Book Love, Christian fiction

Book review: Colors of Truth by Tamera Alexander

A story of racial reconciliation and the cost of telling the truth

Colros of Truth by Tamera AlexanderBack cover copy: In a town battered and bruised by war, one woman embarks upon an impossible search — and one man must face the past in the very place that almost destroyed him.

Tennessee, 1866. According to the last letter Irish immigrant Catriona O’Toole received from her twin brother, Ryan, he was being dispatched to Franklin, Tennessee, where — as a conscripted Confederate soldier — he likely endured the bloody Battle of Franklin that claimed the lives of thousands. Catriona leaves behind the lush green of their Irish homeland in search of him, with nothing to her name except the sum of cash Ryan sent to their family. Now the sole provider for her seven-year-old spitfire sister, Nora, Catriona hopes to reunite the siblings — the only surviving members of their devastated family.

Wade Cunningham is a former Federal soldier who now works for the newly formed United States Secret Service and is trying to uncover counterfeiting rings in the postwar South. In order to infiltrate their sophisticated enterprise, he must pose as a former Confederate in Franklin — a town where counterfeit greenbacks run rampant. When Wade meets Catriona, he is immediately intrigued by her and the little redheaded scamp in her care — but what he doesn’t anticipate is that the cash in Catriona’s possession is some of the most convincing counterfeit money he’s ever seen. Soon the object of Wade’s affection is also the suspect in a major crime — one he’s expected to prosecute.

My review: I have long been a fan of Tamera Alexander and have read all of her books, full of imperfect characters and rich historical details that add so much to the story without weighing it down. Colors of Truth is no exception. I will say that I usually get pulled into her stories quicker than I did this time, but I think that was because it was so different from the fast paced, jump-right-in YA titles I’ve been reading lately (which is what you expect from different genres, I just needed to shift to a historical romance mindset).

Catriona is no stranger to struggles or grief but is determined to not let those mark her life. When she and Nora lose everyone else in their large Irish family to famine or other disease, the money Ryan sends is her only hope of a fresh start for herself and Nora. She decides to follow Ryan to America and help him regain land that was taken from other family members years ago. Once in America, her high hopes soon crash into harsh realities no one warned her about — particularly prejudice against the Irish. People are suspicious of her traveling alone with Nora, are wary of taking her money, don’t want her in their places of business, and assume she’s a thief or troublemaker.

This thread of prejudice is layered throughout the book in ways that aren’t necessarily expected in a story set in the South on the heels of the Civil War. There’s the obvious prejudice against Catriona and Nora, plus the prejudice most characters still hold against Negroes and the North. Catriona and Wade don’t share the views of the Confederacy but shy away from speaking out because of their circumstances. Yet each notices small things about the other that hints of their true beliefs.

Redemption and accepting forgiveness are other important themes in Colors of Truth. Catriona and Wade both carry the weight of guilt from words and actions that they have trouble finding closure for because their loved ones are gone. They both have to learn how to ask for and accept forgiveness and how to make peace with their past and move on. It’s no easier task for them than it is for us in real life. Without sharing any spoilers, I’ll say that I loved the scene that brought them both the closure and peace that they so desperately needed.

The faith element in Colors of Truth is strong, as it is in all of Tamera Alexander’s books. Characters have all levels of faith and show it in all different ways, from speaking boldly to keeping it private to infusing little bits of it into everyday life. Catriona is especially affected by this and is finally able to believe that God hasn’t turned His back on her even though sometimes it can feel that way. That’s another life lesson for us as readers that manages to come through without being preachy. Alexander’s subtlety in handling those types of elements is one of my favorite things about her as an author.

Who should read it: Alexander’s books are always multilayered and have more than one plot thread running throughout. That means they’re more detailed and longer than some historical novels, but I personally enjoy the extra details she’s able to include because of the longer length. My guess is that her primary reader is an adult female, but anyone who enjoys historical fiction, especially stories set in the Old South, should enjoy Colors of Truth.

