|Kim Murphy: Promise and Honor|
Press (Trade Paperback), ISBN: 0971679029
Opening near Manassah Junction with the first shots of the Civil War, the book drew me into the war era and culture of a Southern woman, Amanda Graham, living on a farm in Virginia. With the death of her husband in that early battle, Amanda struggles to run her farm. She spends a lot of time on horseback, making her horse, Red, one of the main characters. She also protects her three servants (a blind but intuitive old black woman, a grandfatherly black man and a mistreated young black girl who could have easily cried, "I don't know nothin' about birthin' no babies!"). She also cared for Rebecca, the infant daughter of her best friend, Kate, who died in childbirth (shades of Melanie!).
Amanda, the childless young widow, finds a protector in the Rhett Butler type of ungentlemanly man of the world, (rogue) Will Jackson, who fights for the Confederacy and draws Amanda into smuggling medical supplies across Union lines. In contrast, Sam Prescott, Kate's widowed husband and Rebecca's father, serves in the Union military. His love for Amanda spans several years, but went unrequited due to his respect for Amanda's husband, his friend. Although from Maine, Sam seems more the chivalrous Southern gentleman than the Southern gentlemen.
The author, a bit heavy-handedly, demonstrates the confusing conflicts, not only of the heart, but of a country caught in a war that pits brothers, neighbors and friends against each other.
The love triangle takes a predictable turn, in fact, the whole book reads like Gone With the Wind as written by Danielle Steele. The heroine lives happily ever after, and those who die, quickly fade without excess grief. Murphy sugar coats the war, even with images of a mountain of arms and legs thrown outside of a field hospital. For the most part no one suffers excessively. The struggling widow eats fresh baked bread, vegetables from the garden and fried chicken while the Yankees overrun her land. The deserters who catch her in the middle of nowhere, help her rather than take her horse and rape her.
I have trouble recommending this book, because the writing reflects the efforts of a new writer still struggling to learn her craft. Suspense dwindles, and emotions remain encapsulated in a controlled romantic aura with a few touches of gritty pain and battlefield gore. Yet the quality of the research and Murphy's heroine, who possesses plenty of Scarlet O'Hara's undaunted spirit, caused me to stick with the story to the final triumph.
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