Review originally posted on Novel Crossing.
Anna O’Brien leads a predictable and quiet life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across a baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. She is thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, but her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.
Luke Callahan was one of the nation’s most powerful congressmen until his promising career became shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by the winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship.
Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglement with a member of Congress.
From the gilded halls of the Capitol, where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation’s finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they’ve ever dreamed for themselves?
For bibliophiles, there is no sweeter marriage than the musty perfume of a book filled room and sweeping architecture that displays those precious keepsakes in all their glory. The Library of Congress is an oasis for the parched soul hungry for knowledge and sweet prose. It’s grandeur, and reverence to art and the written word, can inspire even the most reluctant reader to sample the treasures within. It is here we find our heroine happily ensconced in the map department, researching for powerful men of Congress.
Anna O’Brien is one of only a few women to hold a coveted position as librarian at the Library of Congress. She and her colleagues are earnestly preparing for the daunting move to their new and controversially opulent facility; the last thing Anna needs is to be pestered in to the position of research assistant for a disgraced and opinionated Congressman. She is reclusive, having isolated herself after a childhood trauma severely damaged her throat and left her with a faint and raspy voice (my imagination conjured up the gravelly and beguiling voice of Sophia Bush). In spite of herself, Anna has drawn the attention and admiration of the Congressman of Maine with her sharp wit and discernment. He persuades her boss to assign Anna exclusively to his research detail.
Luke Callahan is a political powerhouse with volatile passion. After a heated row on the floor of Congress he is demoted to a council overseeing fisheries. His pride forbids him to cower in the face of scandal, especially after rising out of the ashes of his dysfunctional family. He intends to exploit Anna’s aptitude for research to reclaim a position of prominence. The young librarian is alluring to him in spite of his resolve and he is drawn in to her quest to solve a naval mystery that claimed the life of her father. An imperious Congressman (who is secretly quite magnanimous and an aficionado of poetry) and a reservedly winsome librarian are an unlikely pairing, but their personalities spark against each other like flint and tinder.
When Anna was a child, the Navy ship her beloved father was aboard was reported to have sunk after finding itself in the path of a hurricane. For years the tragedy has haunted Anna and when she finds evidence of glaring errors in the Navy’s report, she is eager to expose them. This incurs the wrath of the Naval office and her investigation is crippled with threats against the employment of all women at the Library of Congress. Her one chance of infiltrating the layers of deceit and betrayal that cower in the Capitol’s shadows is to trust the one man who could cost her what she cherishes most.
Elizabeth Camden is a connoisseur of historical detail and the creation of elaborate setting visuals for readers. In Beyond All Dreams there is quite a bit of context associated with the history of the Library of Congress, but any book lover will be intrigued by the acquisition and preservation of the archive. The storyline has many layers with varying levels of suspense stemming from the characters’ abusive childhoods to the political intrigue surrounding their present circumstances.
As in her previous novels, Elizabeth Camden takes her characters through the highs and lows of personal reconciliation and growth that speak to the heart. Above all this is a story with the theme of forgiveness at its core. Beyond All Dreams is a skillfully executed historical romance that does not shy away from difficult topics. It carries an emotional weight that will resonate with many readers.
**Disclosure: review copy provided by editor for editorial consideration**