REVIEW: A Desperate Hope by Elizabeth Camden
Eloise Drake’s prim demeanor hides the turbulent past she’s finally put behind her–or so she thinks. A mathematical genius, she’s now a successful accountant for the largest engineering project in 1908 New York. But to her dismay, her new position puts her back in the path of the man responsible for her deepest heartbreak.
Alex Duval is the mayor of a town about to be wiped off the map. The state plans to flood the entire valley where his town sits in order to build a new reservoir, and Alex is stunned to discover the woman he once loved on the team charged with the demolition. With his world crumbling around him, Alex devises a risky plan to save his town–but he needs Eloise’s help to succeed.
Alex is determined to win back the woman he thought he’d lost forever, but even their combined ingenuity may not be enough to overcome the odds against them before it’s too late.
Dear Ms. Camden,
Even though this is part of the New York State series, I don’t think it’s necessary to have read either of the first two books “A Dangerous Legacy” or “A Daring Venture” in order to jump into this one. Enough background information is given about Eloise – the primary character to have been in the previous books – that we know what we need to know. Most of the story is focused on her and Alex Duval, the man who broke her heart twelve years ago.
Each book has featured a heroine with an unusual profession for the time. First a telegrapher for a news agency, then a biochemist and now a CPA. Eloise wasn’t always destined for numbers but she excels at them and after breaking the rules once, she decided she wants order in her life. Numbers give her that. They also thrill her as they’re more than numbers in ledgers; they’re progress and the framework for everything that gets done as New York City grows. Through them she can chart the progress of projects and dreams.
Alex Duval has fought against some of that progress for five years. He once thought passion and enthusiasm were enough to win over big city and state bureaucracy. Now after a bitter defeat in trying to save his hometown from destruction so that a reservoir can be built to pump water to NYC, he’s determined to stick in the craw of the people sent by the state to make that happen. He’s stunned to realize that one of the advance team responsible for organizing the demolition of Duval Springs is none other than the girl he loved and thought he’d lost.
But Alex and the town are still kicking and not going down without trying every last thing they can to survive. Alex gets a brainstorm that just might manage it. Will Eloise help him and can he win her back?
This is a very character driven book. We start with how Eloise and Alex’s Young Love’s Dream gets shattered. Things then zip ahead to now and I was tickled at the way their reunion goes. Let’s just say it didn’t conform to most of the “second chance at love” books I’ve read. It was refreshing. It was also more realistic with neither torches being carried nor screaming revenge being vowed. No feet were stamped, no teeth ground, no one stumbled around nor tripped over their feet at the sight of the other.
Even once Alex realizes why Eloise has returned, he’s still glad she’s there and proud of who and what she’s become. Eloise is relieved that they’ve talked and cleared the air but she’s got a potential guy back in NYC and he’s much more the type of man she can see herself settling down with.
Still Alex’s plan to save the town, though wild and maybe a pipe dream, catches Eloise’s attention. She does try to talk him down and remind him not to carry the townspeople over the ledge into disaster with him before he’s got a solid plan. Even after he’s developed – somewhat – of a plan, she still tries to be the voice of reason. What he proposes is mad and surely hopeless but when he asks for her help, she wades in and acts as the ballast to steady him. But their personal relationship advances then retreats and sometimes goes a bit cold along the way to the end.
There’s a bit about some dark mystery from the past that is carrying over to now and how Eloise’s father riles the town. Someone is out to sabotage the state’s plans but who can it be and is it related to the reservoir? Honestly most of that gets slapped on at the end. The meat and potatoes of the book is Eloise and Alex discovering how they fit together and how each inspires or grounds the other. I got slightly annoyed at Alex at one point when Eloise finally asks for help and he puts her off. Then he comes through when faced with the woman he now knows he loves potentially being courted by another. Yippee that Eloise is the one to save herself when called on.
Personally I found the details of how Alex and his fellow townspeople save their town fascinating. There’s a lot of engineering plus Eloise’s mad math skills at work to help finance things. But the town agonizing over their Tavern was enough to make my eyes glaze. That’s most of the “action” in the story until the very end. Once Eloise and Alex began to work together for a future, I think their HEA seemed believable – though I hope Eloise gets chances to keep doing her number magic and keeps Alex from wild flights of fancy in naming their children. B-