A Review of A DIFFERENT KIND OF FIRE by Suanne Schafer


A DIFFERENT KIND OF FIRE, Suanne Schafer’s debut historical women’s fiction novel, will be published November 1st 2018 by Waldorf Publishing.

 Ruby Schmidt – not yet ready to settle into a hardscrabble, restricted life as a wife and mother on a ranch in 1890s West Texas – leaves behind her family and fiancé to attend art school in Philadelphia. At first, life at art school in the big city seems like everything Ruby had dreamed of as she perfects her techniques, makes new friends, and expands her horizons. After an affair with another woman, a disastrous marriage to an Italian nobleman, and numerous rejections as an artist, Ruby returns home to Texas and marries her childhood sweetheart. Through the ups and downs of Ruby’s life, her art, her husband, and her best friend sustain her.

 A DIFFERENT KIND OF FIRE is a beautifully written, heartbreaking novel about a woman who tries to break the mold in the art world in the late 1880s. During the Gilded Age, there were few choices for women other than to marry and have children. Ruby breaks the mold – especially in her small town – by attending art school. At the time, women were permitted to attend art school, but they were expected to paint pretty, feminine things. Instead of depicting children and flowers, Ruby showcases scenes of the gritty, tough life that she, her family, and friends experienced in West Texas. Ruby’s realistic, “manly” art sets her apart from other female artists, but it also hinders her career as an artist because very few people are willing to take a female artist seriously. Ruby conforms so she is able to make a living on her artwork, but she also paints for herself to save her sanity and soul.

 Ruby and the rest of the main characters are all well-developed. Schafer did a lot of research, and it shows in the precise details about the, people, time period, and various settings. The novel covers several decades – though the majority of the novel focuses on Ruby’s years attending art school in Philadelphia and the years immediately following her return to West Texas. A DIFFERENT KIND OF FIRE covers many themes such as relationships (good, bad, and taboo), survival, family, ambition, and self-discovery.