Bonus: Tamera Alexander shares a bit of conversation about cancel culture and Colors of Truth on the home page of her website. You might be interested in reading (and hearing) her perspective as an author of historical fiction.

This book review of Colors of Truth counts as my March “event/time period” book in the Read Something New in 2021 Book Challenge. What have you read lately? The April selection is “young adult;” I’d love for you to join me!


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Book Love

Read something new 2021 book challenge

I read a pretty wide variety of things but am always telling myself I should branch out more. 2021 will be my year to start, with a Read Something New book challenge. I would love for others to join!

Here’s how it will work.

stack of books against a yellow and blue backgroundA different genre or topic is assigned to each month of 2021. Toward the end of each month, I’ll post something here and on my social media pages reminding what the next month’s category is (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram). If you want to participate, read something in the category that month. It’s as easy as that!

The schedule is:

  • January: Historical fiction
  • February: Science fiction or fantasy
  • March: Fiction or nonfiction centered on a specific event or time period
  • April: Young adult
  • May: Reread a favorite from middle or high school
  • June: Contemporary fiction
  • July: A classic you’ve never read
  • August: Fiction or nonfiction that takes place in your state
  • September: Biography
  • October: Mystery or suspense
  • November: Fiction or nonfiction written by a local author
  • December: Something for personal growth

I’ll post reviews of whatever I read and invite you to share about yours in the comments. Join in whenever you want – you don’t have to commit to participating every month.

Plus: Anyone who shares about what they’ve read will be entered in some bookish prize drawings along the way.

So, let’s get ready for historical fiction in January. Plenty of amazing options there! I’m leaning toward Colors of Truth, which is the newest from Tamera Alexander. What are you thinking about?

Happy reading,

Leigh

Book Love

New Historical Fiction for February

It’s the first week of February, so let’s take a look at some of the historical fiction titles that will be hitting the shelves sometime this month.

From authors who are part of American Christian Fiction Writers:

ProphetessThe Prophetess: Deborah’s Story by Jill Eileen Smith — Outspoken and fearless, Deborah has faith in God but struggles to see the potential her own life holds. As an Israelite woman, she’ll marry, have a family, and seek to teach her children about Adonai – and those tasks seem to be more than enough to occupy her time. But God has another plan for her. Israel has been under the near constant terror of Canaan’s armies for twenty years, and now God has called Deborah to deliver her people from this oppression. Will her family understand? Will her people even believe God’s calling on her life? And can the menace of Canaan be stopped? (Biblical from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

The Love Is Patient Romance Collection by Janet Lee Barton, Frances Devine, Lena Nelson Dooley, Vickie McDonough, Darlene Franklin, Jill Stengl, Connie Stevens, and Erica Vetsch — Enjoy the slow dance through the courtship of nine historical couples in the American west, including the territories of Arizona and Wyoming. Just at a time in life when they have nearly given up on finding love, romance enters their lives. But will it be true love, and will it be worth the wait? Find out in this delightful collection written by eight bestselling authors of inspirational romances. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Sweet MisfortuneA Sweet Misfortune by Maggie Brendan — Rachel Matthews isn’t one to rely on others to take care of her. Destitute and alone, she still wants to make her own way and her own money – even if she’s forced into the life of a dance hall girl. Horrified by her circumstances, Rachel’s brother sends a friend – the widely admired cattle baron John McIntyre – to rescue her, then sets off to earn enough money to buy back the family ranch. But when months pass without her brother’s return, Rachel isn’t sure she can take one more day in John McIntyre’s home – especially once she discovers that he’s the one who holds the deed to her family’s ranch. (Historical Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Spy DevotionA Spy’s Devotion by Melanie Dickerson — Langdon returns home to heal from a battlefield injury — and to fulfill a dying soldier’s last wish by delivering his coded diary. At a ball hosted by the powerful Whilhelm family, Langdon meets their beautiful and intelligent ward, Julia Grey. Honoring propriety, he keeps his distance — until the diary is stolen and all clues lead to Julia’s guardian. As Langdon traces an evil plot that could be the nation’s undoing, he grows ever more intrigued by the lovely young woman. And when Julia realizes that England – and the man she is falling in love with – need her help, she finds herself caught in the fray. (Historical Romance from Waterfall Press, an imprint of Amazon Publishing)

