You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Lori Copeland is the author of more than 90 titles, both historical and contemporary fiction. With more than 3 million copies of her books in print, she has developed a loyal following among her rapidly growing fans in the inspirational market. She has been honored with the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award, The Holt Medallion, and Walden Books' Best Seller award. In 2000, Lori was inducted into the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame. She lives in the beautiful Ozarks with her husband, Lance, and their three children and five grandchildren.
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This new series from bestselling author Lori Copeland, set in North Carolina three months after the Civil War ends, illuminates the gift of hope even in chaos, as the lives of six engaging characters intersect and unfold with the possibility of faith, love, and God’s promise of a future.
While I enjoyed this book a lot and thought it was worth reading, I had a hard time trying to decide what rating to give because I didn’t “love” it by any means.
This is a story set in the 1860’s right after the Civil War. There are three soldiers heading home after the war, including a black man and a Cherokee and when they decide to take an alternate route to home they run in to three young ladies running for their lives. The soldiers end up rescuing the girls and thus begin their journey to home and freedom. Two of the girls are sisters who worked for their Uncle on a family plantation. Their parents had recently passed on and they knew that staying with Uncle Walt and his son Bear was going to be awful because they were awful men. The third lady was a black slave who had became pregnant and was trying to escape the awful Walt and Bear too.
The girls seem to keep causing trouble as they try to escape and the soldiers end up having to save them numerous times!! The whole situation to me just didn’t seem realistic. I didn’t quite believe that everyone was going to get along as smoothly as they did in this story. To me it seemed like their still would have been racial diversity among everyone right after the Civil War and there would have been more struggles for everyone than there was. In fact, there seemed to be no racial barriers at all. I also didn’t feel that threatened by Walt and Bear and I felt the author lacked in convincing me that they were scary.
On to what I enjoyed; I thought the characters were all pretty sweet and enjoyable. I really loved how Beth cared so much for her sister and was always willing to die for her safety and health. The Cherokee and his love for Joanie was so sweet and to be honest I wanted to read more about them then about Beth and Pierce. I wasn’t 100% convinced that Pierce and Beth actually loved each other unlike the other characters in the story! There was lots of spiritual threads in here and I enjoyed reading about Beth struggling with her faith due to the cruel life she lived but all the wonderful Christians in her life that didn’t push her to believe in God but let that relationship develop on its own.
Like I said before, I did really enjoy the story and I was flipping through the pages quickly so I do think other Christian fiction fans will enjoy this story. There was lots of action and sweet moments but I just felt like I couldn’t connect to the characters and I had to remind myself their names while writing this review because I’d forgotten them already. Maybe I’m being too harsh, I’m not sure.
I have not read any of Copeland’s books before so I’m not sure how this book compares to her others.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Harvest House and First Wild Card Tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Beth’s sister stirred, coughing.
Beth gently shook Joanie’s shoulder again, and the young woman opened her eyes, confusion shining in their depths.
“He passed a few minutes ago. Trella will be waiting for us.”
Joanie lifted her wrist to her mouth and smothered sudden sobbing. “I’m scared, Beth.”
“So am I. Dress quickly.”
The young woman slid out of bed, her bare feet touching the dirt-packed floor. Outside, the familiar sound of pond frogs nearly drowned out soft movements, though there was no need to be silent any more. Ma had preceded Pa in death two days ago. Beth and Joanie had been waiting, praying for the hour of Pa’s death to come swiftly. Together, they lifted their father’s silent form and gently carried him out the front door. He was a slight man, easy to carry. Beth’s heart broke as they took him to the shallow grave they had dug the day before. Ma’s fever had taken her swiftly. Pa had held on for as long as he could. Beth could still hear his voice in her ear: “Take care of your sister, little Beth.” He didn’t have to remind her that there was no protection at all now to save either of them from Uncle Walt and his son, Bear. Beth had known all of her life that one day she and Joanie would have to escape this place—a place of misery.
It was her father’s stubborn act that started the situation Beth and Joanie were immersed in. Pa had hid the plantation deed from his brother and refused to tell him where it was. Their land had belonged to a Jornigan for two hundred years, but Walt claimed that because he was the older brother and allowed Pa to live on his land the deed belonged to him. Pa was a proud man and had no respect for his brother, though his family depended on Walt for a roof over their heads and food on their table. For meager wages they worked Walt’s fields, picked his cotton, and suffered his tyranny along with the other workers. Pa took the location of the hidden deed to his grave—almost. Walt probably figured Beth knew where it was because Pa always favored her. And she did, but she would die before she shared the location with her vile uncle.
By the light of the waning moon the women made short work of placing the corpse in the grave and then filling the hole with dirt. Finished, they stood back and Joanie bowed her head in prayer. “Dear Father, thank You for taking Ma and Pa away from this world. I know they’re with You now, and I promise we won’t cry.” Hot tears streaming down both women’s cheeks belied her words.
Returning to the shanty, Joanie removed her nightshirt and put on boy’s clothes. Dressed in similar denim trousers and a dark shirt, Beth turned and picked up the oil lamp and poured the liquid carefully around the one-room shanty. Yesterday she had packed Ma’s best dishes and quilts and dragged them to the root cellar. It was useless effort. She would never be back here, but she couldn’t bear the thought of fire consuming Ma’s few pretty things. She glanced over her shoulder when the stench of fuel heightened Joanie’s cough. The struggle to breathe had been a constant companion since her younger sister’s birth.
