TITLE: When We Caught Fire

AUTHOR: Anna Godbersen

Rating: ★★★☆☆

PAGES: 384



GENRE(S): Historical Fiction, Romance

The publisher kindly sent me a physical copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

When We Caught Fire by Anna Godbersen - The Contented ReaderIt’s 1871 and Emmeline Carter is poised to take Chicago’s high society by storm. Between her father’s sudden rise to wealth, and her recent engagement to Chicago’s most eligible bachelor, Emmeline has it all. But she can’t stop thinking about the life she left behind, including her childhood sweetheart, Anders Magnuson. Fiona Byrne, Emmeline’s childhood best friend, is delighted by her friend’s sudden rise to prominence, especially since it means Fiona is free to pursue Anders herself. But when Emmeline risks everything for one final fling with Anders, Fiona feels completely betrayed.

As the summer turns to fall, the city is at a tipping point: friendships are tested, hearts are broken, and the tiniest spark might set everything ablaze. Sweeping, soapy, and romantic, this is a story about an epic love triangle—one that will literally set the city ablaze, and change the lives of three childhood friends forever.


When We Caught Fire is a quick and easy historical fiction that focuses on the difficulties of friendship and love. While incredibly excited for this book, I found in the end that it was just an okay book.

When We Caught Fire follows Emmeline, a rising young girl in Chicago society. Her best friend Fiona is always around, as her lady’s maid. After a chance encounter with her childhood crush, Emmeline needs to decide whether or not the relationship is worth losing her place in society.

I absolutely love the setting of Chicago and the role that the Chicago Fire played. Godbersen does an excellent job at intertwining the events of the Fire into the story. Also, she links the Fire so wonderfully to the decisions that the characters made. I really love the fact that Godbersen accurately represented the Chicago Fire and the strain it had on its people.

Unfortunately, I think the setting is the only aspect of this book that I truly love. I was a big fan of The Luxe, when I read it a few years ago and I had high expectations for this book. I think the storyline was interesting but the characters were just somewhat boring.

Emmeline is extremely self-absorbed and invests her time in rising in society. This tunnel-vision often leads her to make decisions that impact those around her without any regard for how it impacts them. Her decision making annoys me and while this may have been the intent, I grew tired of it.

In comparison, Fiona is a favourite. She is strong, caring and focused. But, she also is blind to the way Emmeline treats her. This means that Fiona doubts her decisions and forgets about her own feelings. I think that Fiona is the saving grace for me when it comes to this book. That said, I still find that she was not as entertaining as she could have been.

The love triangle in this book is okay but rather underwhelming. Anders is an interesting character but I would like to have seen him more as a strong person rather than a confused person. He doesn’t seem to know what he wants throughout the length of the book.

While the setting is wonderful and I truly enjoy the historical aspect of it, I struggled to invest myself in the characters. The ending itself was intriguing enough for me to wonder if there is going to be a sequel. It definitely leaves me with some questions!

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or interesting settings. I also think that if you enjoy The Luxe, then it may be fun to give this book a shot. When We Caught Fire is a quick and somewhat enjoyable read, but did not live up to my expectations.

By the next night, the world as they knew it would be gone, and there would be no mistaking the Great Fire for any of the small conflagrations that came before.

Favourite Quote

About The Author

Anna Godbersen Author Photo - The Contented ReaderAnna Godbersen was born in Berkeley, California and moved to New York to attend Barnard College. After graduating she worked in the literary department of Esquire magazine, where she also wrote book reviews. Her debut novel was the first installment of the bestselling LUXE series for young adults, which she followed with the BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS series. THE BLONDE, which Weinstein published in 2014, was her first book for grownups. WHEN WE CAUGHT FIRE, a young adult novel set during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, will be published by HarperTeen in October, 2018

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Do you enjoy historical fiction? Do you plan on reading When We Caught Fire? If you’ve already read it, what did you think?

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Victoria @ The Contented Reader

Victoria @ The Contented Reader

Avid reader and tea drinker. I read and review young adult books on my blog, The Contented Reader!


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