decades without the story ever feeling rushed or belabored. In addition, the settings are beautifully described and realized, never overshadowing the plot or characters. Occasionally, the dialogue can feel wooden and unnaturally formal, but that’s easily overlooked. Overall, this is a well-written exploration of love, relationships, heartbreak, tragedy, happiness, death, and hope; an honest and thoughtful portrait of what it’s like to be a family.

With engaging characters, powerful emotion, and a fully realized story, Amelia’s Prayer will appeal to fans of family sagas, although it easily transcends the genre.

Also available in hardcover.


Kirkus

An epic novel of a romance forged in war and of the couple’s later troubles while raising a family.

Sebastian Lavalle enthusiastically leaves home at the tender age of 15 in pursuit of adventure. He joins the French navy and works as an engineer on the warship Jeanne d’Arc. However, the 20-year-old doesn’t anticipate the horrors he will experience after France and England, in 1939, declare war on Germany. Later, while enjoying a brief respite from the war in England, he meets a young woman named Amelia at a dance, and the two quickly fall deeply in love; they marry almost immediately and pledge to spend their lives together. Sebastian is deployed yet again, but when the war ends, he reunites with his wife. He secures a good diplomatic post with the French government that has a bright future, and he and Amelia eventually have five children. Their time and money are stretched thin, so she considers giving the youngest child to her sister, Helen. In the end, though, Amelia and Sebastian decide to keep it—but then Amelia discovers she’s pregnant yet again, this time with triplets. As the family grows, so, too, does their collective angst. Sebastian is compelled to work virtually around the clock, and Amelia’s entire life is consumed by her domestic duties. He looks elsewhere for comfort and romance, and he and Amelia start to grow apart. Debut author Banks follows the story of the Lavalle family through the young adulthood of Sebastian and Amelia’s children, diligently tracking the ramifications of the couple’s woes on their progeny. The book adroitly plots out a whole family history, carefully connecting the dots over successive generations. The prose is often elegant: “she had never seen such a magnificent tree in her whole life. It looked like a weeping willow dressed for a ball.” However, the story unfolds more rapidly than the character development does. For example, the love between Sebastian and Amelia develops so quickly that it’s never clear what accounts for their bond, which seems more like callow infatuation than genuine depth of emotional commitment. Still, the quality of the writing and the sweetness of the story will carry romantically inclined readers along to the poignant conclusion.

A flawed but still rewarding tale of a relationship.


“Amelia’s Prayer is an engaging debut novel written with passion and expertise by Christiane Banks who is a welcome new voice in the Family Saga genre”

 

Joyce Holms, renowned English author