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It Happened at the Fair

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A transporting historical novel about a promising young inventor, his struggle with loss, and the attractive teacher who changes his life, all set against the razzle-dazzle of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Gambling everything—including the family farm—Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with his most recent invention. But the noise in the fair’s Machinery Hall makes it impossible to communicate with potential buyers. In an act of desperation, he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.

The young teacher is reluctant to participate, and Cullen has trouble keeping his mind on his lessons while intently watching her lips. Like the newly invented Ferris wheel, he is caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor, and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor. Can he keep his feet on the ground, or will he be carried away?

418 pages, Paperback

First published April 1, 2013

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About the author

Deeanne Gist

18 books1,809 followers
With over a million copies of her books sold, international bestselling, award-winning author Deeanne Gist has rocketed up bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere with her original, captivating historicals. Her latest release, Tiffany Girl, was touted as a “Must Year of the Year!” by USA Today, was one of the Top 10 Most Anticipated Books of 2015 by Huffington Post, and one of WikiEzvid's 10 Must-Read Novels That Take Place in the Past.

Not familiar with her work? Take a quiz to figure out which Deeanne Gist novel you'd like best.

Published by Simon & Schuster, Gist's awards include a RITA for Best Long Historical of the Year, National Readers’ Choice Award, Best Historical of the Year (RT Reviewers), Librarians’ Choice, Book Buyers’ Best, Golden Quill, Books*A*Million Pick of the Month, Seal of Excellent and Award of Excellence.

Her most recent series takes readers into the heart of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, where USA Today says …

The historical details are absorbing, never intrusive and always eye-opening ... The characterization is rich and authentic ... The narrative is a treat, the tempo impeccable.

Gist's credits including People Magazine, Parents, and Parenting. Her entertaining and informative presentations have been featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Deeanne lives in South Carolina with her husband. When not writing, she enjoys boating and keeping up with her readers via www.IWantHerBook.com and her very active online community on her blog, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and on her YouTube channel.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 440 reviews
Profile Image for Christian Fiction Addiction.
689 reviews314 followers
June 2, 2013
I picked up Deeanne Gist's latest book certain that my manly brain was about to be overwhelmed with romance, and I wasn't entirely sure how much I'd even enjoy the book. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found myself hooked within only a few scenes, and I kept having to sneak away to read just one more chapter to see what would develop next! Now don't get me wrong: though this book is entirely clean of any inappropriate scenes, Deanne Gist still manages to create some moments that seem somewhat scandalous for that day and age and just ooze with romantic tension. As such I have no doubt that book-clubs across the nation will experience a sudden upsweep in swooning ladies. As for me, I of course felt nary a swoon. But the romance that develops between Cullen and Della takes place with numerous moments of hilarity that literally had me laughing out loud, and I enjoyed every moment of watching their relationship unfold.

I also absolutely loved the historical setting of this book at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, a fascinating period of time to place characters in, characters I quickly grew to care about. All of the characters are wonderfully developed, but I especially enjoyed that of Cullen McNamara with his pesky allergies, his worrisome loss of hearing, his sense of duty to his family to help make the family farm prosperous, and his passion to invent things that barely anyone seems to believe in (with the exception of his amazing father!) The issue of deafness in that historical setting made for gripping reading, as we observe those who wanted to make children who were deaf as "normal" as possible by ripping them from their families for years and only allowing them to learn lip-reading. I am amazed how the author takes all of these different subplots and weaves them into an entertaining whole.

All in all, I can honestly say that out of all of Deanne Gist's books, this is my absolute favourite, hands down! Pick up a copy for yourself, and I'm certain you will agree. 5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster) and the Litfuse Publicity Group, for the purposes of this unbiased review.
Profile Image for Jocelyn Green.
Author 28 books1,164 followers
July 23, 2019
This has a little more romance in it than what I usually read, but the history alone--the description of the World's Fair of 1893--made this a delight to read. With characters who had vested interests in the fair and with the setting firmly placed in the fair for almost all of the book, the almost-unbelievable Columbian Exposition burst off the pages. I'm very impressed by this author's work on this novel.
Profile Image for Loraine.
2,881 reviews
January 1, 2016
SUMMARY: Gambling everything—including the family farm—Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with his most recent invention. But the noise in the fair’s Machinery Hall makes it impossible to communicate with potential buyers. In an act of desperation, he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.

The young teacher is reluctant to participate, and Cullen has trouble keeping his mind on his lessons while intently watching her lips. Like the newly invented Ferris wheel, he is caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor, and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor. Can he keep his feet on the ground, or will he be carried away?

REVIEW: This book is first and foremost about the 1893 Chicago World's Fair aka the Columbian Exposition. Gist's meticulous research as well as the wonderful pictures used as the preface to each chapter brought this fair alive which was wonderful since other than the main building the rest was burned to the ground after the fair was over. So many firsts filled this book with interesting details and Gist's notes at the end of the book contained more fascinating information. I loved the sweet and slow developing romance between Cullen and Della. My heart broke with Della's torn feelings toward the way her students were learning. As a retired teacher, I know that every possible modality that can be used with children helps make them that much stronger and more fully developed. Overall a wonderful read. Not as strong as some of Gist's other books, in my opinion, but still very likeable.
Profile Image for Becky ♡The Bookworm♡.
681 reviews69 followers
February 15, 2017
This was a delightful story set against the fascinating background of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Cullen's plight held my interest from cover to cover and I adored the way he treated Della. While he had so much to lose, she struggled with trust issues drilled into her by her overprotective father. Watching this couple overcome their obstacles turned out to be a lovely trip back in time.

