Good Time Coming by C.S. Harris

I want to share something with you about C.S. Harris’s story Good Time Coming. I still think about the story and my interview with her. I went over to Amazon so I can order a physical copy of her book to add to my collections of books I most admire. I read the reviews and I feel people are misunderstanding the story by saying it’s one-sided and this and that. It is far from that and she wrote a story that is rarely or if at all talked about. If these readers truly appreciated and studied history and were avid historical fiction readers of the period, they would know this. We need more stories about civilians’ experiences in the south. I also feel that she wasn’t conveying that all union soldiers are bad like what one reviewer stated. I did not get that impression at all when I read the book. I wish people would leave their modern-day sensibilities out of history so that they can truly learn history in its raw form. Harris beautifully and heart wrenchingly portrayed how horrible the war was for the women left unprotected, while their men and sons were off fighting and dying by the hundreds of thousands. Nothing wrong in giving a southern view of the experience. I wish people would be more objective and open to hearing all sides because you cannot learn or teach history without it. We need to take the good, the bad and ugly and discuss it openly without prejudice. To blame a wrong solely on a group of people is counterproductive and causes further divide. After-all, honest talk is only how we will learn human experiences and heal as a community. So please, stop bringing political correctness into everything. It is polarizing, damaging and complete utter nonsense!

“The army that marched against the South was the same army that perpetrated the massacres of Native American women and children at Sacramento River and Harvey and countless other sites, a well-understood reality that terrified Southern civilians.” – C.S. Harris

The link to my interview with C.S. Harris will give readers a better sense of what the author was conveying with Good Time Coming. I highly recommend reading the book and to read the interview in full. One of the best civil war related stories I’ve read and that says a lot because this period in our countries history, interest me the most.

-Stephanie

About the book:

It’s the beginning of the American Civil War, and the Union army is sailing down the Mississippi, leaving death and destruction in its wake.

The graceful river town of St. Francisville, Louisiana, has known little of the hardships, death, and destruction of the War. But with the fall of New Orleans, all changes. A Federal fleet appears on the Mississippi, and it isn’t long before the depredations and attacks begin.

For one Southern family the dark blue uniform of the Union army is not the only thing they fear. A young girl stops a vicious attack on her mother and the town must pull together to keep each other safe. But a cryptic message casts doubt amongst the townsfolk. Is there a traitor in the town and can anybody be trusted?

Twelve-year-old Amrie and her family have never felt entirely accepted by their neighbors, due to their vocal abolitionist beliefs. But when Federal forces lay siege to the nearby strongholds of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, the women and children of St. Francisville find themselves living in a no mans land between two warring armies. Realizing they must overcome their differences and work together to survive, they soon discover strengths and abilities they never knew they possessed, and forge unexpected friendships.

As the violence in the area intensifies, Amrie comes to terms with her own capacity for violence and realizes that the capacity for evil exists within all of us. And when the discovery of a closely guarded secret brings the wrath of the Federal army down on St. Francisville, the women of St. Francisville, with whom Amrie and her mother have shared the war years many deprivations and traumas, now unite and risk their own lives to save them.

Book Review: Sunflower Sisters (Lilac Girls #3) by Martha Hall Kelly

Random House Publishing Group

Ballantine Books

Historical Fiction

Pub Date 30 Mar 2021

About the Book:

Lilac Girls, the 1.7-million-copy bestselling novel by Martha Hall Kelly, introduced readers to Caroline Ferriday, an American philanthropist who helped young girls released from Ravensbruck concentration camp. Now, in Sunflower Sisters, Kelly tells the story of her ancestor Georgeanna Woolsey, a Union nurse who joins the war effort during the Civil War, and how her calling leads her to cross paths with Jemma, a young enslaved girl who is sold off and conscripted into the army, and Ann-May Wilson, a southern plantation mistress whose husband enlists.

Georgeanne “Georgey” Woolsey isn’t meant for the world of lavish parties and demure attitudes of women of her stature. So, when the war ignites the nation, Georgey follows her passion for nursing during a time when doctors considered women a bother on the battlefront. In proving them wrong, she and her sister Eliza venture from New York to Washington, D.C., to Gettysburg and witness the unparalleled horrors of slavery as they become involved in the war effort.

In the South, Jemma is enslaved on the Peeler Plantation in Maryland, where she lives with her mother and father. Her sister, Patience, is enslaved on the plantation next door and both live in fear of LeBaron, an abusive overseer who tracks their every move. When Jemma is sold by the cruel plantation mistress Anne-May at the same time the Union army comes through, she sees a chance to finally escape–but only by abandoning the family she loves.

