About the Book
Book: In Spotlight and Shadow
Author: Rachel Scott McDaniel
Genre: Christian Fiction / Historical Fiction / Mystery / Romance
Release date: February 1, 2023
A Gem of a Mystery Takes Center Stage
Walk through Doors to the Past via a new series of historical stories of romance and adventure.
Elise Malvern has a habit of letting people down. Her former boyfriend who hoped she’d be his bride. Her grandfather who hoped she’d take over the family’s auction company. But mostly she’s disappointed herself. What’s the point of pursuing her passion as a violinist, if she is too scared to audition for a seat in the Pittsburgh Symphony? Her internship at the elegant Heinz Hall places her in the wings of the stage, but never on it. By accident, she discovers an old stage prop. Her instincts tell her there’s more to the paste necklace than meets the eye. Whether a good idea or not, she accepts help from a childhood friend, who happens to be country music megastar—Peirson Brooks. Peirson and Elise share a history; one she doesn’t care to repeat. The more involved they become in the mystery, the more things get tangled, including her heart.
A century earlier…
Sophie Walters longs for center stage, her name on the marquee, and all that jazz, but climbing her way into an acting career is more difficult than she imagined. Having spoiled all her chances in Hollywood, she returns to Pittsburgh, accepting an insignificant role in a popular production. She watches her dreams pass by from behind the curtain at the illustrious Loew’s Penn Theatre. She finally gets the coveted spotlight, but not for her talent. No, her surge to fame is all one terrible mistake. Somehow, she’s suspected to be a notorious jewel thief known around Pittsburgh as The Mirage. The man she pleads for help is none other than the man she jilted at the altar five years before, Sterling Monroe.
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About the Author
Rachel Scott McDaniel is an award-winning author of historical romance. Winner of the ACFW Genesis Award and the RWA Touched By Love award, Rachel infuses faith and heart into each story. Rachel can be found online at www.RachelScottMcDaniel.com and on all social media platforms. Her work is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Agency. Rachel resides in Ohio with her husband and two children.
More from Rachel
History of The Loew’s Penn/Heinz Hall Theater
The Loew’s Penn theater in Pittsburgh opened its doors on September 6, 1927. Thousands of Pittsburghians crammed the streets hoping to enter. Those who were fortunate to claim a seat gasped at the grandeur of what that has been billed the ‘Temple of Cinema.’ The new hotspot in the Steel City was regarded as the most magnificent theater between New York and Chicago.
The Loew’s Penn was five stories high and could seat over 3,000 guests. The grand lobby had a 50-foot-high vaulted Venetian ceiling, gilded Corinthian columns, and two spectacular chandeliers. The crystal for the chandeliers was imported from Vienna. From silk drapes to artwork by Renaissance masters to Italian marble staircases the theater seemed more like a museum than a cinema palace. As for the entertainment, the night began with a live stage show followed by a silent film feature.
Attendance averaged around 60,000 theatergoers a week. And with an admission charge of $.50, the theater made around $30,000 a week. Which was a substantial fortune during the 1920s. The theater hosted live stage shows and they also brought in national acts including Paul Whiteman and the Rhythm Boys featuring Bing Crosby. Also Buster Keaton and Eddie Cantor graced the stage.
Over the years, the allure of the Loew’s Penn faded, and the theater fell into disrepair, finally shutting its doors in 1968. The Howard Heinz Endowment purchased the building, saving it from demolition. After a 16-month renovation that had cost over $11 million, the doors opened yet again under the new name of Heinz Hall. The plush red carpet is bold and beautiful, but also a subtle nod to … you guessed it … Heinz Ketchup. The grand lobby features the original marble flooring as well as the two 15-foot chandeliers. The main auditorium seats 2,661 guests. Heinz Hall is now the home to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra it also hosts concerts and Broadway touring companies.
Had this book not been part of Barbour’s Doors to the Past series, I might not have chosen to read it, and that would certainly have been an unfortunate oversight. Topics such as jewel theft, fame, and city life usually do not appeal to me, and, truth be told, romance has never been at the top of my list either. Having read Undercurrent of Secrets and Above the Fold, however, I had no doubt that Rachel Scott McDaniel would write another compelling novel that I would read from cover-to-cover in two sittings, and In Spotlight and Shadow was precisely that!
Bringing together two young women with storied pasts, Sophie Walters from 1927 and Elise Malvern from the present, In Spotlight and Shadow is as much a tale of contrasts as it is parallels. Beyond the title itself, the interplay between light and darkness creates a chiaroscuro effect throughout the narrative, highlighting the two protagonists as each wrestle with the heartache of past love and the pursuit of their burgeoning careers. Elise is a creative marketing intern at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, but she feels her true place is on stage as a violinist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra—if only she had the courage to audition. Sophie, on the other hand, is an actress who didn’t make it in Hollywood and instead performs a minor role at Loew’s Penn Theatre—to become Heinz Hall decades later—until she is suddenly cast into the limelight under suspicion of being a jewel thief who has earned the moniker The Mirage. The shadows of the past overtake the present for both women when Elise’s former best friend and now country music star Pierson Brooks unexpectedly crashes back into her life and the man whom Sophie abandoned at the altar turns out to be the one investigating her case.
Rachel McDaniel employs the theme of courage and perseverance in the midst of adversity as a means of demonstrating a timeless truth: that regardless of circumstances or identity, God loves us and is faithful to use all things for our good and His glory when we put our trust in Him. As Sophie reflects to herself after remarking to a coworker that the world has many weak imitations of love, “But love in its full strength was something we found only in God.” Likewise, amidst struggles and reopened wounds from the past, Elise comes to an undeniable realization: “She needed to trust in God’s faithfulness to bring her through.” Sometimes our plans don’t turn out the way we thought they would or even should have, but when we surrender our lives to the Lord, we find that nothing is wasted, that it is all strung perfectly together into a harmonious symphony uniquely ours.
McDaniel also incorporates interesting lore about Pittsburgh into this dual-timeline story, and as someone who grew up an hour away from the city, the familiar locales add an extra level of enjoyment. Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of this story, though, is the gambling grannies, whose well-intentioned scheming stirs up more trouble than their grandkids bargained for. Indeed, there is a wide-ranging cast who are full of surprises for both their fellow characters and readers alike. Even if this isn’t your preferred genre, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and give In Spotlight and Shadow a try!
I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥
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To celebrate her tour, Rachel is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.