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.

Cover Crush: The Last Mona Lisa by Jonathan Santlofer

About the Cover: Firstly, I have to confess that it wasn’t the cover that directed my attention to this book, but the title. If I were designing the layout, I’m not entirely sure I would have chosen the shade of blue to contrast the Mona Lisa painting. Nonetheless, if you look closely, you will see the cracks in the painting carrying over to the right side of the cover. I thought that was a nice touch and the pealing of the upper left corner and tears in the image represents age.

About the Book: The Mona Lisa is a famous portrait painting by artist Leonardo da Vinci and is, without a doubt, the most talked about painting in history. I remember as a young child learning about the Mona Lisa and the artist. I have to admit, throughout most of my life, shockingly, the painting didn’t leave an impression on me as one would expect. It wasn’t until later in my adulthood that I developed an appreciation for the painting and the history. Maybe, it’s because of its artist and depiction in various forms and media that sparked an interest in me to learn more about its creation.

I’ve added The Last Mona Lisa by Jonathan Santlofer to my book pile and look forward to reading the story. – Stephanie Hopkins

Book Description:

Published August 17th 2021 by Sourcebooks Landmark

August, 1911: The Mona Lisa is stolen by Vincent Peruggia. Exactly what happens in the two years before its recovery is a mystery. Many replicas of the Mona Lisa exist, and more than one historian has wondered if the painting now in the Louvre is a fake, switched in 1911.

Present day: Art professor Luke Perrone digs for the truth behind his most famous ancestor: Peruggia. His search attracts an Interpol detective with something to prove and an unfamiliar but curiously helpful woman. Soon, Luke tumbles deep into the world of art and forgery, a land of obsession and danger.

A gripping novel exploring the 1911 theft and the present underbelly of the art world, The Last Mona Lisa is a suspenseful tale, tapping into our universal fascination with da Vinci’s enigma, why people are driven to possess certain works of art, and our fascination with the authentic and the fake.

The Dust Needs to Settle

We had quite the storm this past Saturday evening of heavy rain, strong wind and lightning. On the back screened porch Sunday morning, everything was damp and the southern humidity didn’t help matters. At least the birds were in song and the coffee was strong. I was sitting on the back porch, not sure how long that was going to last, to write letters, organize to-do lists and to jot down thoughts about, The Four Winds by Kristen Hannah. In the picture, you see John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, you say. “Where’s, The Four Winds?” I bought this copy of The Grapes of Wrath back in 92′ and yes, it’s still in great condition. Gosh, saying that makes me feel old.

To answer your question, assuming you’re asking it, I’m re-visiting The Grapes of Wrath because The Four Winds is a good companion and the stories are still relevant today. They both give you a fountain of information to think about and I have so much to say about both of them. The Four Winds is resting on one of my bookshelves. I will be un-shelving the book soon to gather some marked passages and discuss both books with its contrasts and similarities.

This will be a rather ongoing project and perhaps will share in bits and pieces at Layered Pages. Each post will be linked, so you many keep up with this project, if you wish.

Stephanie Hopkins

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Published April 10th 2014 by Viking (first published April 14th 1939)

The Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression, a book that galvanized—and sometimes outraged—millions of readers.

First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads—driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity. A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America. At once a naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck’s powerful landmark novel is perhaps the most American of American Classics

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Published February 2nd 2021 by St. Martin’s Press

Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance.

In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

New Book Release: The Nine by Gwen Strauss

Congrats to Gwen Strauss’s book publication of, “The Nine”

(The True Story of a Band of Women Who Survived the Worst of Nazi Germany!”)

About the book:

St. Martin’s Press

History

Pub Date 04 May 2021

“This haunting account provides yet more evidence not only of the power of female friendship but that the often-unrecorded courage and resilience of ordinary women must be honoured and celebrated. It’s a most inspiring read…Utterly gripping.” —Anne Sebba, author of Les Parisiennes

The Nine follows the true story of the author’s great aunt Helene Podliasky, who led a band of nine female resistance fighters as they escaped a German forced labor camp and made a ten-day journey across the front lines of WWII from Germany back to Paris.

The nine women were all under thirty when they joined the resistance. They smuggled arms through Europe, harbored parachuting agents, coordinated communications between regional sectors, trekked escape routes to Spain and hid Jewish children in scattered apartments. They were arrested by French police, interrogated and tortured by the Gestapo. They were subjected to a series of French prisons and deported to Germany. The group formed along the way, meeting at different points, in prison, in transit, and at Ravensbrück. By the time they were enslaved at the labor camp in Leipzig, they were a close-knit group of friends. During the final days of the war, forced onto a death march, the nine chose their moment and made a daring escape.