Anne-May is left behind to run Peeler Planation when her husband joins the Union Army and her cherished brother enlists with the Confederates. In charge of the household, she uses the opportunity to follow her own ambitions and is drawn into a secret Southern network of spies, finally exposing herself to the fate she deserves.

My Thoughts:

When I began to read this story, I must confess my feelings were not completely favorable. I’ve read and studied the American Civil War for quite some years and was looking for something I haven’t read before. As the story unfolded, I became less frustrated and was intrigued with how the author portray the character’s personalities. Needless to say, she doesn’t hold back.

Kelly marvelously shows us multi-dimensional people of the time. Which is important to have a better sense of mindsets and not told just in the perspective of the people who oppose them. Yes, it can be a slippery slope in today’s social norms but it is extremely counterproductive when people’s voices-all around-are silenced. 

I was quite impressed with the realistic imagery of the Civil War background and the author’s portrayal of the evils of slavery. Heart-wrenching to say the least…

As the war continued, just about every household lost someone they loved. Death became commonplace and with Sunflower Sisters, you experience that fact, vividly.

The Civil War topic still holds to this day with powerful and emotional attitudes. There was a particular scene in the story where I felt the author was bringing up a subject that many don’t speak of openly. Powerful business men in the north of that time profited from slavery. Yes, they surely did as the sun rises. Still applies today, really. Slavery is the oldest institution in the world. The author also portrays quite a few prejudices by people in the north had towards people of color.

There was a couple themes in the story that reminded me of what C.S. Harris wrote in an interview I had with her a few years back. To turn the Civil War into a morality play in which one side equals good and the other evil serves only to distort history and perpetuate the dangerous divisions that still exist in our country over 150 years later.

Bravo, Martha Hall Kelly! You have written a story that provokes discussion and clarity on this sensitive subject. You give new meaning to the good, bad and ugly. Memorable characters and an unforgettable story that needed to be told.

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a copy from the Publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Book Review: Veiled in Smoke by Jocelyn Green

(The Windy City Saga #1)

Paperback, 416 pagesPublished February 4th 2020 by Bethany House Publishers

Meg and Sylvie Townsend manage the family bookshop and care for their father, Stephen, a veteran still suffering in mind and spirit from his time as a POW during the Civil War. But when the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago’s business district, they lose much more than just their store.

The sisters become separated from their father, and after Meg burns her hands in an attempt to save a family heirloom, they make a harrowing escape from the flames with the help of Chicago Tribune reporter Nate Pierce. Once the smoke clears away, they reunite with Stephen, only to learn soon after that their family friend not only died during the fire–he was murdered. Even more shocking, Stephen is charged with the crime and committed to the Cook County Insane Asylum.

Though homeless, injured, and suddenly unemployed, Meg must not only gather the pieces of her shattered life, but prove her father’s innocence before the asylum truly drives him mad.

My thoughts:

I’ve heard of the Great Fire in Chicago during that period but I don’t believe or can’t remember if I’ve read an historical fiction story that takes place during that time. I was delighted to come across, Veiled in Smoke and I had not read any of Green’s stories beforehand. Needless to say, I was unfamiliar with her work and was eager to delve in her world-building.

I have to say, while the introduction of the characters in the beginning was intriguing, the build-up to the day of the fire felt rushed and lacked a certain substance. I started to have doubts about this book but rallied on. The story didn’t take off until the fire broke out. At that very moment, I felt a shift in the structure of the storytelling and became immensely captivated. The telling of the fire itself and was outstanding and so realistic, you are completely transported to time and place.

I enjoyed reading about Meg and Sylvie’ life during this tragic event and the author does a marvelous job at creating sisterly tension and, at times, unease in their relationship. She also shows their love for each other, for their father and others.

Although different in many ways, Meg with her artistic ability and Sylvia with her love of books and independent in thought, they are both intelligent and they didn’t give up, despite their daunting predicaments. There are many life lessons to be learned with their story.

Banner by Stephanie Hopkins

Stephen’s suffering from Soldiers Heart AKA PTSD from his time as a POW in Andersonville is heartbreaking, yet, eye opening to read about. The Prison camp is reported to have been the largest prison for holding Union soldiers and its conditions are heartbreaking to say the least.

Having said that, there is a topic about how Andersonville was portrayed that I felt needed to be addressed in the story and wasn’t. I felt the subject a bit one sided and conveniently left out to drive a particular narrative about the South. The soldiers weren’t suffering entirely at the fault of people in charge of running the camps. The guards weren’t in much better shape due to the lack of supplies for all. As the war raged on, throughout the south, there was great suffering of starvation, death due to food shortages, water pollution, lack of clothing, disease, increase violence among the civilians, particularly to the females, and lack medicines. While it is known that the north managed prisons differently, both Union and Confederate, really, suffered deficiencies. There was also Lincoln’s blockade of the southern states that played a huge role in this problem.

