Book Review: The Elusive Truth of Lily Temple by Joanna Davidson Politano

Book Review: The Elusive Truth of Lily Temple by Joanna Davidson Politano

In my last post—all the way back in early December—I wrote about two authors I discovered last year and how much I’ve been enjoying their books. These two authors have continued to dominate my reading time and I don’t regret that at all. In fact, I was recently privileged to receive an advanced copy of Joanna Davidson Politano’s newest novel, The Elusive Truth of Lily Temple. This book was released today (April 9) and I think everyone should give it a try.

Lily Temple is a silent film actress with many secrets. Peter Driscoll is a private investigator determined to uncover them. His purposes, though, may not be entirely as they seem. It’s hard to say who is pulling whom, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is the adventure these two characters embark on together, with all of its joys, sorrows, and mysteries.

Politano’s past novels have mostly been set in the Victorian era, with the exception of A Midnight Dance (late-Regency). With The Elusive Truth of Lily Temple, she moves a little bit farther into the future, taking us into the early Edwardian period. We still see carriages and candles, but we are also given a motor car, electric lights, and film cameras. Politano has done her research and it shows. It is an intriguing premise: a mixture of fairy tale, film history, mystery, adventure, and romance.

Lily is different from Politano’s other heroines, reminding me a little bit of Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse. She is deeply flawed. She can be arrogant and impulsive. Yet she is all the more likeable and relatable for it.

In the other Politano books I’ve read, her heroine’s begin the story with a firm belief in God. They pray to Him throughout the book, seek answers to their questions, and patiently wait for those answers to come. They may have occasional doubts, and often God makes them wait and wonder before revealing His will, but their trust is always there.

In this story, however, Lily feels as though God has forgotten—or even betrayed—her. So Lily has given up on God. She spends much of the story believing she doesn’t need Him. It is the character of Peter in this book who acts as the anchor of faith. He believes God, and he believes in Lily in a way she doesn’t believe in herself, convincing her to step out of the role she has crafted for her life and embrace the possibilities of something new and greater.

Politano weaves the faith elements of the story with masterful subtlety, using a light touch that hits just right, never coming across as forced. Peter acts as a great foil to Lily, lighting up the page with irrepressible optimism, while Lily gives us a good dose of whimsy. The two characters balance each other out in a very pleasing way that both delights and entertains.

I am still grateful to the kind stranger who decided I needed to read A Rumored Fortune. It’s wonderful to read Christian literature showing characters who deal with real problems, real questions, real doubts. It’s also wonderful to see the hope born from a Christ-centered life and how, through faith and submission to God, the messiest parts of life can be endured and overcome.

And now to finally read Politano’s first novel, Lady Jayne Disappears. I can’t wait.

Published by Vibeke Hiatt

I am a wife, mother, and lifelong writer.

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