Dear Mrs. Cummings,
I had read a recommendation for your US Civil War novel, My Rebel Belle, but to be honest I was put off by the price being charged by Amber Quill Press ($7.00) combined with the paltry excerpt available at their site. I realize that neither of these issues are your fault but if I’m going to plunk down money with no chance of a refund, I want a better idea of what I’m getting. But after hemming and hawing for months, I finally said to myself, WTF. Life’s short and we all gotta take some risks. I’m hear to say I’m glad I took the chance.
Your bio states that you have an advanced degree in history and I really think this shows in your attention to detail throughout the story. I especially enjoyed the balanced way you portrayed both sides of the conflict and how Mara and her family and Lee learned that neither was the horrible or oppressive monster thought by the other while they nursed him back to health after he was shot out of the saddle in a skirmish in front of their home. Kudos to you for keeping Mara from being a feisty, foot stomping, hair tossing heroine and for making Lee into an honorable gentleman who never attempts to “tame” her. Gah! I hate those kind of books.
I’m also glad that you didn’t try and do literary backflips to keep slavery out of the story. Since most of the action takes place in Virginia on a plantation, I don’t think most readers would believe any attempts to do this anyway. Yes, at times it’s not pretty but it’s what happened in real life and deserves to be portrayed accurately. I also thank you for injecting notes of realism into the story in regard to battlefield injuries and casualties. I think you did these things in a way to show the true horror of the situation and yet in a manner that is neither too gory nor overly sensational.
If I have any reservations it is with the villain of the story. Reflecting on him after finishing the story, I can see that this is probably a case of the truth being stranger than fiction and in truth I can see how war might affect someone this way, yet he does seem to skirt the edges of caricature at times and I’m still not convinced the ending of the story needed that last conflict.
But all in all, I’m happy to have read one of your books and am already looking forward to trying the second one I bought. I would recommend this one with a strong B grade.