There is so much to like in this story that I could fill pages and pages with this review! Here are just a few examples: Cullen's father and his unshakeable confidence in his son, the relationship between Cullen and the firefighters, Della's relationship with her students, and seeing the park through Della and Cullen's eyes as the toured the various exhibits during his lessons. I could go on and on! It was also very poignant to see how different society was in 1897...especially for women. Some of the exhibits in the Children's Building were a bit mind blowing. Women didn't have many options back then, but I enjoyed looking back to see how far we have come.

I initially borrowed the audiobook from the library, but after the first chapter, I bought the e-book, too. I just knew this would be top-notch. I was pleasantly surprised to find black and white photos and penciled artist's drawings of the fair and it's various exhibits. It was a great enhancement to the story and one that would've been missed had I not purchased the book! Just FYI to all my co-audiobook lovers out there.

Don't ask me if I enjoyed the couple's story or the history more...I couldn't tell you. One wouldn't be the same without the other. While the couple is fictional and the author does admit to taking some creative license by tweaking the time line a bit, she did her research and kept things as close to reality as possible. The result is a unique and very, very memorable experience. Bravo, Ms. Gist! I'm definitely looking into more of your books!

I highly recommend this book to all Historical Fiction and Historical Romance fans!
Profile Image for Caz.
2,619 reviews994 followers
May 7, 2013
Cullen McNamara is a cotton farmer from North Carolina with an unusual – and potentially dangerous - problem. He is badly allergic to cotton and to plants in general. In his twenties, he lives with his father and step-mother on their farm and struggles, year after year, with the effect that the cotton has on his lungs and his body. But he accepts this as his lot, and is content for the most part.

But he has a knack for mechanics, and having lost his mother in a fire when he was a child, he has spent much of his spare time inventing and developing an automatic sprinkler system which he believes could save lives and prevent others from suffering similar losses.

Unbeknownst to Cullen, his father has purchased him a place as an exhibitor at the World’s Fair. He is aghast at the thought of the expense at a time of deep recession, but allows himself to be persuaded when his father tells him that he had saved the money (which isn't true, he discovers much later) and will be able to manage the farm without his help.

Leaving behind his family and his sweetheart, Wanda (who considers herself engaged to him) Cullen leaves for his six months’ stay in Chicago.

As well as his allergy to pollen, Cullen has another problem – he is losing his hearing. His position among the exhibitors in the Machinery Hall, amidst all the incredibly noisy equipment is not helping his condition, and he finds it almost impossible to hear people asking him questions over the noise. Having had several people show interest, but become annoyed with his need to ask them to repeat themselves, he is advised by a Mr Vaughn (a potential investor) that he consider learning to lip-read so that he will be able to carry on a conversation.

At first, Cullen is resistant, but gradually realising he needs to do something, or end up unable to communicate, he approaches one of the teachers at the Pennsylvania Home for Deaf Children, Miss Adeleide Wentworth. Adelaide – known as Della – has had the fear of God put into her by her father with tales of the deceptions men can employ in order to ruin a young, innocent woman; so at first, she is somewhat suspicious of his motives. Eventually, however, she agrees to try to help him and they begin to meet each evening – partly for lessons and partly to tour the Fair.

As their friendship grows, the attraction between them deepens, and what develops is a tender romance with plenty of moments of romantic tension along the way. Della becomes confused and hurt when Cullen starts to put distance between them, which the reader knows he is doing because of his loyalty to Wanda even though he’s known for some time that he doesn’t love her. Eventually, he has to admit to himself that he has fallen irrevocably in love with Della and that he has to break things off with Wanda – but his letter home has an unexpected consequence when she suddenly appears at the Fair.

Della is heartbroken, but fortunately, Ms Gist doesn’t allow the situation to remain unresolved for long. After a short length of time during which Cullen is busy preparing for his make-or-break demonstration, Della comes to realise that they deserve another chance, and it’s not long before apologies and declarations are made and an important question is asked.

This is a gentle and charming story which is strong on background and period detail. The prejudice that prevailed toward the deaf and hard-of-hearing displayed by some of the characters was shocking, although I have no doubt it was accurately portrayed by the author. The descriptions of the Fair and the featured exhibits and events was detailed and informative, and the story of the terrible fire at the Cold Storage Building and its aftermath was both devastating and moving.

The aspect of the novel that dealt with the prevailing ideas about how to help the deaf to function in society was especially interesting. The school at which Della taught adhered to the principle that sign language should never be employed as it would mark out people as deaf and therefore different. To begin with, Della is an adherent of the principle, until something occurs which enables her to empathise more with her deaf students, and to realise that the decision to deny them a method of communication - any method - purely on principle, is wrong and almost cruel.

Both Cullen and Della are well-rounded characters, and although I felt the story took a while to get going, once it did, the pacing was good and I found myself captivated.

I received an ARC of the book in which there was a considerable number of typographical errors, which I hope have been corrected in the finished product.

