Book Review: The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear

Read with Caution – Gripping and Evocative

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.)

Publication Date: March 1, 2020

Book Review: The Yellow Lantern by Angie Dicken

There has been so much on my mind lately – thoughts tumbling and turning over one another, emotions and experiences lending a layer to the fog. I want to tell you all about it, but at the same time it all seems too much. So I read. And I will share with you my thoughts on a much simpler subject.

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen my story the other day on how wonderfully generous NetGalley is and how terribly behind I a in getting through my to-be-read pile of galleys and ARCs. So many books, so little time.

One of the series I’ve been fortunate enough to have read recently is the True Colors: Historical Stories of American Crime series, written by various authors, published by Barbour Publishing Inc.

Each title is a standalone focusing on true crimes throughout history, but presented in a neatly wrapped bundle of fiction. The latest title, published August 1, is The Yellow Lantern written by Angie Dicken.

This novel covers the dark side of medical research and the history of labour opportunities afforded to women, and the lack of options available to women. We are introduced to grave robbers, mill work, blackmail, murder, and more.

To balance the darkness of the crime aspects, we also have secrets unraveling left, right, and center… plus watching our protagonists fall in love.

Everything you could want… I guess. I wish there had been a bit more historical fact. I wish the protagonists were a little more developed (at times they felt a little banal.) The gruesome side of this tale and the secondary mystery held my attention more than the actual main storyline. I will say, however, that the author opened the book with a remarkably intense scene that set a tense background to the whole of the book.

Overall, a quick read that I would recommend for a bit of historical mystery, drama, and danger – a little on the light and perhaps even a tiny bit colourless. Overall, the series as a whole presents decent insight into dark and tragic events that impacted our society today, but this one might not be exciting enough for someone looking for a thrill.

My thanks to Barbour Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this complimentary title. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Pink Bonnet by Liz Tolsma

The Pink Bonnet is the second title I’ve read in the True Colors series – historical novels of real American crimes. I’ve enjoyed this series because I’ve actually learned about certain parts of history that I had no clue about. In fact, I just received an email inviting me to review a third title in the series.

Tolsma’s tale revolves around the battle between a widowed mother and Georgia Tann, the head of the Tennessee Children’s Home and child trafficker. Her gang stole more than 5,000 babies and adopted them our for profit on the black market.

This is not the first retelling of the historical events (I think I might be the only one who hasn’t yet read Lisa Wingate’s “Before We Were Yours.” I promise it’s been on my to-be-read pile for some time.) It was, however, enjoyable to read in a suspenseful, I really-hope-it-turns-out type of tale. The sweet romance element added a little extra something to the drama and hopeless expectation, underdog vs. corruption focus of the story.

Tolsma presents a likeable story marked with a clear picture of horrendous events. As a mother, I found it difficult to read at times. It was “clean” in language, romance, etc.

It was a good book. It piqued my interest in the Tennessee Children’s Home scandal. It was easy to read… but even though I enjoyed it, it felt like it was missing just little something – it’s a three-star rating from me – not bad at all, but not rave-worthy either. We’ll call it a good way to pass by a quiet afternoon.

Published by: Barbour Publishing, Inc.
Publication date: June 1, 2019

I was provided with a copy of this book via the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.