I can’t say for certain what the author’s intentions were regarding this topic, but nonetheless, I have to say, this particular part slightly vexed me somewhat because I see this premise often in historical fiction and in our education system. That said, and to be fair, the author does give an indication of how the union prisoners treated each other in Andersonville and quite possibly she is portraying how a union solder’s mindset-at the time-probably was due to trauma experienced to drive the stories narrative. Another consideration is that writing a historical story is far more difficult than it appears. You can’t please everyone.

Years after the war, Stephen still struggles with PTSD. Then when Stephen is charged with a serious crime, that took place during the fire, and taken to the Cook Cunty Insane Asylum, would be anyone’s undoing. In one instance, when he arrived to the asylum, they reduced him to a number, stripping his identity to make him less human.

From previously reading about asylums during that period, I had already known what they were like but reading Stephen’s experience made it all too real and affected me in such a way, that even now, I’m still outraged and sadden over the ill treatment of patients in those places. It is absolutely appalling how he was treated and the lack of respect he was given for his service during the war. Even before he was put in that place. His struggles are deeply felt.

Despite what I said about the prison camp topic, I must confess that this is one of the better stories written I’ve read that takes place during post-civil war in the 19th Century. I have noted many passages that I found to be inspiring and I feel deeply about many of the characters.

Green weaves a compelling story of a family’s fight for survival and healing. She gives us a well-constructed insight into the lives of the characters, Stephen’s mental state and trauma the fire caused the city and its’ people. Overall, there are many elements to the story that make it a noble read.

Veiled in Smoke will be placed among my go-to 19th Century Historical Fiction reads and I look forward to reading the next book in this saga.

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a copy from the publishers through NetGalley.

Side note: If you are a fan of Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott, most likely you will enjoy this story a great deal!  

Book Review: Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird

DAUGHTER OF A DAUGHTER OF A QUEEN“Here’s the first thing you need to know about Miss Cathy Williams: I am the daughter of a daughter of a queen and my Mama never let me forget it.”
Missouri, 1864

Powerful, epic, and compelling, Daughter of a Daughter of a Queenshines light on a nearly forgotten figure in history. Cathy Williams was born and lived a slave – until the Union army comes and destroys the only world she’s known. Separated from her family, she makes the impossible decision – to fight in the army disguised as a man with the Buffalo Soldiers. With courage and wit, Cathy must not only fight for her survival and freedom in the ultimate man’s world, but never give up on her mission to find her family, and the man she loves. Beautiful, strong, and impactful, Cathy’s story is one that illustrates the force of hidden history come to light, the strength of women, and the power of love.

My thoughts:

General Sheridan and his soldiers were burning everything in sight and took Cathy Williams-a slave-off a plantation as contraband to be an assistant to the generals cook. After the war is over she enlists in the Union Army disguised as a man with the Buffalo Soldiers.

I’ve always wondered how the Union Army was able to recruit/convince ex-slaves-right after the civil war- to become Buffalo Soldiers knowing what they were going to do to the Indians. It really has always baffled me. This story goes into that a little of that and explores the feelings of the Buffalo soldier’s feelings on this. The Union Army was not kind to the soldiers and I believe used them horribly.

As I was reading this story, I was dreading about what was going to happen to the soldiers once they get out west-already knowing its history and the author gives you a vivid picture of their struggles and Cathy’s efforts to keep her disguise as a man.

Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen is a top-notch historical fiction story, memorable characters, outstanding history details of its setting, conflict and I’m truly looking forward to more stories by this author.

I obtained a copy of this book from the publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

I have rated this book five stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

The Gilded Age

The late 19th Century and early 20th Century are a deep fascination of mine and I have studied the history for years as part of my own research for my WIP’s. I was delighted when Janet Stafford posted these two posts-below-on her site, “Squeaking Pips.” I’ve read her articles on the Gilded Age several times and I was impressed and intrigued with what she wrote and how concise she is with her knowledge in the era.