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy
Profile Image for Tara Chevrestt.
Author 26 books293 followers
May 26, 2013
This is one of the best books I've read in some time, one that once you pick it up, you want to read it all the way through and have to force yourself to eat, sleep, and do anything not related to the book. And then when you are doing those things, you're thinking about the book or telling the husband all about it.

It's the Chicago World's Fair in the 1890s...and Cullen is there trying to sell his invention: an automatic sprinkler system. His family is about to lose his farm so he's under tremendous pressure, but he's going deaf and add to that, he's in a noisy environment, and he can't make a single sale!

Enter Della, also at the fair teaching deaf children to lip read. When he seeks her help in learning himself, neither has any clue what this will lead to.

A revelation...and I LOVED THIS SO MUCH. This is how Della has been taught and thus, how she feels, "You must never, ever use sign language. It would brand you as deaf and different. It's critical that you blend in with everyone else."

This attitude, while not without its merits (as witnessed later in the book when a potential client refuses to do business with Cullen upon finding out he's going deaf...grrrr) is like saying deafness is something to be ashamed of and teaches the kids just that.. "I must hide it.."

Cullen and his story about how he one time communicated with a deaf man not only touched my heart, but I think began the slow roll of opening Della's eyes. That and his persistence, as well as her own issues in public with claustrophobia...just because she has a fear of confined spaces doesn't mean she belongs in the looney bit any more than a deaf person does... I loved watching Della change her attitude and thoughts and accept sign language. It was beautiful and made a huge impact on me, a deaf reader.

"The problem was, those who supported sign language accepted difference, while those who supported lip-reading sought equality. What she'd just begun to grasp was the deaf were not one for the other; they were both different and equal."

Romance... These two wonderful people fall in love and it's clean and wholesome. There's no sex, no hardening you-know-whats. Though it's not without its barriers. Cullen is engaged to a girl back home and Della has a severe mistrust of men, thanks to her father's warnings.

I'm not done. I know it's a long one, but I really loved this book. Read the rest: http://wwwbookbabe.blogspot.com/2013/...
Profile Image for Kate.
38 reviews2 followers
February 27, 2014
I am, in general, a fan of Deeanne Gist. However, I feel some of her best works are her earlier ones, though, and this novel affirms that feeling.

I really appreciated the historical climate and situation of the 1893 Worlds Fair. The amount of detail poured into the book was done tastefully and I did not feel like it distracted from the story. The problem lies more with the fact that there is very little story. Punctuated by extremely short chapters that rudely segment any sense of flow - the plot cannot fill an entire book - let alone one of this length. We have no significant over-arching conflict that propels the story forward. All we have is tiny snippets of Cullen struggling with being pseudo-engaged, yet attracted to a woman who is not his fiancee. Even in that, though, we have very little understanding of why the financee exists in the first place - or why the relatively loveless "understanding" has not been rectified before this. This takes away significantly from the feeling of tension we should have. His struggle with his invention at the fair is a plausible one - but still done so lightly (and briefly) that it cannot fill the pages it aspires to.
Della is an even more poorly drawn character. There are few scenes that really help us dive into who she is or how she is feeling about Cullen and her struggle with teaching sign-language to the deaf is not explained well enough for us to feel the real conflict.

The entire book just...lacks. And the passion and tension Gist is known for almost entirely gets slammed into the last few pages of the book. It's an awkward transition. But, well, the entire book is a bit awkward. I was happy for a one-time read because of the vivid description of the fair but the pleasure, unfortunately, ended there.
Profile Image for Ronna.
515 reviews54 followers
April 6, 2014
It's 1893, and the Chicago World's Fair is hugely popular. While much of the rest of the country is facing bank shutdowns and lost mortgages, everything new and extravagant is happening at the Fair.. North Carolina farmer, Cullen McNamara, is highly allergic to his cotton fields but he's also a talented inventor. He's created an automatic sprinkler system for putting out fires. His father gambles his farm on Cullen's ability to sell his product at the fair.

Della Wentworth is a teacher for deaf children. The whole school has been transported to the Fair for exhibiting the children learning to lip read. When Cullen's increasing hearing loss gets in the way of speaking to customers, he hires Della to teach him to lip read. Though they both see this as only a business relationship, they find each other to be increasingly great company.

The relationship between the characters is wonderfully portrayed, but the descriptions of the Fair and specific events from real history, puts this book over for top for an excellent read. The exhibits are fascinating and descriptions of an actual fire from the Fair, is expertly portrayed. I really grew attached to the characters. The discussion about signing versus lip reading, and the actual school for these children evoked great emotions. Lovely book. First I've read by this author but it definitely won't be the last one.
Profile Image for Casey.
416 reviews105 followers
May 4, 2013
The Chicago World’s Fair came once and last six months. The novel, “It Happened at the Fair” has come once and I wish it would have lasted me those six months!

From first chuckle to last sigh, this novel made my five-star book shelves and my favorites for 2013. Sweetly romantic, sassy and charming, I couldn’t have loved spending time with these characters more.

I don’t think you could have a richer in culture and history setting than the World’s Fair. There aren’t many books out there set in this period and it was fun to step into this world created by so many ingenious minds.

Our characters in Cullen and Della are captivating. To watch their dance of avoidance and falling in love, that tension that only comes from truly wanting and loving something you can’t have made the pages irresistible to stop turning. It’s one of those stories, you don’t skim. At all.