The Express Rider’s Lady by Stacy Henrie — Delsie Radford’s father may have kept her and her sister apart, but Delsie refuses to miss her sister’s wedding – even with only 18 days to get there. And she’s found the perfect escort in Pony Express rider Myles Patton. Myles can’t believe it when a pretty socialite hires him to take her cross-country through dangerous territory. He’s sure she’ll give up soon, but the longer they ride together, the more Myles notices the toughness and kindness beneath Delsie’s refined exterior. And though they may be worlds apart…they might just be perfect for each other. (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Northern LightThe Texan’s Engagement Agreement by Noelle Marchand — It’s been five years since Adelaide Harper broke Chris Johansen’s heart and their long-distance engagement. But when she steps off a train in Peppin, Texas, and strolls back into Chris’s life, he can’t help but panic. To avoid his parents’ plan to arrange a marriage for him, he’s let his family believe he and Adelaide are still engaged. Adelaide is facing her own troubles with a matchmaking mama and a parade of aggravating suitors. So pretending to let Chris court her could help them both. Surely after five years, there’s no need to worry their time together could reignite a long-buried love…is there? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Northern Light by Annette O’Hare — The Yankees took her fiancé’s life, but when a wounded Union soldier washes ashore, needing her help, will she learn to love again or will hate cost him his life? (Historical Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

 

Moonlit GardenA few from authors in the general market:

Rush-Oh by Shirley Barrett (Virago) – When Mary Davidson, the eldest daughter of a whaling family in New South Wales, sets out to chronicle the particularly difficult season of 1908, the story she tells is poignant and hilarious, filled with drama and misadventure.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby (Pan) – Mrs. Hudson and Mary Watson take on a case rejected by Sherlock Holmes.

The Ironsmith by Nicholas Guild (Forge) – The behind-the-scenes political plots to kill Jesus of Nazareth, and one man’s attempt to save his life.

The Farmer’s Daughter by Mary Nichols (Allison & Busby) – A WWII Suffolk girl managing her sick father’s farm enlists the help of a German POW and they fall in love, to local disapproval.

The Moonlit Garden by Corina Bomann – A widowed antique shop worker digs into history to learn the story and secrets of a violin brought to her. As she unravels the mystery of the previous owner’s story, she comes to see her own life in a new light.

Your turn: What sounds good to you? I know several will be added to my to-read list! Share what you think about these or if you’ve heard of another new release that the rest of us might enjoy.

Happy reading!
Leigh

Book Love

New Stories for the Historical Fiction Lover in You

New Year’s Day 2016 was wonderful.

Partly because I got to sleep later, partly because I spent the whole day at home with my family, partly because my husband made the cornbread so I didn’t even have to cook. 🙂

And partly because I spent a large chunk of the day in my jammies curled up with a book — guilt free!

Those days don’t happen very often for me, so when they do they’re a special treat. And although I read a lot of different things, I always find myself leaning back toward historical fiction. Maybe it’s because I’ve always loved history and think so many things about days-gone-by are fascinating. Maybe it’s because there’s usually some romance — and what girl doesn’t love some romance? (My daughter certainly does, especially now that she’s discovered Hallmark movies — but that’s a story for another day!)

lassoed by marriageIf you’re like me and love a good historical novel, here are some releasing this month that you might want to check out. Titles in this first section are from authors affiliated with American Christian Fiction Writers:

  • A Reluctant Melody by Sandra Ardoin — When a blackmailer threatens to reveal Joanna’s long-held secret, will she risk losing everything she owns to Kit … including her heart? (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)
  • The Lassoed by Marriage Romance Collection by Angela Bell, Angela Breidenbach, Lisa Carter, Mary Connealy, Rebecca Jepson, Amy Lillard, Gina Welborn, Kathleen Y’Barbo, and Rose Ross Zediker — Come along on a romantic journey jam-packed with all the angst of marriages founded upon practical choices as well as coercion. Meet nine couples who barely know each other before they find themselves suddenly married to please family, to stem the tide of gossip, to save the land and joined for life. But can love grow when duty comes before romance? (Barbour Publishing)
  • Calico Spy by Margaret Brownley — Someone is killing off the Harvey Girls and undercover Pinkerton detective Katie Madison hopes to find the killer before the killer finds her-or before she burns down the restaurant trying. (Barbour Publishing)
  • With This Ring? by Mary Connealy, Melissa Jagears, Regina Jennings, and Karen Witemeyer — Four top historical romance novelists team up in this new collection of stories with love, romance, and a twist of humor: “The Husband Maneuver,” “Her Dearly Unintended,” “Runaway Bride” and “Engaging the Competition.” (Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)
  • Austen in Austin, Volume 1 by Susanne Dietze, Anita Mae Draper, Debra E. Marvin, and Gina Welborn — Discover four heroines in historical Austin, TX, as they find love – Jane Austen style. Volume 1 includes: “If I Loved You Less” based on Emma, “Romantic Refinements” based on Sense and Sensibility, “One Word from You” based on Pride and Prejudice, and “Alarmingly Charming” based on Northanger Abbey. (Whitefire Publishing)
  • All That Glitters by Lisa J. Flickinger — Leaving behind her family and a dying father, Ginny Connor follows the cunning Logan Harris up North to strike it rich. Her sister Vivian follows to “rescue” her, and they are both led into the chaos of the Klondike Gold Rush. Meanwhile, Ben McCormack leaves his farm to retrieve his intended bride from a rowdy tent town on the Alaskan coastline. Ben’s path inadvertently entwines with Vivian’s and he finds his heart tugging him in a different direction. (Ambassador International)
  • A Worthy HeartA Worthy Heart by Susan Anne Mason — Irish lass Maggie Montgomery visits her brother in America secretly hoping to find her fortune and love. While visiting Irish Meadows, she meets an intriguing man whom she thinks is a stable hand. Her brother demands she stay away from Adam O’Leary, who he says was recently released from prison. Nonetheless, Maggie can’t seem to make her heart listen. Adam plans to make amends and earn back his family’s trust. Falling in love with Maggie Montgomery, however, was never in his plans. (Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

 

The Forgotten RoomIf you’re looking for mainstream historicals, you might want to learn more about these or other titles highlighted by the Historical Novel Society:

  • A Taste for Nightshade by Martine Bailey – Suspense, cooking, and revenge in early 19th-century England (St. Martin’s)
  • Midnight in St. Petersburg by Vanora Bennett – One woman’s fight for survival and love in revolutionary Russia (St. Martin’s)
  • Fallen Land by Taylor Brown – A couple flees pursuers during Sherman’s march through Georgia (St. Martin’s)
  • Exposure by Helen Dunmore – Cold War London, 1960: Lily suspects that her husband’s arrest for passing information to the Soviets is part of a cover-up, unaware that he may be guilty of a worse crime (Hutchinson)
  • Gunner Girls and Fighter Boys by Mary Gibson – East End girls become ATS ack-ack gunners and find love and freedom during the London Blitz in WWII (Head of Zeus)
  • Murder Most Malicious by Alyssa Maxwell – A lady’s maid and her 18-year-old mistress cross class lines to solve murders in 1918 England (Kensington)
  • The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig – A multi-period mystery about three generations of women (NAL)

Your turn: So … do any of these sound interesting to you? I’d love to know which one(s) you might let steal you away to another time for a while!