Drawing on incredible research, this powerful, heart-stopping narrative is a moving tribute to the power of humanity and friendship in the darkest of times.

Book Review: Finding Napoleon by Margaret Rodenberg

Published April 6th 2021 by She Writes Press

Margaret Rodenberg brings us a story of Emperor Napoleon’s defeat and his exile on the Island of Helena in what is still, consider to this day, one of the most remote Island on earth. Finding Napoleon is about his final years and his plot to escape the Island and rescue his son. While on the Island, trust in the people surrounding him is quite the skill to say the least.

In the beginning, I felt as if the characters were moving parts in a play. Told where to stand, what to say and when to say it. I’m not sure that makes much sense but, in better words, I felt very little for them and that very well may be the point. Napoleon was using them and they were using him. We aren’t meant to have warm and fuzzy feelings for these people. They weren’t exactly pillars of society in terms of being moral and honest people. In my opinion, they were opportunist. As for the people of the Island, Tobyson, Hercules and Betsy were good people and despite Napoleon’s faults, they held him in high regard.

While Napoloen’s love affair with Albine wasn’t particularly “romantic”, I felt the author’s portrayal of their relationship realistic. That said, I still haven’t completely decided how I feel about Albine or her relations with Napoleon for that matter. Afterall, she was a married woman and I don’t say this with naivety. I’m well aware of the culture during that time. Maybe she felt she had to do what she did for survival.

Albine is a complex woman and people considered her a liar and a loose woman. Though many of the very people who said those things about her, were no better. In the end, she made good on a promise to Napoleon and I had to admire her for that. I would like to believe that leaving that Island and her changed circumstances in life, made her a better person in the end.

I feel Rosenberg depicted Napoleon’s ego as how I have always imagined it to be. Napoleon is intelligent and he very well knows it. He is always scheming and, in my opinion, using people for his own purpose and pleasures. He is a master manipulator. Despite his thirst for his own glory or survival-if you will-I found his interest in the world and how things worked intriguing to read about. He is a good listener and you do see a softer side to him in this story but I remain-rightfully so- suspicious of his motives.

I’ve read many novels about Napoleon but very little of his time on St. Helena or the end of his life in-depth such as this one. Nor was I familiar with the fact he began to write a story that was unfinished. That was exciting to learn and it intrigued me enough to read this book and wanting to know the author’s take on the history. I can’t help but wonder what his life would have been life if he had chosen a different path. He could have possibly done so much good with his intellect and charismatic personality.

You are reading two different stories with Finding Napoleon and how Rosenberg beautifully weaves Napoleon’s writing efforts into the time line and expanding on the story, is close to brilliant.

I appreciate the author’s obvious fascination with Napoleon. He is definitely a hot topic for discussion and this fact certainly shows in this book.

I recommend Finding Napoleon to readers who are already familiar with Napoleon’s life before his stay on the Island.

Stephanie Hopkins

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

More about the book:

With its delightful adaptation of Napoleon Bonaparte’s real attempt to write a novel, Finding Napoleon offers a fresh take on Europe’s most powerful man after he’s lost everything. A forgotten woman of history–Napoleon’s last love, the audacious Albine de Montholon–narrates their tale of intrigue, passion, and betrayal.

After the defeated Emperor Napoleon goes into exile on tiny St. Helena Island in the remote South Atlantic, he and his lover, Albine de Montholon, plot to escape and rescue his young son. Banding together African slaves, British sympathizers, a Jewish merchant, a Corsican rogue, and French followers, they confront British opposition–as well as treachery within their own ranks–with sometimes subtle, sometimes bold, but always desperate action.
When Napoleon and Albine break faith with one another, ambition and Albine’s husband threaten their reconciliation. To succeed, Napoleon must learn whom to trust. To survive, Albine must decide whom to betray.

Two hundred years after Napoleon’s death, this elegant, richly researched novel reveals a relationship history conceals.

Weird Wednesday: An Exploration of Our Quirky World

Strange Traditions and Practices of the Victorians

We are delighted to welcome you to “Weird Wednesday,” a joint series, partnered with our friends at before the second sleep, that explores the quirky side of our universe.

We live in an extraordinary quirky world that often times we forget to pause in our busy lives to notice. During these times many cannot venture outside-another great reason to pick up a book-so we are bringing our explorations to you. Today, I’m exploring a bit about the strange traditions, and practices of the Victorians.

(Image courtesy of Wikimedia)

During the Victorian era, how a person died was important to them. Especially one’s last words on this earth. Those words were thought to be believed because they were about to meet their maker. A “truth-detector” of the heart-if you will. This was a lesson for the living and for the love one’s gathered around the death bed. Afterall, why would the dying bear false witness? Those last moments were critical for the persons spiritual state. Still applies today, really.

It was important for the dying to be surrounded by their love ones in the last moments of their life. Imagine a soldier dying on the battle fields without that opportunity. How alone and scared they must have felt.  Many of the soldiers during the American Civil War were young boys crying out to their mothers.

In general, Victorians had a high mortality rate. Not only due to war but the spread of disease, living in poor conditions and lack of proper hygiene and sanitation, one might say. Also, arsenic and white lead were used in many Victorian papers as dyes which lead to widespread health issues for the workers in the industry and possibly for people in the homes.

(Image courtesy of Wikimedia)

One of the remaining artifacts from Victorians is photographs of their dead. It may sound morbid to us in today’s society but it brought their love ones’ comfort and it gave them a sense of closeness to their deceased love ones. During the first half of the 19th century, photography was a new medium, and it was an exciting way to capture life’s moments. Alas, many did not have immediate access to photography or the money, so they had to make it count. Usually during that time, only people with means could afford such luxury. I can’t imagine the task of staging a deceased person’s body for such an event of taking a photo. Especially because child mortality rates were so high during the Victorian age. This led to the practice of post-mortem photography and I’ve come across a lot of this subject. Though sad, and at times seen as morbid, these photos were the only way to record a love one’s existence. However, I hear it was easier because in those times, a person had to remain very still due to the slow shutter speed of the cameras.

Did you know that the Victorians also made “death mask” to remember the dead? They took death very seriously if they wanted to be surrounded by such mementos. According to the 19th-century collector Laurence Hutton, a death mask “must, of necessity, be absolutely true to nature.” The Victorians were not the first to use this practice of remembering people. Ancient civilizations made mask as well. The Egyptian masks are a prime example.

(Image courtesy of Wikimedia)

I don’t think I will go into how the Victorians made their mask, at the moment. My stomach can’t take it. Let’s take a quick look at other strange-like practices the Victorians did. You’ll notice that many of them are still done in today’s world.

One of my favorite things to do living in the South is to tour Victorian Homes, Plantations and Halls. I’ve learned about so much history and how people lived, through this experience. One of the things I’ve noticed is that you’ll see picture frames with hair. The hair is often arranged in a wreath style manner. The first time I ever saw one, I was intrigued and wanted to find out more about this practice. This was another way to commemorate the deceased. Women would also keep clippings of their friend’s hair in scrapbooks and men would wear “watch fobs” made of their wives’ hair. Victorians made all sorts of decorative pieces often from their love ones.

Other examples:

Hats made from taxidermied birds and other animals.

Obsession with stuffing animals.

Hosting mummy unwrapping parties. Okay…

Made and sent strange Christmas cards. (Check out Pinterest for card images)

Body Snatching-In the name of science? This practice became so wide spread that relatives would watch over the graves of the recently deceased.

And so on…

Thank you for exploring this interesting time in history with me!

Stephanie Hopkins

Other Weird Wednesday Posts:  

Weird Wednesday: An Exploration of Our Quirky World

Weird Wednesday: Butterflies

Weird Wednesday: Facts of Daily Life in the 19th-Century England.

And check out Lisl’s  WW at before the Second Sleep!

Sources:

This republic of Suffering (Death and the American Civil War) by Drew Gilpin Faust

Category:Post-mortem photography

and other independent research…

Book Review: The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

Published February 2nd 2021 by Berkley Books

Sophie Whalen is a young Irish immigrant so desperate to get out of a New York tenement that she answers a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. San Francisco widower Martin Hocking proves to be as aloof as he is mesmerizingly handsome. Sophie quickly develops deep affection for Kat, Martin’s silent five-year-old daughter, but Martin’s odd behavior leaves her with the uneasy feeling that something about her newfound situation isn’t right.

Then one early-spring evening, a stranger at the door sets in motion a transforming chain of events. Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved.

The fates of these three women intertwine on the eve of the devastating earthquake, thrusting them onto a perilous journey that will test their resiliency and resolve and, ultimately, their belief that love can overcome fear.

My thoughts:

The Nature of Fragile Things is without a doubt, my favorite book by Meissner. The different elements and themes are engaging and her story is unique, and although you are transported to time and place, you feel connected to the characters as if they were living today.

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake devastated the city and left well over 200,000 homeless and a high death toll. A fire broke out and quickly spread through parts of the city making it even more unsafe. Meissner’s historical telling of the earthquake and fire is wonderfully woven into the story.

What I liked most about Sophie is that she is a complex protagonist. She is not what you would call a goody-two-shoe heroine, but a woman with flaws and at times, doubt is cast about her motives and her life. Meissner steps out of the norm of one- dimensional characters I often see in stories. Readers need to see the characters battle their own demons, grow and learn from them. You get that and more from this story.

A compelling story blended with history and fiction.

I couldn’t put this book down.

Stephanie Hopkins

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

Book Review: A New York Secret by Ella Carey

(Daughters of New York #1)

Expected publication: March 12th 2021 by Bookouture

War forces her to choose a side…

1942, New York. As war rages in Europe, Lily Rose is grateful for her perfect life: a wealthy family who love her and a dream job working uptown as a restaurant chef. Times are changing for women and Lily is determined to run her own kitchen one day. She hopes handsome Tom Morelli, son of Sicilian immigrants, will be at her side. Together they work late, dreaming up delicious meals for New Yorkers struggling with wartime rationing and the threat of sons and sweethearts being called up…

Then Tom receives a devastating telegram that changes everything: he is drafted to fight in Italy.

Suddenly alone, Lily turns to her parents for support. But when her mother finds out about Tom, she is furious. When the war ends, Lily’s duty is to marry the man picked for her, keep house and raise children. They give her a heartbreaking ultimatum: end her relationship with Tom or lose her family and inheritance forever.

In the middle of the war, Lily is left in an impossible position. Will she choose to stay with her family and live the safe life she has always known, or will she follow her heart and her dreams?

My thoughts:

Often times we only read stories about war in the midst of battles and evasions. Ella Carey gives us a story about the families back home and the affect war has on them and the sacrifices they have to make. Like any war, people on the home front are thrust into uncertainties and adjusting to a new way of life, even if temporary. Is it really temporary?

Women were called to do “mens’ work” and this fact alone opened many opportunities and gave women a sense of pride and validity. We have much to thank them for…

Rationing food, gas and clothing became part of the necessary means and people had to find creative and alternatives to these commodities. While these things were taking place, there was also fear that gripped the nation for their love ones off fighting on the front lines.

These themes are woven throughout the story in an engrossing way that captivates the reader and gives one an appreciation for sacrifices that are made for the good of community.

I was completely enthralled with Lily’s strength and following her life during this period in history. All the characters, really, have a special role that gives this story depth and purpose.

What fun it was to read about the restaurant kitchen life and its culture.

A New York Secret is most definitely a thought-provoking, emotional story that portrays courage, hard choices, family, friendships in unlikely places and adversity.

Stephanie Hopkins

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

Book Review: Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan

Berkley Publishing Group

Historical Fiction

Pub Date 09 Mar 2021

About the book:

When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she’s shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can’t resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking.

Everly’s research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaski together, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, who was never found, along with her child. These aristocratic women were part of Savannah’s society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions. This is a moving and powerful exploration of what women will do to endure in the face of tragedy, the role fate plays, and the myriad ways we survive the surviving.

My thoughts:

The Steamship Pulaski disaster is a true historic story. In 1838, there was an explosion on board at eleven pm at night and two-thirds of the lives were lost. The ship was about 30 miles off the coast of North Carolina and the ship sank within 45 minutes after the explosion. Can you image the utter chaos and the fight for survival? The utter fear of the women, men and children experienced was beyond horrific. As the story goes, through time, the fate of the lives lost were forgotten.

The historical story of Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth was fascinating to follow. The plight that was handed to them and having to deal with it in life altering ways was extraordinary and powerful to read about. This story truly explores how life can change in an instance and the outcome is uncertain but one must never give up hope. Lily is a person I would love to read more about. Not only that but what the other families were going through during those fateful hours on the Pulaski and in the ocean.

Divers reported that they are believed to have found the wreckage of Pulaski from recovered items they salvaged from the wreck. Savannah professor Everly Winthrop was asked to study the artifacts and of that fateful period leading up to the disaster and afterwards. While she is working on the project, she was dealing with her own tragedy affecting her life in more ways than one.

This story is told in a dual time-line and I enjoyed many of the history elements throughout the story but felt at times the writing of the modern part was contrived. Also, Everly’s personal tragedy -where she eventually found closure- was too drawn out and I became irritated. I felt that part did not carry the overall modern day story well and it lacked structure and seemed forced, for a lack of better word. I found it hard to empathizes with her, but don’t misunderstand me, I’m fully aware that people grieve in different ways.

I did enjoy reading about Everly’s surroundings in Savannah because the city is known to me and her search for the artifacts, and finding out more about the families on the ship was intriguing.

I do love dual story-lines but I found myself thinking that I would have just preferred reading the historic aspects of the story without the modern part. Both need to be equally strong and it wasn’t which makes it difficult to follow the flow of the story with ease.

Despite a few of my misgivings, it is a good story and I’m confident that many readers will enjoy learning about the Pulaski through Surviving Savannah.

Stephanie Hopkins

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

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.