With historical depth, romantic symmetry and snappy dialogue, a story world has been created that made this reader ever so eager to spend all the time I could there. It’s just too bad each page takes you closer to the end. Highly recommended historical romance reading!

This review is my honest opinion. Thanks to the publishers through Litfuse for my copy to review.
Profile Image for Melissa.
2,158 reviews204 followers
July 12, 2013
This was such a fun book to read. I love learning about history threw fiction. Now I feel like a know a lot more about the World Fair, this book even included awesome pictures. There is also a great story and two well developed characters that I really enjoyed reading. There is a whole deaf background I never knew about. One of the characters is hard of hearing and is really treated badly but those who find out. I couldn't believe how they used to treat people who couldn't hear. My husband has hearing loss and until he got a surgery had a hard time. It really touched me and made me angry and I an so thankful things have changed. I couldn't put this one down it had me up all night finishing it. I love books more that way, the whole story all in one swoop:} This book is Clean. This is a Christian book because the characters believe in God and pray. There is No preaching. There are some kissing scenes and suggestion of more and there is a behind the door, after marriage scene that is short and not too detailed. I would say this is an older teen to adult read.
Profile Image for Dana Michael.
1,120 reviews88 followers
October 19, 2018
I have had this book for a while but just now read it. I'm mad at myself for taking so long. This is the first time I have read this author and I loved it. The story was set during the world's fair in 1893. It was heart warming, sweet and romantic. And filled with history. I definitely recommend to all historical romance lovers.
Profile Image for Tori (Book Chick).
796 reviews48 followers
August 9, 2013
I really enjoyed this book for all the history!! It was lacking in the "romance" department although there was a love story. But I found myself entranced with the history- especially regarding how the deaf were treated. Good book.
Profile Image for Kara.
759 reviews9 followers
January 23, 2014
I loved the history, the characters, the story, the emotions, and most of all the romance. :) There was plenty of sizzle while keeping things clean and I loved it! Another great one from Deeanne Gist.
Profile Image for Susann Williams.
127 reviews5 followers
April 2, 2021
This book was set during the Worlds’ Fair in Chicago. I enjoy reading historical fiction but I also like any book that starts off with a bang and this book did that. The author did a really good job of storytelling and her notes at the end of the book explain the literary license that she took.

One thing she did do, though, that most books don’t do is to include characters with hearing loss. Since I am the mother of a child who is hard of hearing I was touched by this and also fascinated to learn that the same arguments that were going on in the early 1900s are still going on today in the 2020s— whether deaf and hard of hearing people should merely learn to speak or if they should learn sign language too. I, like one of the main characters, have had similar arguments with experts and I think they should do both.

I enjoyed this book a great deal and I am always glad to see a happy ending. I gave it four stars because there was one loose and that was not tied up.
Profile Image for Carrie.
1,608 reviews69 followers
July 10, 2013
Reviewed for Audiogals.net

Narrated by Amy Rubinate

The World’s Fair: Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World Fair of 1893, is the backdrop for this wonderful story. The author’s research is evident in the writing. The book is so steeped in the time, place, and culture that the setting becomes another character. It Happened at the Fair is worth reading for the history and setting alone, but that isn’t the only reason to read. The characters are well drawn and sympathetic, and the plot is engaging.

Cullen McNamara attends the World’s Fair in hopes of selling his design for an automated sprinkler system. A farmer’s son and part time inventor, Cullen is spurred to invent the sprinkler system after his mother is killed in a tragic fire. He reluctantly goes to the fair when he discovers his father has prepaid all his expenses. Cullen’s partial hearing loss is made much worse by the loudness in Machinery Hall, where he has his exhibit. When he realizes his inability to hear may be losing him potential clients, he convinces Della Wentworth, a teacher of deaf students, to teach him to lip read. Della is hesitant at first, but they eventually start working on the lip reading while visiting fair exhibits, and they come to enjoy each other’s company. As they become close, Cullen confuses Della by putting emotional distance between them. Unbeknownst to her, Cullen has a childhood sweetheart at home in North Carolina, and he knows he needs to figure out what he wants before someone gets hurt.

The story is made more complex and interesting by the details of the fair, but also the details of the prejudice most people of this time feel towards the deaf and hearing impaired. There is an ongoing, and often heated, debate over whether deaf children should be taught sign language, or only lip reading. The debate spills over and affects Cullen and Della as well.

It Happened at the Fair is categorized as an Inspirational Romance, but if I’d been handed the book without that knowledge it wouldn’t have jumped out at me. Since some readers seem to avoid inspirational romances, I wanted to be clear that this book isn’t about proselytizing. One character says a prayer when seeing a tragic fire, but I didn’t feel like that was an unusual reaction to the situation. There are other brief mentions of God and beliefs, but nothing out of character for the time period and nothing preachy. There is sexual tension in the book but the only sex scene fades to black. I would categorize this as a “clean” romance (not a word I particularly like, but useful) suitable for teens and older.

To my knowledge, I have never before listened to narrator Amy Rubinate. At first I wasn’t sure if her style of delivery was going to suit me. I tend to be sensitive to the cadence of narrations, the rhythm with which they speak. This unfortunately makes several very popular and talented readers difficult for me to listen to. However, I realized early on that I wasn’t hearing the narrator at all. I was simply enjoying the story. Other than reading a little more slowly than I prefer, Ms. Rubinate is a complete success for me as a narrator. Her pacing is even, her character voices are consistent, and the emotional reactions she conveys match the dialogue perfectly. I’m happy to add her name to my list of go-to narrators.

