Historical Fiction Book Review: Fort Douglas by Nancy Foshee

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Fort DouglasSalt Lake City, Utah 1895 is the setting for Fort Douglas by Nancy Foshee. It opens with the death of a prostitute, but quickly moves to the arrival in Salt Lake of Abigail Randolph, daughter of Colonel Randolph, the man in charge of Fort Douglas. She has traveled from what she sees as the civilized eastern United States to visit her father. Upon her arrival, Captain Garrett Jackson Talbot meets her at the station. He explains that her father had an important meeting so he came to escort her back to the fort.  Abby is disappointed, but this is not the first time her father has disappointed her. He chose the military over her and her mother, seeing her infrequently as a child. When her mother died, he left her with her grandparents instead of taking her with him or coming home. She was loved by them, but her father’s choice always made her feel abandoned. The only reason she agreed to come to Fort Douglas was her activity in the Women’s Rights movements. She was especially interested in working towards giving women the right to vote. Once she arrived, she immediately found another, more pressing issue for the women in Salt Lake. Because the United States failed to allow Utah to become a state due to the Mormon’s practice of allowing more than one wife, women were being cast out on the streets by Mormon husbands who chose to keep only one wife, leaving the outcasts without income or skills, some of them turning to prostitution as they had no other choice. Abby’s involvement eventually leads to consequences that not only affect her, but those in the fort she has come to love.

Nancy Foshee’s historical novel has many wonderful layers. Fort Douglas is an interesting story than weaves family, loss, love and history together to create a fascinating novel. It gives the reader a glimpse into life in the 1890s, which is not always pretty. We often take our rights for granted, including the right to vote and other rights women have now, not thinking about the personal and public sacrifices made by individuals to give those rights to us.  Abby came out west to change the world, yet the world ended up changing her. Foshee’s growth and evolvement of characters, especially Abby, was masterful. Her descriptions of Salt Lake and Fort Douglas were done so well, I could almost hear the swish if the women’s dresses when they entered the room. The settings described so vividly wood smoke and horses, wet wool and kittens accompanied my thoughts as I read. When I finished reading Fort Douglas, I searched the internet for more history. Fort Douglas is now a Military Museum. We can actually tour it, allowing us to walk where fictional Abigail Randolph faced very real issues, not to mention learning about the real people that lived there. I loved this book, and recommend it to adult readers that are interested in the historical fiction, mysteries or just love to immerse themselves in a well-written, interesting novel.

Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Find Your Wings like the Women in The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

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The Invention of Wings

By Sue Monk Kidd

Penguin

369 pages

Genre: Southern Historical Fiction

http://suemonkkidd.com/

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is one of the best books, if not THE best book I have read this year. It is the story of Sarah Grimke, daughter of a Charleston judge in the early 1800s. Even as a young

It is also the story of Hetty Handful Grimke, the young slave girl that was given to the unwilling Sarah on her 11th birthday. The girls grow up at the same time and place, but they were forever separated by their positions in society. No matter how kind Sarah was in private to Hetty, she still slept on the floor, was punished by Sarah’s mother for infractions, and was not free.

Secretly, Sarah teaches her to read. Because it is against the law for slaves to read and write, it becomes a blessing and a curse to Hetty.

Sarah’s father is indulgent with his library and amused by her abolitionist views until they start disrupting his life. Seen as a young woman who does not know her place, the liberties formerly given to her are taken away. Her hopes of becoming a lawyer are dashed. Distraught, she rebels further, but to no avail.

Sarah and Hetty continue to chafe against the chains (both figuratively and literally) that society imposes upon them. When Sarah begins shaping her younger sister with her anti-slave views, her mother takes desperate measures to put a stop to any activity she deems unseemly for a young woman of her stature.

Sue Monk Kidd based this work of fiction on the lives of two very real sisters, Sarah and Angelina Grimke were abolitionists, writers and members of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the United States. The Grimke girls are fascinating, intelligent revolutionaries that continued working towards freeing slaves no matter what sacrifices they had to make to do it.

This book is painfully intense at times. The dialog and descriptions of the torture of slaves gave me chills as I read them. I cannot imagine the horror of having my child whipped for some minor infraction. This novel has many layers, some beautiful, some that will bring tears to the reader’s eyes, but all are necessary to tell us the whole story of Hetty and Sarah.

Be sure to read the author’s notes at the end of the book. She tells us which parts of the book were taken directly from Sarah’s writings and letters, which characters were based directly on real people and gives the reader more resources regarding the Grimke family. The Invention of Wings is an exquisite novel. Sue Monk Kidd combines the stories of Sarah, Hetty and Angelina as skillfully and beautifully as Hetty’s mama stitched her story quilts.

I am a huge fan of Sue Monk Kidd. I’ve read The Secret Life of Bees, The Mermaid Chair and Traveling with Pomegranates. Like The Invention of Wings, each of her novels pulled me in from the first page and didn’t let me go until the last. Her lastest is no exception.

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

Book Review: Montooth 3 Red Cross of Gold by Robert Jay

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Montooth 3 Red Cross of Gold

Robert Jay

Cloverleaf Corporation

ISBN-978-0-989117-0-4

512 pages

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Monthooth 3, Red Cross of Gold is the third book in the Montooth series by award winning author Robert Jay. He begins this book with The Crew – a group of high achieving high school students on the cusp of graduation. The story continues through their college years, ending in graduation and the beginning of their adulthood.

The main story line is laid out for the reader in the first chapter when an experienced archer commits a murder. This sets the stage for Carty (the main character of the series) to be accused of the crime. She and The Crew have to find the real killer in order to save her from arrest.

There are several other stories within the main storyline. First, there is the story of Montooth as told to The Crew by Sally, a woman that was a witch in one of the previous books, but now a close friend. Montooth , a giant Florida alligator is the star of a group of fables written by Sally’s ancestors. This story features bees and bears. It is a typical fable with a moral at the end.

There are also two large sections of history interspersed with the book. One is the story of hidden gold and a society called the Templars of Scotland, dating back to 1307 and the more recent history of the overthrow of Cuba’s government. Both portions of history tied to the main story. The Templars via Sally and her family fortune and Cuba by Elena, Carty’s best friend and roommate, explain various plot points and turns. To me, this book felt like it should have been broken up into two novels as the first half is almost a separate story from the half about Cuba.

It wasn’t difficult to pick up the characters or backstory without reading the previous books in the series. What was difficult for me was the long sections of history that read like a textbook instead of a novel. It became rather dry to have so many pages of history without referring to the main story or characters, especially the chapters about the Templars. The Cuban portion was a bit more interesting because Elena and her brother were a part of the story at times.

As a work of fiction, the footnotes at the back of the book are not my favorite. Footnotes on the page don’t interrupt a reader as much has having to page back 400 pages to find the right reference. I understand the author’s need to explain history and people outside the text, but a work of fiction calls for the footnotes on the same page.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves delving a bit deeper into history than the typical historical novel.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review. Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

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