REVIEW: The Bargain (Finding Home Book 1) by Catherine Stang
Dear Ms. Stang,
Me loves a good American Civil War novel but unfortunately, most publishers today don’t agree with me so pickin’s have been slim lately. So when I was perusing the new ebooks at Fictionwise a few months ago, I decided to buy your book and give it a try.
With her three older brothers gone for soldiers, Cassandra Beaumont has taken charge of the family plantation. She, her younger sister Rachel and her sister-in-law Ellie are the only adults there. Things are grim and looking to get worse when a troop of Union soldiers arrives with orders to commandeer the place for use as a hospital. Cassie makes a bold but thwarted stand against Major Joel Bradshaw before realizing she needs his medical expertise to help deliver Ellie’s breech baby. Needs must and the two work out an agreement: his help with the delivery for her help as a nurse once the hospital is set up.
Baby Joel James Beaumont is delivered, everyone settles into the arrangement and the wounded begin to arrive. A Colonel who dislikes the fact that the Beaumont women are still there arrives too and Joel makes a hasty offer of marriage to Cassie which will allow the ladies to stay. Facing eviction and having no brothers on hand to help her, Cassie agrees. But as their feelings for each other develop, is there hope for this marriage bargain made in the final days of the war?
Let’s see – what I liked. I liked the characters and the fact that no one is a villain. No foaming at the mouth, scenery chewing bad guys to arrive in the last act. No one does a 180 character change and for the most part, everyone acts honorably.
But I felt that a lot of issues were skated over with little depth. This is supposed to be the site of a wartime hospital but precious little time is spent on page dealing with the wounded and I never got the feeling that this aspect of the novel was anything but peripheral. The extent of Cassie’s nursing is described – in past tense – as wrapping bandages and handing Joel surgical instruments. Joel’s activity is described – also in past tense – as a few operations and making his morning rounds. I didn’t see the blood, hear the cries of the wounded or get wound up in any emotional life or death scenes because there weren’t any.
Now for my main problem with the story. There’s lots of potential external conflict: We’ve got North vs South, Cassie and Joel working out their marriage, the Colonel poking his nose into whatever is going on, Cassie’s Confederate doctor brother who sneaks back to the plantation to see his family, his problems with his wife Ellie, sister Rachel and Joel’s second in command who clash but…little of this is carried through into internal conflict.
Everyone is so darned nice and polite and accommodating that whatever conflicts arise in the story are quickly dealt with in a matter of a page or two. To me, it made the characters seem flat. Oh, Cassie does something that Joel doesn’t want her to. No worries because he won’t stay mad or really do anything about it. Rachel defies Joel or Scott’s demands that she stay inside. Not a problem because a short discussion with her will turn her contrite. Ellie is mad that Jamie never answered her letters. Wait, here the letters miraculously are and all is forgiven. Usually my complaints are that conflict is dragged out past believability but with this book I was longing for a good show down. I needed something to build the tension and get me to madly flip pages to see what would happen next. Instead, after a little while, I could easily predict how these people would neatly resolve everything.
The next book in the series also promises an era little used in recent years, that of Reconstruction. I’m interested enough in that time frame to give it a shot and will cross my fingers that I find it more emotionally engaging than I did this book. C+
This book can be purchased at Whiskey Creek Press in ebook form.