Janet Stafford is an author with the wonderful, “Saint Maggie Series” I recommend. She and I are currently working on a project so moving that in the first phase of it, I was moved to tears. What is the project that has me so worked up? More to come on that soon! Meanwhile, please be sure to take the time to read both posts and comments are appreciated. We would love to hear your thoughts! -Stephanie M. Hopkins

The Gilded Age

gilded-age-cover-1873

In 1873, Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner published a book that became the name of an era: The Gilded Age.  This period, generally believed to be between 1870 and 1900, was marked by rapid industrialization, economic growth, and immigration, most notably in the North and West. The South, however, after defeat in the Civil War and the punishment of the Reconstruction, suffered from economic depression. This is an important difference to note. The successes and excesses of the Gilded Age did not touch the United States in its entirety.

Twain and Dudley’s book is set in the United States at the very beginning of the Gilded Age. Marvin Felheim[i], who wrote the introduction to my yellowed paperback copy of the book, notes that the story’s primary criticism was focused on “the greed and lust – for land, for money, for power – of an alliance of Western land speculators, Eastern capitalists, and corrupt officials who dominated the society and appreciably altered its character.”[ii] He goes on to say:

The “Gilded Age” was a “peaceful” era following the horrors of the Civil War. The North, industrialized and righteous, had won. One consequence was the westward extension of institutions representing its victorious value system. Expansion was in the air. Capital was available and bankers were looking avidly for investments. The West, with all its rich potentialities, both of wealth and adventure, lay ready to be exploited. Colonel Sellers’ [a principle character] ambitious schemes were not merely the idle dreams of a satirist’s euphoric imagination: they represented the hopes and beliefs of a nation.[iii]

It is true wages for the average worker rose during this period. However, there was a dark side to all this growth and expansion, and that was an alarming disparity in income and wealth. Briefly put, the gulf between the wealthy class and everyone else began to widen. According to Steve Fraser…Read more HERE

Whispers of the Gilded Age in SEEING THE ELEPHANT

Gold Bars

To recap, the Gilded Age was a period in the United States that roughly spanned 1870-1900. An era of rising industrialization, urbanization, and immigration, it also saw a rising disparity between the wealthiest Americans and those who were “regular” folks.

Although it was a time of conspicuous consumption, some industrialists sought to moderate their public image by engaging in civic works, such as the building of libraries, hospitals, schools, and other institutions beneficial to the populace. In that era, the wealthy still feared hell – and if they didn’t, at least they were willing to hedge their bets by doing something good for those who had little.

The big wigs (or “big bugs,” as Eli calls them) were living well, but many workers in the Gilded Age routinely got injured or killed on the job and had little in the way of compensation. Is it any wonder that this era also saw the rise of the union movement?

New discoveries in science drove improve patient treatment and housing. A reform movement, led by Dorothea Dix, sought to change mental “hospitals” from dank jails where “patients” were put in chains and lived in their own filth to healthy environments that embraced more humane treatment methods.

I enjoyed putting early whispers of the changing landscape in American society into the fourth book in the Saint Maggie series. In 1864, they are felt in the little town of Blaineton, New Jersey. So, when Maggie and her family return to their hometown, they find not only their own lives changing, but also the life of their town, and these changes are borne out in the following storylines…Read more HERE

***Illustration: Cover of the first edition of The Gilded Age by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, 1873

 

A Time to Heal by Janet Stafford

Camp Letterman tents

Camp Letterman tents 1863

After the battle of Gettysburg, over 30,000 Confederate and Union soldiers are estimated to have been wounded and were scattered over the battlefield, in field hospitals, and in public buildings and private homes throughout the area. Dr. Jonathan Letterman, Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac (also known as “the Father of Modern Battlefield Medicine), ordered a that a central hospital be established to care for those left behind. Camp Letterman was located east of Gettysburg near the York Pike on Wolf Farm. In A TIME TO HEAL, Capt. Philip Frost is assigned to the hospital, and he and Maggie’s oldest daughter, Lydia, strike up a friendship. Janet Stafford will be writing a blog about Camp Letterman at the end of the week at her website.

Janet Stafford’s Facebook Page

Website

About the book, A TIME TO HEAL:

A Time To Heal

In 1863, Maggie Blaine Smith sat down and wrote in her journal: “It seems to me that this time after the storm of battle has been a waiting time, a time of recovery. We did not know where we would be led next. We did not know when or if change would happen.” A TIME TO HEAL, set in the months immediately after the Battle of Gettysburg, continues the story of Maggie and Eli Smith and their unconventional family. Maggie’s daughters and friends remain in the town as they struggle to care for a houseful of wounded soldiers. Meanwhile, Maggie and Emily, having suffered terrible trauma, move with their husbands to a more peaceful location about seven miles away. Everyone hopes and prays for healing and a return to normal life. And then an act of compassion puts them in jeopardy.

