Judy Coopey’s THE FURNACE, is the first book in her The Juniata Iron Trilogy. The three books will follow a fictional family’s rise and fall with the iron industry in Pennsylvania. Family sagas give an author an opportunity to develop a vast variety of characters as well as providing the reader with a personal glimpse of history. If THE FURNACE is any indication of what is to come, Ms. Coopey is going to do just that.
The year is 1816 when we first meet Elinor Bratton. Ellie is young, beautiful, privileged and in love with her handsome, equally privileged, neighbor Robert. Their relationship results in Robert going to Philadelphia to study, leaving a pregnant Ellie behind to face the shame alone.
Over Ellie’s objections, she finds herself married to a man who is a complete stranger; her father has bought her a husband. Adam MacPhail has nothing that made Robert so perfect in Ellie’s opinion. He is poor and has none of the social graces that are so important in the wealthy community in Berks County.
Adam does have an obsession. He wants to make iron in western Pennsylvania. The Bratton money will allow him to buy the iron furnace that he so desperately wants. Ellie has always had servants to pamper her, now she is forced to live in the middle of nowhere, with primitive conditions, a stranger for a husband and expecting a baby fathered by the man she loves. So starts our saga of the MacPhail family.
One of the things that I count on in a Judy Coopey book is a chance to meet interesting characters and THE FURNACE is full of them. The reader may not approve of Ellie - she certainly has her flaws- but I found myself rooting for her. As I fell in love with Adam, I kept wishing that she would do the same.
The author also keeps us guessing who among the citizens of the growing iron community are good, bad, downright evil, or some combination of these traits.When a foreman goes missing, the fact that several of the men in the town hated him enough and were mean enough to have murdered him creates a mystery that may not get solved.
If you have read any of Ms. Coopey’s earlier books, you know that real life happens to her people. Unexpected deaths, natural disasters, dangerous temptations, petty jealousies, and moments of pure joy.
As in any good trilogy, this first book made me want more. We know that two books will follow this one and I will warn you that the ending is a true cliffhanger. I want to see what happens as the children grow and take over for their parents. I want to meet Ellie as an old woman. I want to see what happens to several neighbors that became friends of mine. In other words, I want the next book as quickly as possible!