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REVIEW: Her Rebel Heart by Shannon Farrington

“There was a time when Julia Stanton’s fondest wish was to be Samuel Ward’s wife. But that was before the war. As pro-Confederacy sentiments clash with the Union troops occupying Baltimore, fear and suspicion turn friends to foes. Julia chooses the Confederacy…Samuel does not. And his decision is one she’s sure she’ll never forgive.

Samuel would gladly give his life for Julia. Still, he cannot go against the certainty he feels that slavery is wrong—even after his beliefs cost him Julia’s love. Yet as they work to comfort a city in turmoil, Samuel prays God’s guidance will lead them to common ground. For where there is courage and faith, two divided hearts may come together once more….”

Dear Ms. Farrington,

Her Rebel Heart byShannon FarringtonSince this is the beginning of the sesquicentennial of the US Civil War, I’ve been meaning to read more books which use it as a theme. Yours caught my attention since it’s set at the very start of the conflict and shows a side of the War that I’ve not read about in romance novels yet – that of neutral Maryland which was caught between North and South with Washington, DC on her border. It also shows people forced to decide on their convictions in the conflict as it came home to everyone – not just those in the deep South and slave holders. Even people who didn’t think they had a dog in the race found out that they had to choose on whether they supported ALL states rights or not. At this early point in the war, it’s strange to see Federal troops still enforcing laws about slaves held in Baltimore. I also liked the glimpse of how little the Union troops wanted to be there and that they weren’t the monsters which Julia and the other Baltimore citizens expected.

Most people in Baltimore were more concerned that their city was being invaded and taken over and threatened by Union troops than about slavery. They felt city was under siege. Sam is right in protesting the actions of men in city to tear up railroad lines and impede the travel of troops to the South as the North would never have permitted it. I’d heard of the suspension of habeas corpus but this is a great depiction of how shocked people were when the reality of the suspension was experienced. Life in wartime came to roost here long before many other places.

The book has a good period feel what with the heat they endure and Julia’s bonnets and hooped dresses. The descriptions of Fort McHenry make me want to check out some photos and learn more about it. And I’m so glad I don’t have to worry about chopping wood – though that’s a nice way to show the “guy” way Sam deals with his concern for Julia – he does something for her which he knows needs doing – like a modern hero changing his heroine’s snow tires. The men are so protective of their women though it doesn’t feel as if it’s a smothering concern or condescending one. Since Sam and Julia are already in love, you center the conflict between them on what was going on in their city and throughout the country.

Kudoes for Sam accepting Julia’s initial decision to break off their engagement and for him not to try and strong arm her back into it. He respects her, her opinion and knows that she must make up her own mind. Of course he’s not above using some powerful persuasion in the form of Frederick Douglass’s book and her own experiences with the two young slave boys they encounter, or the plight of the runaway young woman. These are worth years of trying to persuade her on his own. Though they might start out by not liking Federal troops in Baltimore or arbitrary justice, after Sally and Julia read the book their eyes are finally opened to the fact that slavery is wrong and can’t be allowed to continue.

I’d say the story is a 7/10 on the religion scale but that’s to be expected for that day and age when religion and church going were more a part of daily life, there was a war looming and the fact that Federal soldiers were in Baltimore and young men had chosen to join sides in the conflict – religious people would turn more to prayer.

You scattered a few other unresolved relationships throughout the book so I hope that you’ll return to this setting to finish those up. I enjoyed my time with Sam and Julia and of this glimpse of a different angle on the beginning of a war that altered the US forever and for the better. B+

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

6 Comments

  1. EmilyW
    Jan 25, 2012 @ 07:43:28

    I’ve noticed that in Civil War romances, the heroine usually sides with the South and the hero sides with the North. Is this to align the hero with the “right” side in readers’ minds? Is it more important for the hero to be the morally correct one in the relationship? Or does it just provide an easy conflict between them?

  2. Jayne
    Jan 25, 2012 @ 07:50:43

    @EmilyW: I’ve noticed that for years too. There are a few CW stories with a Southern hero who fought for the Confederacy but not many. I think it’s to align the couple with the morally correct/winning side and so that we don’t think of them slogging through the ashes of the South during Reconstruction.

  3. cbackson
    Jan 25, 2012 @ 14:38:05

    @EmilyW: I’ve noticed it as well, and I agree that it’s probably out of a suspicion that readers will buy the heroine’s change of heart to the morally correct side rather than the hero’s – changing fundamental beliefs is a type of vulnerability that I don’t frequently see in romance heroes. An interesting little fact: in “The Last Samurai”, the movie, Tom Cruise’s character is a former Union sniper. The historical figure on whom he’s based? Confederate sniper. My guess is that a major Christmas release, Oscar-bait film couldn’t have an ex-Confederate hero.

  4. Emily A.
    Jan 25, 2012 @ 19:12:28

    I think the reason the heroine is southern is because we are more comfortable seeing someone who supports the confederacy but doesn’t have to serve in the army. Since both sides had drafts, the hero wold probably end up serving in whatever army he supports. Seeing the hero in the confederate army might be too offensive maybe?

    Anyway I might try this book. Maryland is a different setting. I agree with you about the Inspirational elements in war time. I read a book last year set in WW1 Belgium and I was left with the same feelings about Inspirationals set in wartime. I think the setting leads the characters to pray more.
    Of course people would be shocked and upset by the suspension of habeas corpus. I am uncomfortable with the idea even in the name of a good cause. I think ending slavery was necessary and a good thing, but I think people even in the north were conflicted about how they felt about the war.
    It sounds like the author did their homework so I might try this book. Civil war books aren’t my first choice, but I would be willing to try it.

  5. Krista
    Jan 25, 2012 @ 19:40:19

    Thank you for reviewing this! I found it last week and thought it was such a gem – so glad I took a chance on it. I thought the romance was very sweet and both the characters’ beliefs were valid and their conflict well resolved. The faith was an important part of the story but was woven into the narrative in a believable way. I did think Julia was a little naive but that was understandable given her upbringing. Would definitely recommend as a nice way to pass an afternoon.

  6. Jayne
    Jan 26, 2012 @ 07:19:11

    @Emily A.: Her bio lists her as living in Maryland so I imagine that her homework was done. It certainly seems like it was.

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