The Carousel Painter by Judith Miller

I was watching Antiques Road Show and to my amazement they showcased some carousels in Spokane, Washington. Did you know that the carousel horses from circa 1910 are worth at the least $30,000? And the more rare ones, more ornate are worth $40,000 to $50,000 as long as they are in good condition. Then the exotic animals are worth upwards of $100,000.

Judith Miller, in her novel The Carousel Painter does go into the history of carousel wood working and painting, she also tells us that the exotic animals are very rare because of the costs involved.

But, what I found most interesting was how she explored the prejudice against women in the work place… especially the man’s work place. How hard it was for women back a century ago or even longer ago than that. History talks a lot about women who had plenty of money before they married but their husbands took over and left them destitute because once a woman married, all the money landed in the husband’s hands. That doesn't happen to Carrington Brouwer in this novel by Judith Miller. Nonetheless, the history in this effort is accurate.

This was a very well developed story. It got a little Soap Opera-like in the middle when the reader begins to thing “What else bad can happen?” Then the story coalesces into a rather neat mystery and is very enjoyable thereafter. It is written in the first person and very well done. There are lots of excellent observations that are very believable. Delicious villains, a cranky hero, a very warm hearted boarding house keeper who is a very bad cook, a most level-headed and quite charming protagonist all mix together in a happy recipe for fun reading.

Carrington Brouwer’s father is a fabulous painter in France, but passes away before becoming really famous. She has two of his paintings and off she goes to America to live with one of her father’s students until she can find work. Little did she know that her friend’s mother is extremely social conscious with little regard for a starving friend of her daughter’s. Fortunately, her friend’s father owns a carousel factory and, since she has all of her father’s talent and then some, she asks him for a job. An unlikely ally, her friend’s mother, pushes the issue and Carrington settles in to paint carousel horses. Then a very expensive necklace of the mother goes missing. Carrington must find the culprit, help save her friend from the clutches of a scoundrel, win, if not the affections, the respect of her co-workers, and fall in love with the very cranky carousel factory manager—all while trying to survive on terrible food.

This is a great, fast-paced story. I’ll be looking for more from Judith Miller!

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