I feel compelled to admit that I’m not sure I will find the proper words for this particular review. The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear was a riveting, emotional work of fiction that took a very close look at the Harpe brothers and their crimes from the perspective of an acquaintance of one of their wives/victims. It is part of the True Colors series by Barbour about historical, American crime. Most of the titles I’ve read to date have characters expressing a strong faith-based element or struggling to find their faith as they live through a connection to these true crimes.
Going into this one, I had no idea who the Harpe brothers even were. Let me tell you… they were pure evil, serial killers, sadists, degenerate criminals. They were evil incarnate. If you’re like me, having no previous knowledge of their crimes or terror inflicted on families and travellers in late 1700s Tennessee and surrounding areas, this book was a disturbing introduction to these less-than-upstanding characters of American history. The author does address the difficulty in walking the fine line between the gruesome telling of their crimes and doing justice to the historic, factual events and honoring the victims while still presenting a “wholesome” piece of Christian fiction. Not an easy task…
This novel is graphic and grisly and dark. On the other hand, it has moments of hopefulness, healing, and romance. McNear balances it well so the darkness doesn’t overwhelm the tale – and yet darkness is the body of the unfortunate events depicted – it leaves a stain or heaviness behind.
It’s quite difficult to explain my reaction to this one. It was intense. The novel is very well-written and you may cry more than once – at least I did. It was gripping and evocative. I highly recommend it, but I recommend it with a bright strobing word of caution. You may feel a little banged up upon completion, especially if you’re a sensitive soul. The “true crime” aspect makes it difficult to process and will have you questioning how humanity can be so broken.
My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
Published by: Barbour Books (Barbour Publishing Inc.)
The Daughters of the Mayflower series has been a collection that I’ve been enjoying off and on. I haven’t read all the books yet, but I’ve picked up a title here and there. Thankfully, each book has been easily read as an independent publication, but as a whole they work well highlighting different eras and situations in American History from the landing of the Mayflower to WWII. I recently read The Blizzard Bride – one of the upcoming titles in the series, to be published in February. (Spoiler: it was great!) Further back, I was provided with an Advanced Readers Copy of The Rebel Bride and it was also great.
Once in a while, you will find a title or two that will trigger some nostalgia of days gone by. The Rebel Bride by Shannon McNear did this for me. It brought me back to anti-social evenings as a young teen, curled up in my bed, ignoring my family, quite lost in fictional tales of American history with incredibly strong female leads and their often heroic male counterparts – the books that led me to believe that woman can persevere through anything, and that while a man isn’t needed, he is a wonderful sidekick in the struggles of life.
The Rebel Bride is set in Tennessee during the Civil War. Our heroine is a quiet, peaceable woman who is caught between the Union and the Confederacy as the tensions of war literally camp on her doorstep and flood her home. Not only must she deal with wounded soldiers from both sides, her family is suffering a number of losses and hardships. She is a remarkably strong woman with pain and fear and struggles who can pull up her bootstraps when needed. She’s often stubborn and more impulsive than she ought to be – acting in the best interest of her family, but not always being able to control the outcome.
Without giving away the whole story, I can say that this one captured my interest. It was fast-paced, heart-wrenching, and even frustrating at times. Watching the characters struggle with loyalties, issues of faith, and the delicate tendrils of a mismatched romance in a dangerous time pulled the heartstrings. The action in the story provided enough danger and excitement to keep things interesting.
Ms. McNear did a remarkable job of creating a picturesque novel of courage – overcoming stereotypes and presenting a vivid recreation of the emotions one might face in such an uncertain era. While it wasn’t a dark tale (and I’m sure the Civil War left a big ol’ cloud of darkness and despair behind every battle) it was an emotional journey of strength with a happy ending in a not-so-happy element. A recommended read for those who enjoy wholesome historical fiction – with drama, danger, and romance aplenty.
Publication Date: December 1, 2019 Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc. | Barbour Books
I was provided with a complimentary Advanced Reading Copy of this novel via NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.