American Pie - Margaret St. George

Series: Century of American Romance (Book 1)

Spirited and ambitious, Polish immigrant Lucie Kolska arrives in New York on the eve of the twentieth century. Work is scarce, labor is cheap and the tenements are teeming. But Lucie's greatest challenge is born of the heart...

 

Proud and daring, Dublin native Jamie Kelly dreams of feasting on his slice of the pie -- and he's willing to risk everything to succeed in this brave new world of horseless carriages and moving pictures.

 

But to make it, Lucie and Jamie must cast off the baggage of their old ideas before they can embrace the best of what America offers: hope for the future and a love that is glory, refuge and strength .... A love that is as brilliant as the promise of the American Dream.

 

Excellent book about the dreams of two newcomers to America. Lucie and Jamie meet on Ellis Island the day they arrive. Their connection is immediate, but they are separated before they even have a chance to exchange names. Lucie has come from Poland to join her brother, hoping for a better life than she had there. She gets a bit of a shock when she discovers that jobs are hard to find and the living conditions are deplorable. But she won't give up hope that things can be better.

 

Jamie has come to America from Dublin, also looking for a better life. He has a dream of having his own architectural and construction business someday, but first has to find a way to make a living. This isn't easy for an Irishman in New York, where the Irish are looked down on. He manages to fight for a position on a building site, but it comes at a price.

 

Lucie and Jamie found each other again, only to discover that the man that Jamie fought and beat for his job was Lucie's brother. As a result, Stefan refuses to give Jamie permission to call on Lucie. Stefan is still set in the old ways, where he has the right to dictate who Lucie can see. Lucie wants to embrace the ways of her new land, and when she has the opportunity to spend time with Jamie she takes it. She feels guilty about deceiving Stefan, but not enough to stop seeing him. Jamie feels the same, but also continues to lobby for Stefan's permission. I loved seeing the way that they used the time to really get to know each other. They also spent a lot of time sharing their dreams with each other.

 

The slow growth of Lucie and Jamie's feelings was beautifully done. All of it was true to what was permitted at the time. I loved Jamie's persistence in his quest to court Lucie, and how he refused to give up hope. I really enjoyed seeing how he finally earned Stefan's respect and they were able to court openly. But things don't go so smoothly, as Lucie finds a way to make some money on her own, which threatens Jamie's sense of what is acceptable and right. The question becomes one of which is more important to him, his pride or the future they could have together. I loved seeing Lucie stand up for her dreams.

 

I loved the realistic look at what life was like for new immigrants. The search for work and the prejudices they faced made the pursuit of their dreams so much harder. The difficulties of day to day life did much to kill the dreams of so many, but there were also those who kept their dreams alive. This book also showed the huge differences between the people with money and those who served them.

 

The secondary romance of Stefan and Greta was sweet and heartbreaking. The reality of Greta's factory work and its physical effects was hard to witness, but Greta maintained a wonderful attitude to the end.