Whatever you do, when you finish this book make sure you listen to the Afterword. It’s fantastic, funny, and gives an insight into the heart and mind of the author. She quickly details where her writing differs from historical accuracy, and does so in a very winsome, lively manner. It is worth every moment of the 5 or so minutes it takes.
Profile Image for Ashley.
673 reviews22 followers
January 17, 2013
This is an incredibly charming historical romance. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the characters, as well as learning a little something about The Chicago World's Fair and that time period in our nation's history. I wouldn't say the 1890s is an era that generally captivates my interest, but this book brought to light so many interesting issues and events that were going on in our country at the time, it really is a fascinating time period. I have to say I know almost nothing about The Chicago World's Fair, or the 1890s. I certainly knew nothing about the plight of the deaf in our country at that time, and I found it incredibly interesting. I had no idea that deaf people had experienced such discrimination in the past. If you do read this book, definitely take a look at the author's note where she clears up what is fact and what is fiction in her account. A lot of the events and most of the Fair are portrayed factually. So if you end up not liking the characters or romance in the story at least you can say you learned something. ;-)

As for our main characters, they are two of the sweetest, most humble, unassuming people you could ever want to meet. I really enjoyed Cullen and Della. This is a very character driven story, and Ms. Gist definitely knows how to write authentic characters you grow to care about. At times I felt the plot was a bit uneven. Things I thought should be a really big deal were glossed over and other things which seemed minor to me, were given more weight. I had a hard time with the 'big issue' that initially kept the two apart. I felt like it wasn't treated very fairly and reflected poorly on our hero in the end. I just felt like it could have been some other issue that would have had less repercussions. I also thought that once the 'big issue' was sorted out, things moved incredibly quickly. I don't think it took away from my overall enjoyment of the story however. As far as the Christian aspect of the novel, aside from being 'clean' (no cussing or sex), and one thought from Cullen about how he doesn't pray much but he knows God has a plan, there wasn't anything overtly Christian about it that I noticed. Overall this was a fun, light hearted, witty, engaging, and even informative, romance.

*I received an advance copy of this book for review from Netgalley.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Gretchen.
33 reviews5 followers
January 8, 2014
Confession: I don't typically love history because of how it was taught in school. So, I've learned to armchair travel through time and across the globe through my love of fiction. Admittedly, there are problems with taking this tack too far - fiction is fiction for a reason - artistic license. However, most stories I read are at least in a historically real time or place. And this author even tells us (after notes) where she took artistic license. How cool is that?

Confession: Though I am a Christian, I don't typically love Christian fiction/Christian chick lit. Many stories are too trite and predictable. My life is neither, and while I do love to escape, my escapism needs a little more reality than in many of the Christian novels I've read. This book is so beautifully crafted that I feel very comfortable recommending it to my friends of any faith. It won't hit people over the head with God's message, but gently weaves His character throughout each page.

Review: Gist takes us to the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, with a young farmer-turned inventor, Cullen McNamara. Cullen's challenges with hearing in the noisy Machinery Hall (where he presents his invention) cause him to seek the professional, lip-reading, teaching services of Della Wentworth. Miss Wentworth is also presenting at the fair - she's presenting state-of-the-art deaf education for children to the tourists of the fair (some of whom are quite famous). The story unfolds over the next several months at the Fair. Gist's obvious research and the included illustrations/pictures give an amazingly complex and beautiful backdrop to this story. I almost gave it 4 stars because of the predictability factor and because there are a couple of characters whom seemed a bit 2 dimensional, when compared with the others. However, it's a beautiful story, and one that I had a difficult time putting down. This was my first Deeanne Gist novel. So looking forward to getting to know this author even better.
Profile Image for Carrie .
977 reviews445 followers
December 30, 2015
Cullen is a young inventor, his father wanting him to go for his dreams has purchased his tickets and applied for him to go to the World Fair in Chicago. Cullen's invention is the automatic fire sprinkler, it's the next step in fire safety and prevention. It could save the lives of many. But he's having a hard time selling any because he can't prove it works.

Della is a young attractive lady who is a teacher for deaf children, teaching them how to read lips rather then use sign language. The whole purpose is to treat them as if they where like everyone else. But is this way of thinking and teaching only going to make them stand out more? Make them feel even less then normal when they are able to read the hate full things people say about them because they are "different"? They are living in a time where to be different, means there is something wrong with you, you're dumb and you should be locked up in the mad house.

Cullen is losing his hearing in one of his ears and with the help of Della's private lessons he starting read lips. Through these lessons and outings together feelings start to grow between the two. But the thing is there is a girl back home who Cullen is to marry but now he's doubting if ever really loved her in the first place.

It Happened at the Fair is a sweet story. With blooming and unexpected love, heartbreak, tragedy. The connection between Della and Cullen made me smile many times and we witness it growing through out the story.

I really enjoyed the pictures through out, it really helped in placing me at the fair with them. Looking forward continuing this series.