Amazon

 

The Journals of Matthew Quinton Series by J.D. Davies

me-iiI can’t speak for other book bloggers but my work load of reviewing books is quite extensive and it leaves me little time to start book series. Starting one up is a big commitment but there are times one stumbles across a series that looks too good to pass up. The question is when to find the time to read them. Having said that, I will just have to get creative because The Journals of Matthew Quinton Series looks intriguing. Though my main focus right now is American History, I still like to explore European history as well. There is also the fact that I am on the lookout for stories with male protagonists.

The history surrounding Cromwell’s death and the restoration of England is a subject I’d like to further explore. I want to become stronger in that era. Like avid historical fiction loves I start with this genre and work my way through non-fiction. The Journals of Matthew Quinton Series is a pretty big, so my goal it is read at least two books from the series once a year. What if I really like the series and don’t want to wait for the next year to come? Well, then somehow, my goal will have to change- however hard that might be. I am seriously overloaded with book reviews-as always. I have listed the first three books in the series. You can find the others on Amazon or goodreads. Enjoy!

Gentleman CaptainGentleman Captain (The Journals of Matthew Quinton #1) by J.D. Davies

Paperback, 328 pages

Published April 6th 2010 by Old Street Publishing (first published 2009)

1662: Restoration England. Cromwell is dead, and King Charles II has reclaimed the throne after years of civil war. It is a time of divided allegiances, intrigue, and outright treachery. With rebellion stirring in the Scottish Isles, the hard-pressed sovereign needs men he can trust to sail north and defuse this new threat. Matthew Quinton is such a man—the second son of a noble royalist family, he is loyal, if inexperienced. Having sunk the first man-of-war under his command within weeks, Matthew is determined to complete his second mission without loss of life or honor. Upon taking command of His Majesty’s Ship the Jupiter, the young “gentleman captain” is faced with a resentful crew and has but few on whom he can rely: Kit Farrell, an illiterate commoner with vast seafaring experience, and Phineas Musk, a roguish but steadfast family retainer. As they approach the wild coast of Scotland, Matthew begins to learn the ropes and win the respect of his fellow officers and sailors. But he has other difficulties on the voyage north: a suspicion that the previous captain of the Jupiter was murdered, a feeling that many among his crew have something to hide, and the growing conviction that betrayal lies closer to home than he had thought. With cannon fire by sea and swordplay by land, Gentleman Captain is a rousing high-seas adventure in the finest nautical tradition.

The Mountain of Gold IIThe Mountain of Gold (The Journals of Matthew Quinton #2) by J.D. Davies

Paperback, 362 pages

Published August 18th 2016 by Endeavour Press (first published March 1st 2011)

1663, the Mediterranean Sea…

Captain Mathew Quinton, heir to Ravensden and his Dutch wife Cornelia tragically struggle to have children of their own. The Ravensden line is under increasing strain, as his older Brother, the tenth earl of Ravensden doesn’t have a son either.

The earl is forced into marrying the Countess Louise, and with vicious rumours circulating that she murdered her previous husbands, Captain Matthew is deeply concerned for his brother’s wellbeing.

What is the truth surrounding the beauty?

How can he stop the marriage before it is too late?

Whilst on-board his majesty’s ship The Wessex, Quinton captures a corsair pirate, who goes by the name of Omar Ibrahim of Oran right from under the nose of the ferocious Montnoir, a Maltese Knight.

Omar Ibrahim of Oran is a false identity for the notorious adventurer O’Dwyer who tells the King about ‘a mountain of gold’ to save himself from the noose.

Quinton is ordered by King Charles II to accompany the prisoner O’Dwyer to the mountain in Gambia and retrieve his riches.

The journey is anything but smooth, filled with terror, murder and betrayal…
and the question in everyone’s minds: ‘Does this mountain even exist?’

The Blast that Tears the SkiesThe Blast that Tears the Skies (The Journals of Matthew Quinton #3) by J.D. Davies

Paperback, 368 pages

Published May 15th 2012 by Old Street Publishing

  1. The land is at war and plague stalks London, but conspiracies against King Charles II are rife. Captain Matthew Quinton finds himself thrust unexpectedly into the midst of the deadliest of them when he is given command of a vast and ancient man-of-war.

Forced to contend with scheming ministers of state, a raw, rebellious crew and an alleged curse on his ship, Quinton sails against the might of the Dutch fleet. The shattering climax sees captain and crew fight for their lives at the heart of the Battle of Lowestoft, one of the greatest sea-fights in the entire age of sail, before Matthew returns home to face the disturbing truth about his own and his family’s past.

stay-calm-and-support-book-bloggers