Give me a book about an strong, independent woman fighting against prejudice to fulfill her dreams and be treated as an equal, then I'm most likely going to love it.
So, yes, I loved A Race to Splendor, which is the story of a fictional architect named Amelia Hunter Bradshaw. It's 1906, and upon her grandfather's death, Amelia returns to San Francisco to claim her inheritance: the Bay View Hotel, only to find her drunken father has gambled it away to a one Mr. James Diaz Thayer.
After then eventually losing to Thayer in court, Amelia is frustrated that her late grandfather's legacy has practically been handed over to a scoundrel. Accepting it, for now, Amelia sets out to find employment, and does, from architect Julia Morgan. It is while she is working there that she experiences the devastating earthquake that ended up killing thousands.
In the aftermath, employed by Morgan, Amelia finds herself involved in the reconstruction of the Bay View, which is in a race to be the first hotel opened by the first anniversary of the earthquake. Fighting her feelings of deep distrust for Thayer, she pushes them aside to help her grandfather's famed hotel rise again.
Ciji Ware has managed to created an amazingly strong character in Amelia. When I felt annoyed every time a man would patronized her or talk down to her, I realized that Amelia was annoyed, as well, and let said man know what was on her mind. Her voice for equality ran true to many of the women at the turn of the century - the 'new woman,' as it were, who put aside marriage and child-bearing for a career, despite the prejudice from the opposite sex.
I could barely put A Race to Splendor down once I would pick it up to start reading. The story moved effortlessly with amazing detail. No doubt explicitly researched, A Race to Splendor was a top notch novel that showed the aftermath of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 through the eyes of a determined woman.