Review copy provided by Howard Books, via NetGalley.
Profile Image for TAMMY CUEVAS.
364 reviews21 followers
May 4, 2013
Cullen McNamara dreamed of exhibiting his invention at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, but never expected the dream to become reality. When his father pushed him to go, he agreed only because his father had already paid his way, and the fees were non-refundable. Once there, he realized that his secret hearing loss made conducting business almost impossible. His fears of his father losing his investment prompted him to ask Della, a teacher of hearing-impaired children, to teach him to lip-read. The ensuing relationship caused Cullen to feel conflicted between his girl back home and Della.

It Happened at the Fair is a historical romance with an interesting setting. The author includes enough factual details of the Fair and the era to please any history buff. One of my favorite features was the inclusion of Fair pictures at the beginning of each chapter. This really helps the reader visualize what they're reading about.
This is also very informative regarding the attitudes of society toward the hearing-impaired during that time. The fact that Cullen believed he had to keep his hearing loss a secret shows the fears of the disabled.

Very interesting, clean historical romance.

4.5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Litfuse Publicity Group book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Profile Image for Ruth Hill.
1,115 reviews639 followers
December 30, 2013
When I first picked up this book, I wondered why on earth I was reading another "sappy historical romance." I am so glad that the author proved me wrong! I was absolutely enthralled by this book to the point that I did not want to put it down. The story was somewhat predictable at times, but it was different enough that I was intrigued. I fell in love with Della and Cullen, and I wanted to see how the author drew everything together at the end. And she did draw it together extremely well.

I really appreciated several things about this book. First, it was clean in every way. The Christian message was there but not too strong. I think the sovereignty of God was there, and it was clear that both characters could not have made it without their faith in God. Secondly, the historical accuracy of the book was a bonus. The author explains at the end how she took a lot of creative license with the story and historical facts, but the gist of the story about the World's Fair was true. She took no more liberties than most historical fiction writers do. I had not realized what a big deal the Chicago World's Fair was. Nor had I known of the lip-reading movement amongst the deaf--or at least not the extent of it.

If you like clean historical romances, I invite you to check out this wonderfully sweet book for yourself.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not financially compensated, and all opinions are 100 percent mine.
Profile Image for Jessica Wolf.
Author 1 book53 followers
August 1, 2015
Finished while babysitting. Conflicted thoughts.

The Good:
I loved this book. I really did. It was expertly researched. The added photographs were amazing. The characters were interesting and dynamic. Really, the book was all-around great. As my first Gist read, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Will I be reading another one of her books? Maybe. There's other books I want to read first. And thanks to the ending, I'm not sure that next read will be any time soon.

The Bad:
The book was paced very well. It had a natural flow and was easy to follow. Then the end came. Like, the book just ended. And I was left flabbergasted. Obviously, my biggest complaint is the rushed ending. It's like Gist thought, "Well, they're together now. Nobody cares about the other subplots." LIE. I care. I care greatly. The final few chapters and epilogue left me feeling disappointed, wanting more, and confused. The ending definitely didn't do the rest of the book justice, which is unfortunate. Your ending needs to be as strong as your beginning and this ending fell way short.

I would have rated the book lower simply because of the ending, but I did enjoy the book overall.
Profile Image for Rebekah Gyger.
484 reviews66 followers
March 22, 2013
Deeanne's books are always amazing but this was one of her best. Mostly light-hearted, it still had moments of great emotion and pain. The characters had to overcome fears, prejudice, and lose. It Happened at the Fair made it clear that life is not always rosy but that we can live through the pain and find joy in the little things. The backdrop representation of all that man has achieved in history was beautifully juxtaposed with the thoughts and ideas that have held us back.

All this was accomplished while telling a beautiful romance of true love, not the selfish tales that most have substituted for. The hero, Cullen, was all that a woman could want in a man. He was strong, smart, caring, and above all honoring. His moments of weakness only strengthen the understanding of the struggles he undergoes to do what is right instead of what feels good.

To see what other books I back, go to my blog at http://backingbooks.blogspot.com/
Profile Image for Ren.
142 reviews7 followers
August 13, 2018
This was a let down. It was so misogynistic. Beyond the clear sexism of the main character, the whole relationship was misogynistic and in turn made to seem like #relationshipgoals. By the author’s closing comments, I’m not even sure she is aware of that. She seemingly try to balance out the unhealthy/sexist relationship by throwing in a woman doctor but the main dude’s sexist comments overshadowed even that. It went beyond sticking to historical accuracy, it was the whole them of the book without a hint of condemnation. Rubbish.
Profile Image for Cookielover.
553 reviews
August 27, 2013
It started off as something to throw in a recycle bin and then progressed to something you enjoy then stick it in your bookshelf to never be read again. I liked learning about the sad history of the fair. The storyline was truly unique. And this author is not afraid of anything, which is good. And this is definitely a book to read in front of a nice cozy fire in the winter. Because reading it in front of a nice cozy fire in summer is just insane.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
316 reviews2 followers
April 21, 2017
A book sale "judge by the cover" that totally paid off! This story hit close to home in the sense that I'm a sign language interpreter and my husband is a firefighter. The story is set during the Chicago world fair and is about a man who invents an automatic sprinkling system for early fire detection and a woman who is a teacher for the deaf. A sweet, clean story of perseverance and chivalry. Loved every minute.
Profile Image for Rachel.
2,737 reviews53 followers
March 19, 2020
This was a well written and entertaining historical romance novel set during the World's Fair in Chicago. Like many of Deanne Gist's novels, I don't consider this one to be Christian fiction, but it is a clean read with only a few sensual scenes towards the end of the novel. Anyway, the character development was decent, and I really liked the protagonists. I'm glad that I finally read this book, as I had read its sequel several years ago and really enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Kathleen (Kat) Smith.
1,612 reviews81 followers
April 25, 2013
"When the fire bell rang, the whole town poured into the streets, me included. I'd been running toward the billowing smoke for a good minute before I realized it was the mill. But even then I wasn't worried. I knew my mother would have gotten out."

White powder fell from their clothing, leaving a trail behind them. Smoke obliterated all sunlight, though they could still see.

"The owner of the mill kept the windows tightly closed so the humidity wouldn't weaken the cotton fibers. The air inside was so thick with cotton dust and lint, you couldn't hardly see or breathe. That's why I wasn't with her. Cotton dust makes me break out in hives."

She still couldn't fathom a cotton farmer whose body rejected the very crop that provided for him.

"Sad thing is," he said, "the mill had a sprinkler system."

Her lips parted. Please, God, she thought. Not one of his. Then she remembered he'd been much older when he'd tested out his first one of the cowshed.

"It was a manual system," he said, "and the operatives weren't able to activate it. I don't know why, but they weren't. Some of the folks on the ground floor made it out, but cotton is highly flammable and the windows were sealed. The people on the second floor didn't stand a chance."

She swallowed. "And your mother was on the second floor?"

"She was." His voice didn't rise or fall or crack, but flattened into a monotone. "The hook and ladder carts arrived, of course, but even with their steam engines throwing water onto the building, there was no saving it."

She bit her lip. She didn't know whether to reach for him or leave him be. Crossing her arms, she held tight to her elbows.

"I was held back from fighting the fire. But even as they restrained me, I promised her I'd do something. Something to conquer fire. And that's when the idea for automatic sprinklers came to me. It was as if my mother paused on her way to heaven and offered a parting suggestion. A dying wish, if you will." For the first time, his voice wavered. He looked down. "What she failed to mention was what to do if I invented such a thing but no one wanted it."

Uncrossing her arms, she grabbed his hand. "Oh Cullen. Even if no one places an order, you've done your part. You've offered the fruit of your hands. No one would ask you for more. Not your mother, not God, not anyone."

He gave her a self-deprecating smile. "I would. I would ask for more." (pg 188-189).

In the beautiful researched novel, It Happened At The Fair by Deeann Gist, an inspiring inventor and farmer, Cullen McNamara finds himself at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair at the insistence and belief of his father. His father believes that Cullen needs just the right push to take his invention and hope to make enough money at it that he won't have to go back to farming. In fact, his father provides him with the money to go and fills out all the necessary paperwork for him. Leaving behind the women he believes he loves, he heads off to Chicago in hopes of selling his invention he believes can truly save lives. He will have to spend six months trying his best to convince people his invention works over the manual sprinkler systems the world is used to.

However he's hiding the one thing that may make it hard for him to sell anything at all, his ability to hear. In Machinery Hall, he finds the noise so overwhelming, he can barely make out what people are asking him. Worse yet is the fact he is going deaf in his right ear. If he can't understand what people are asking him, he appears to be uneducated in his invention. That's when a suggestion is made for Cullen to learn lip reading in an effort to save his business and save his self respect. Only he doesn't expect his teacher to be quite so intriguing and beautiful.

I received It Happened At The Fair by Deeann Gist compliments of Howard Books for my honest review. Being a huge history fan, I love how Deeann took the time to research the exhibits and the issues that happened at the Chicago World's Fair as her back drop for her novel. The pictures that accompany the story make it that much more believable and add to the ambiance of the characters of Cullen McNamara and Della Wentworth, the deaf teacher whom Cullen hires. This is a must read for anyone who truly appreciates the history and industrial age of America at a time when so many exciting things were being invented. I even loved the first movable sidewalk which showed a trend in making things easier for business and keeping it fun to watch and learn from. I easily rate this one a 5 out of 5 stars and love the way the Deeann removes parts of words to show how difficult it was for Cullen to understand what people were saying in order to appreciate his challenge in communication with people and how he had to simply fill in the blanks based on the context of the conversation they were having to make sense of things. This one for me, is a true keeper.
Profile Image for Rissi.
426 reviews9 followers
May 3, 2013
Rating: 4.5

Pros: I’ve underestimated Deeanne Gist. There I’ve gone and said it. Way back when, I read her debut novel and my younger self liked it, however ever since then, the pull or allure of that novel was never enough to visit one of her subsequent works of fiction. How delighted I was to be a part of a tour promoting her latest. Gosh, golly, this book was interesting. The story is actually a unique one forcing the reader to feel more “at home” in the historical trivia of the fair than being spellbound by the characters. Then there are the quirks of both protagonists’ that make them unique and virtually erases – in those moments – the overall feel that everything is “all about” the fair. Marking this was approximately halfway through the book the thought that flitted through my mind was how the prose used the characters as “background” rather than the setting, the latter being usually what most books color in to enhance everything else. There was a turning point in which I felt as if finally the characters were slowly coming into their own – as if, finally, they were fully blooming.

