Title: In the Company of Secrets (Postcards from Pullman #1)
Author: Judith McCoy Miller
Published: April 2007
Published By: Bethany House Publishers
Format Read: Kindle for PC
Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction
Date Read: April 25 2015
In an attempt to get away from a chef who tries to sexually abuse her, Olivia Mott a poor scullery maid decides to flee to America to start over. When the Earl of Lanshire’s daughter, Lady Charlotte learns of Olivia’s plans, she demands to go as well. What the Earl and Countess don’t know is that their daughter is with child, after a romance with a visiting guest Randolph Morgan. An investor and stockholder for the Pullman company, Charlotte believes he is living in the town of the same name, so she and Olivia set off for Chicago. Armed with a forged letter of reference Olivia secures a job working in the kitchen of The Hotel Florence under Chef Rene. Throughout the book she wrestles with the shame of lying and her faith. While Olivia is bedazzled with the town of Pullman, believing that its creator has his employee’s best interests in mind, Frank (a new friend and love interest) knows otherwise. Readers learn that those who rent and live within the town have more job security than those who work for Pullman, but live elsewhere. Basically money being paid to the employee’s is just being circulated back through the company in a capitalist system. Control means profit. Even the library is only available to residents after a mandatory yearly donation is made. Meanwhile Olivia is being wooed by another suitor: Mr Howard, the very man who hired her. Although she is falling for Fred, she is reluctant to turn down Mr. Howard as she fears the loss of her job.
In the Company of Secrets had all the makings of a book that I would enjoy: a historical setting, an interesting synopsis and characters I would imagine to be strong willed and determined. Unfortunately this first book in the Postcards from Pullman series missed the mark.
In any other historical fiction book I’ve read where the characters emigrate from their home country to another, they were hopeful and eager to start a new life for themselves. I didn’t feel this excitement with Olivia. Clearly she was from a lower class, previously being a scullery maid, so I would imagine that the housing situation she obtained in Pullman was better than she could have ever afforded before. She didn’t seem thankful of her new circumstances, only a nervous wreck about the web of lies she and Charlotte had spun. It seemed as if the author spent more time trying to convey Olivia’s paranoia than she did developing the plot.
Olivia’s charade would have gone a lot smoother had she been a good liar. However before I reached the half way mark, I was getting pretty annoyed with her. I didn’t feel as if the reader got a sense of who she was beyond all the lies.
Just when I would think that something exciting will happen or that all her lies will come out, she is let off and the effect fizzles out. Other conflicts were resolved far too quickly to make any impact. With such a strong opening, where Chef Mallard is accosting Olivia, I thought that this darker plotline would continue throughout the book. Instead it became as naïve as its main character.
Aside from the historic time period, I did find it interesting learning about the town of Pullman. I had previously heard of Pullman railcars before, but until I read In the Company of Secrets, I did not know that there was a town created by the company. The corruption mentioned by Fred and hinted at throughout the book could have been an opportunity for the author to make the storyline come across as more sinister, in turn adding some spice to the plot.
The ending left many loose ends, however this paves the way for the second installment which is called Whispers Along the Rails. After reading the reviews on Goodreads, it seems as if Olivia hasn’t evolved much and is as naïve as ever. Although the mention of “sinister” happenings at Pullman and the union organizations interest me, I don’t think that I will continue on with this trilogy.
Located outside of Chicago Illinois is the Pullman State Historic Site. Created in 1880 by George Mortimer Pullman, the town was built to house his employees, more specifically those who worked in his factory.
|George Mortimer Pullman (Image from http://www.pullman-museum.org/)|
Today visitors to Pullman can walk the streets, visit the arcade, tour the factories and dine in The Hotel Florence, where the fictional Olivia worked.
|The Hotel Florence (Image from http://www.pullman-museum.org/)|
For more information on this historic site, the man behind it all and the setting for Judith McCoy Miller's fictional story visit the website: