civil war

Review of ‘Saving Lincoln’

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Beth Wendland ran away from her home in New Jersey, ending up in New Orleans during the Civil War, an actress in a theater troupe that dealt as much in prostitution as plays. When the head of the troupe sells her to a wealthy local brothel owner, she is treated almost as a slave, until she finally escapes. On the run, wanted for a murder she didn’t commit, Beth makes her way to Richmond and the home of her aunt, a Union sympathizer.

Beth becomes a spy for the Union, handled by a young Union officer who falls in love with her. When she learns of a plot to use a wagon loaded with explosives to assassinate Lincoln and his top officers, she risks life and limb to thwart the dastardly plan.

Saving Lincoln by Robert Kresge is an action-filled historical thriller that skillfully weaves history and fiction in a story that has twists and turns on every page, as Beth evades a vicious Confederate spymaster and renegade Rebels in her quest to avoid a catastrophe, while trying to protect her relatives and friends as the Confederacy is in its last throes and Richmond has fallen. Kresge paints a sweeping picture of the human side of one of America’s deadliest wars, and gives us a heroine patterned after the many women who risked all to help save the Union. This is a must-read story for anyone interested in Civil War  history, or who just likes a spine-tingling story.

I’d love to give this book five stars, but there were a few typos and format errors that cause me to only give it four.

Review of ‘Orphan Elixir’

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James Gallowbread sat out the Civil War as a guest in Lafayette Prison. Freed after serving an extra month of his seven-year sentence due to a contagious illness, he is thirty-two years old and knows no real trade – other than the illegal kind.

I’m not only a fan of the western genre, but write it as well, so I was more than pleased to receive a free review copy of Orphan Elixir by Joseph Hirsch. Hirsch tells the tale in the first person, in the style of fiction of the immediate post-Civil War era, and pulls it off extremely well. The reader can see, hear, smell, and feel the setting and people of Gallowbread’s world as seen through his jaundiced eyes.

Not at first a truly sympathetic character, as we get to know Gallowbread more, he becomes real, and not at all a totally bad sort. Hirsch gets points for his ability to take a flawed character and show what made him thus. He also effectively merges humor and pathos in a tale that you’ll find hard to put down until you reach the end.

My hat’s off to a western author to be looked out for. Four stars to Hirsch for Orphan Elixir.

Review of ‘Touched With Fire’

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Ellen Craft was a real person. A slave, the daughter of her owner, she was given to her half-sister as a wedding present. After she married a fellow slave, William Craft, the two of them cooked up a plan to escape to freedom. Christopher Datta, in his first novel, offers a fictionalized version of Craft’s life in Touched With Fire.

Datta’s account, though fiction, is based in large part on the true story of this couple and their intense desire, not only for freedom, but for the chance to live their lives as they see fit. A compelling story, it takes the reader into the emotions of a tortured period in American history in ways that a mere recitation of facts could never accomplish. Datta gets into the minds and hearts of his characters, through credible dialogue and detailed descriptions that make the history come alive. Not only do you come away from this book with a better understanding of the corrosive effects of slavery on society and people, but an appreciation of the power of love and faith.

But, Datta doesn’t stop there. The middle part of the book, an account of Ellen Craft’s adventure masquerading as a man and enlisting in the Union Army, contains battle scenes that not only portray the details of war in rich color, but gets into the minds of those who fought those battles.

If you like historical fiction, this is a book that you must read. If you’re a first-time reader, it is even more important that you read it – to see how history can be made to come alive.

Four Stars to Datta for this first book, and I look forward to his next effort.