Certainly what is the best asset of the story is how Deanne teases her reader’s without revealing everything before it should be. We are aware that the protagonists must be more than a name and narrative but are pulled along following subtle hints rather than told; she ignites and enchants our senses with a rad setting and in the last pages, a tender, beautiful example of all-consuming love. Common sense says there is a reason behind Cullen’s brilliant mind and specifically, inventing a sprinkler system, yet there is little chatter or reasons why for multiple chapters. Shifting into the deft perspective the author has of these characters, it was interesting how casual the interactions were between Della and Cullen. Readers don’t even meet Della until a handful of chapters in and even then, Cullen overpowers what little there is of background information and their banter – most of which is absorbed with the physical desirability instead of a blooming friendship, makes a unique statement. Tying into an interesting palette of a story is the unusual quirks of Della and Cullen not to mention names that are beautiful and well-suited. Della has an usual opinion of men drilled into her by her father and is afraid of close spaces, and Cullen suffers allergies and is losing his hearing. Because of these peculiarities not in spite of, these two are endearing and special.

Although she took some liberties – the author’s note in the back of the book – in order to better illustrate her story, this book is richly drawn in history and takes none of that for granted. Gist pays homage to an important event, weaving into the “fabric” of the story some unexpected (and sad!) dramatics as well as a leading couple easy to root for. Helping to place more of a visual ideal, there are photos of the fair at the beginning of nearly every chapter. It’s a bright spot in the design of the novel that lends authenticity to the book as is the sassy cover art with its gorgeous, soothing hues.

Cons: Fans of character-driven novels will find weaknesses (albeit of an inconsequential fashion). The fair takes precedence over everything. If there would be one glaring mistake, it’d be what comes between Della and Cullen. This isn’t really a criticism of the book considering most stories have this same “type” of motivator to create a last-minute will-they-or-won’t-they scenario.

Early on in the book, words miss letters in sentence conversations which is for the benefit of Cullen’s hearing loss. It was more a distraction than anything however, for the majority of the time it isn’t a factor as it is paced better. Far as authenticity goes, it was clever.

Conclusion: Between a literal picture and the deft talent of Deeanne Gist, ‘Fair’ is a must-read for any historical fiction lover. Perhaps the romance doesn’t blossom the same as some of its counter-parts, no matter, the writing and setting far outweigh any minor (really minor!) flaws this reader may have found.

With thanks and appreciation to the publisher and Litfuse for this complimentary review copy.

© Copyright 2011-2013 Dreaming Under the Same Moon / Scribbles, Scripts and Such
Profile Image for Judith (Judith'sChoiceReads).
242 reviews200 followers
April 7, 2014

My Thoughts

I enjoyed reading It Happened At the Fair, but it isn't my best book by this author. Deeanne Gist gave me A Bride Most Begrudging, Maid to Match and A Bride in the Bargain, all of which are Historical Christian Fiction guilty pleasures of mine. I love her books because Gist knows how to write Christian romance provocatively without losing that faith aspect. At the Fair leaves me conflicted because it didn't hold as strong a faith value as her previous works.

Both Cullen and Della pray, Della even sings "Jesus Loves Me" when she gets nervous in confined spaces, but I couldn't connect with their brief instances of faith. I could not help thinking that they held a faith similar to that of many Americans at the time, people who didn't mind enslaving others and doing away with the rights of said people. They worried about propriety like any other individuals living then, but there was no sense of God really being there, and not much besides good character set them apart.

More things were overt and focussed on, like the Fair and it's beauty. Gist did a remarkable job bringing this piece of time to life and wrote splendidly of what the World's Fair had once been like. The exhibits, bustle and sights were exploding out of the pages. Still, Cullen and Della might as well have been figures in a Historical setting. It was a Historical novel by a well known Christian author, the book itself not necessarily being Christian.

That aside, I liked At the Fair. It was funny and smart, a novel to happily pass the time with. I wasn't a fan of the main conflict in the story, Cullen is engaged to marry a childhood sweetheart when he encounters Della at the fair. He had left the farm to sell his automatic sprinklers, striking out, but with his hearing slowly receding it doesn't take long before the suggestion is given that Cullen take lip-reading classes. Della is a teacher at the School for Deaf Children and the person Cullen beseeches to teach him lip-reading. They've met before, he having saved her life before, but it takes some convincing, Cullen agreeing to act as tour guide for Della, before she agrees to the lessons. There is chemistry between the two, but with Cullen keeping his distance due to his engagement, their affection wasn't as open as that of most couples. It was more like mutual attraction, and a very nice shirtless scene, before Della fall in love and then Cullen.

There is the matter of Wanda, Cullen's betrothed, but a confrontation eventually leads to a satisfying end. At first it was odd seeing Cullen go from displaying limited affection to full-blown gestures, kisses and all. In retrospect I do think this showed the extent to which he withheld himself out of respect for both Wanda and Della. He is an upstanding man with great character and a mind for innovation. There is opposition and a lot that he has to overcome, but Cullen handles it excellently. The way he doesn't engage with instigators like Bulenberg made me respect him.

Della didn't feel as real to me as Cullen, her real name is Adelaide and I spent some time figuring out where "Della" came from, but she is not a bad character. I think she could have been developed more, but by far not a bad job on Gist's part.

The story was good and complete with an interesting look into the spectacular World's Fair that made this a unique book for me. Still, it was more Historical fiction than anything else and I would have liked stronger characters with greater faith value.

3.5/5 stars.
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