Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Review for A Blue and Gray Christmas

Four novellas, one seriously cool book. Okay, I admit I am a Civil War buff, BIG TIME, but that can actually play against a CW book if the research is sketchy or the characters not authentic or the plots, implausible. I was thrilled to see none of these pitfalls stuck me in this collection. In fact, I learned a few things, and enjoyed every moment of class.

In Lauralee Bliss’s Till Death Do Us Part, Seth Madison and Leah Woods must survive the invasion and ensuing battle of Fredericksburg before they can pursue their plans to wed on the New Year. Bliss does a superb job of showing a first-hand look at the disruption and chaos of civilian life under enemy assault. Her descriptions were rich and three-dimensional. Her characters’ emotions put me there, hiding from the Yankees, or complying with them under duress. She kept me reading to find out how this couple overcomes. Great kick-off to the collection.

Courage of the Heart, by Tamela Hancock Murray, switched sides of the war, with a Union-sympathizing West Virginia couple, Arabella Lambert and Barry Birch. Their betrothal is curtailed by her father, since Barry refuses to fight the Confederates for the cause. Arabella’s loyalty in faith in him resonated with me. Barry’s pacifist principles set him apart as a truly unique character. Sweet romance prevails.

Nestled like a gem in the middle of the collection was my personal favorite, Shelter in the Storm by Carrie Turansky. I am a sucker for wounded-soldier-meets-nurse plots. I wrote one myself. But this had several qualities that set it apart from the average Florence Nightingale tale. James Galloway hails from Bristol, England, a sketch artist for Harper’s Weekly. The refined heroine, Rachel Thornton, has this wonderfully real relationship with her vivacious and impulsive younger sister who thinks nothing of blurting questions of the wounded stranger. Turansky’s prose is lovely, her characters are of real flesh and blood, and her setting captivated me--Nashville 1864. A great little love story.

Finally, Vickie McDonough brings the collection to a wonderful finale with Beloved Enemy. It is hard to decide favorites, since this was as powerful in story and prose as the previous selection. In many ways, this hero was my favorite for his complexity and conflicted emotions. This novella offers a big story in a little package—Chris Haley’s recovery from the physical and spiritual wounds of war kept me turning pages. A tender man at heart, shown with interactions with the heroine’s baby boy, he must learn forgiveness before his budding romance can bloom with sweet and faithful southern-born Hannah McIntosh. Delicious internal conflict and chemistry, from start to finish.

A Blue and Gray Christmas has more vibrant color than its title suggests. This collection is sure to add a swag of red romance and golden ambiance to your holiday reading.

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