Before being claimed by an uncle, Olivia Brownlow spent her early years disguised as a boy, living on the streets, stealing for a living. Since then, she has grown into her role as a privileged young woman able to gracefully navigate society. But her heart and loyalty remain with the plight of street orphans and no one knows that she is still stealing in order to help support them.
Jack MacCarron is a mysterious newcomer to London society who has piqued the interest of all the marriageable ladies. Little do they know that this nephew of society matron Widow March is actually a man known on the streets as the Artful Dodger, a name much feared among the London street gangs.
When Jack and Olivia meet, she instantly remembers him as the young man who took her under his protection while she was living on the streets. But Jack does not remember Olivia as the orphan boy he taught to survive. Jack finds himself intrigued by Olivia’s compassion and ensnared by her beauty all the while wondering why she seems familiar to him. When Monks, an old nemesis of Jack’s threatens both Olivia and her orphans, they must work together to stay alive.
Olivia Twist is only my second experience with Lorie Langdon’s novels, but she is quickly becoming a must read author for me. Though I have never read Charles Dickens’ original, I loved Langdon’s adaptation of his novel Oliver Twist. Langdon’s writing style is engaging and addicting. The way she has of placing a reader into a particular place and story line, while slowly revealing the characters and the plot kept me hooked until the last page.
Olivia is the perfect heroine, compassionate, clever, resourceful, graceful and strong. I love that Langdon turned the original story on its’ head by making the main character a female. I also love that when Olivia and Jack meet for the first time in years, she remembers him, but he doesn’t recognize her at all. It allows Olivia’s mischievousness to shine through as she teases Jack with her real identity. It keeps Jack on his toes as he tries to fight his attraction to this intriguing, beautiful society girl who has skills she shouldn’t.
Jack himself is a bit of a mystery as Olivia wonders how a street lord known as the Artful Dodger suddenly appears in society with polished manners and an Irish brogue, attracting all the unmarried ladies. The chemistry between them is instantaneous and intense, but also believable given their past history.
I appreciated how the author lets us see the plight of street orphans through Jack and Olivia’s eyes. Instead of being a cause or a problem to sweep under the rug, they become children surviving tragic circumstances. It is definitely a good reminder to look below the surface of cultural and societal problems to the individuals who suffer from negligence, judgment and scorn.
I thought the side story involving the cruel street lord Monks being Olivia’s brother was a bit far-fetched. Although, I believe that is also part of Dicken’s version. It did give the story more drama and danger.
As a whole Olivia Twist is one of my favorite reads so far this year. The characters, plot and pacing kept me excited about the story and I loved seeing Olivia and Jack explore their past history while also growing as people. Their goodness and compassion in the face of cruelty inspired me. Whether you have read Dickens’ version or not, I think you will really enjoy this story.