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,
Since 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+