Many nights Beth lay tense and fearful, certain that come light Joanie would be gone. Now that Ma and Pa were dead, Joanie was the one thing left on this earth that held meaning for Beth. She put down the lamp on the table. Walking over to Joanie, she buttoned the last button on her sister’s shirt and tugged her hat brim lower.
“Do you have everything?”
“Then go outside and wait.”
Nodding, Joanie paused briefly beside the bed where Pa’s tall frame had been earlier. She hesitantly reached out and touched the empty spot. “May you rest in peace, Pa.”
Moonlight shone through the one glass pane facing the south. Beth shook her head. “He was a good man. It’s hard to believe Uncle Walt had the same mother and father.”
Joanie’s breath caught. “Pa was so good and Walt is so…evil.”
“If it were up to me, he would be lying in that grave outside the window, not Pa.”
Beth tried to recall one single time in her life when Walt Jornigan had ever shown an ounce of mercy to anyone. Certainly not to his wife when she was alive. Certainly not to Beth or Joanie. If Joanie was right and there was a God, what would Walt say when he faced Him? She shook the thought aside. She had no compassion for the man or reverence for the God her sister believed in and worshipped.
“We have to go now, Joanie.”
“Yes.” She picked up her Bible from the little table beside the rocking chair and then followed Beth outside the shanty, her breath coming in ragged gasps. Pausing, Joanie bent and succumbed to a coughing spasm. Beth helplessly waited, hoping her sister could make the anticipated trip through the cotton fields. The women had planned for days now to escape if Ma and Pa both passed.
Beth asked gently, “Can you do this?”
Joanie held up a restraining hand. “Just need…a minute.”
Beth wasn’t certain that they could wait long; time was short. Dawn would be breaking soon, and then Walt would discover that Pa had died and the sisters were missing. But they had to leave. Joanie’s asthma was getting worse. Each gasping breath left her drained and hopeless, and Walt refused to let her see a doctor.
When Joanie had mentioned the notice in a discarded Savannah newspaper advertising a piece of land, Beth knew she had to buy the property and provide a home for Joanie. Pa had allowed her and Joanie to keep the wage Uncle Walt paid monthly. Over the years they had saved enough to survive, and the owner was practically giving the small acreage away. They wouldn’t be able to build a permanent structure on their land until she found work, but she and Joanie would own their own place where no one could control them. Beth planned to eventually buy a cow and a few setting hens. At first they could live in a tent—Beth’s eyes roamed the small shanty. It would be better than how they lived now.
Joanie’s spasm passed and she glanced up. “Okay. You…can do it now.”
Beth struck a match.
She glanced at Joanie. The young woman nodded and clutched her Bible to her chest. Beth had found it in one of the cotton picker’s beds after he had moved on and given it to Joanie. Her sister had kept the Bible hidden from sight for fear that Walt would spot it on one of his weekly visits. Beth had known, as Joanie had, that if their uncle had found it he’d have had extra reason to hand out his daily lashing. Joanie kept the deed to their new land between its pages.
After pitching the lighted match into the cabin, Beth quickly closed the heavy door. Stepping to the window, she watched the puddles of kerosene ignite one by one. In just minutes flames were licking the walls and gobbling up the dry tinder. A peculiar sense of relief came over her when she saw tendrils of fire racing through the room, latching onto the front curtain and encompassing the bed.
“Don’t watch.” Joanie slipped her hand into Beth’s. “We have to hurry before Uncle Walt spots the flames.”
Hand in hand, the sisters stepped off the porch, and Beth turned to the mounds of fresh dirt heaped not far from the shanty. Pausing before the fresh graves, she whispered. “I love you both. Rest in peace.”
Joanie had her own goodbyes for their mother. “We don’t want to leave you and Pa here alone, but I know you understand—”
As the flames licked higher, Beth said, “We have to go, Joanie. Don’t look back.”
“I won’t.” Her small hand quivered inside Beth’s. “God has something better for us.”
Beth didn’t answer. She didn’t know whether Ma and Pa were in a good place or not. She didn’t know anything about such things. She just knew they had to run.
The two women dressed in men’s clothing struck off across the cotton fields carrying everything they owned in a small bag. It wasn’t much. A dress for each, clean underclothes, and their nightshirts. Beth had a hairbrush one of the pickers had left behind. She’d kept the treasure well hidden so Walt wouldn’t see it. He’d have taken it from her. He didn’t hold with primping—said combing tangles from one’s hair was a vain act. Finger-picking river-washed hair was all a woman needed.
Fire now raced inside the cabin. By the time Uncle Walt noticed the smoke from the plantation house across the fields, the two sisters would be long gone. No longer would they be under the tyrannical thumb of Walt or Bear Jornigan.
Beth sniffed the night air, thinking she could smell the precious state. Never again would she or Joanie answer to any man. She would run hard and far and find help for Joanie so that she could finally breathe free. In her pocket she fingered the remaining bills she’d taken from the fruit jar in the cabinet. It was all the ready cash Pa and Ma had. They wouldn’t be needing money where they were.
Suddenly there was a sound of a large explosion. Heavy black smoke blanketed the night air. Then another blast.
Kerosene! She’d forgotten the small barrel sitting just outside the back porch.
It was the last sound Beth heard.