This saga begins amid the wealth of Southern plantation owners and Northern investors. By identifying the equities gained, greater concerns began to rise among the nation’s abolitionists. As a consequence, regional politicians began moving the citizenry into opposing camps.
COTTONBLOOD tracks the lives of two adolescent murderers: The first, a mixed-breed Canadian entering American waters as a deckhand aboard a French freighter. The second, a youngster captured from Sierra Leone to a foreign land where a strange language is spoken. Although the two men never meet, their journeys lattice one another as each search for some form of security. When false hope leads one into an unsolicited life of labor, the other haphazardly finds a future of opulence.
The plot traces their lives, and relations, through generations of survival leading the inheritors into the first year of America’s horrendous Civil War.
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Antebellum Struggles is told through the eyes of multiple characters whose lives intertwine as a result of slavery in the deep south. We see their varying opinions, experiences and their individual backgrounds that influence their perceptions of the world at present.
Young Amana, from Martinique, a Caribbean island, was born into slavery and was later shipped to a plantation in Louisiana. Colonel Winters, the plantation owner, struggles in his relationship to his wife, Collette, and seeks to fulfill his lust in an affair. Simultaneously, a doctor takes advantage of being admitted to Colonel Winters’ home under dire circumstances.
Throughout the story good intentions are tested and morals are in constant conflict. There is love against lust, an abolitionist receiving money from a slave owner, and deception for personal gain throughout. The book thus serves as an incredibly graphic detailing of society at a time when power and violence ruled by the crack of a whip.
The author, Dickie Erman, is successful at portraying depth to the actions of a distinct variety of characters. The stylistic choices made by the author allows the reader to glimpse a character’s true intentions. For example, the doctor who tries to turn every situation to his advantage despite it being to the detriment of others; where the reader sees the doctor’s thoughts as he tries to manipulate the Colonel.
Dickie Erman delves into the role of power and hierarchy as a means of controlling others, exploring how different characters use their stature to get what they want. Power and stature play large roles in the story, especially in the carrying out of violence. The array of infringements upon victims in the book are often viewed and justified by the characters causing violence or imposing their power. The reader thus watches the mental gymnastics that the perpetrators use with anguish.
Moreover, with such violence presented in the book it is worth noting that the descriptions are gut-churningly graphic, though appropriate in their realism. Due to the nature of the topic, it is difficult to read, however this is not a negative. This author does not hold back on the details of the conditions on a slave ship, nor haphazard medical procedures. The word choice is bold when referring to people as property and mere flesh, as such it is harrowing to read. It is a disturbingly realistic display of slavery at that time.
For some readers who are not used to the style of narrative that Dickie Erman employs, the switching between character viewpoints may make the story difficult to follow. This is especially true for the flashbacks to various characters’ background stories. However, as the reader follows each account of a character’s experiences, the story never loses its natural flow. The technique is appropriately used in the portrayal of each of the characters’ very distinct viewpoints.
Antebellum Struggles is an engaging book that follows a variety of character arcs all intertwined by a plantation in the deep south. Dickie Erman masterfully switches view point and projects distinct character voices. The events of the novel draw the reader into a disturbingly realistic rendition of life in Louisiana at a time when segregation and slavery were common place. The author manages to disclose the gruesome details of what life was really like at such a difficult time.
Pages: 255 | ASIN: B07DFQLL8Q
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The Twisted Crown, the newest historical fiction novel by Anita Bunkley is a fascinating look into the post-Civil War South. Focused on the story of a free black woman from the North, Eva Phillips takes advantage of the abolition of slavery in the South to embark on a treacherous journey to South Carolina to try to find the mother who gave her a chance at freedom as a child. Along her way, readers meet a captivating cast of characters ranging from cunning professional gamblers to complex carpetbaggers to innocents turned corrupt by hardship. Eva has to navigate a part of the country decimated by the bitterest of fighting as it struggles to regain its footing. And like Eva, readers will never know if the character with the checkered past they just met will be someone who can be trusted or or who will surprise them with an unexpected betrayal.
Along the way she meets up with Chicago lawyer and profiteer Trent Hartwell who, against the recommendations of his new Charleston acquaintances, offers to help Eva in her quest. Although he came to the South to benefit from the financial opportunities blossoming in the wake of so many people’s misfortunes, he can’t quite understand the unwritten rules governing the South about the proper roles of white people and black people and why there should be any difference.
This book also sheds light on the important and dangerous work that took place during this time by black activists to promote equal participation in government for all races. This work made many who benefited from the pre-war social structure very angry and prone to violence, so the lobbying had to be done secretively.
While the story is solid and flows well, I thought that the characters and dialogue lacked some depth. This book kept me very engaged, however. The quick pace, many edge-of-your-seat situations, and several sultry moments kept me reading along without any lulls.
I also came away with a much clearer understanding of what life in the South was like after the Civil War for both whites and blacks. I didn’t know the depth of poverty freed slaves were faced with and this book provided a very interesting example of the creative and sometimes unfortunate ways that people used to survive and start a new life. Anita Bunkley is famous for writing stories that show what a famous period in history was like from the perspective of black women, and I really appreciated having the opportunity to experience this after so many other Reconstruction books (Gone With the Wind, That Bright Land, ect.) only focus on the white experience. This is important because, clearly, this was a period where the African-American experience is integral to understanding the situation appropriately.
I highly recommend joining Eva on her exciting voyage to the land of her birth and learning more about the United State’s most interesting periods of history in The Twisted Crown by Anita Bunkley.
Pages: 336 | ASIN: B07G7GPX2F
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Life is more difficult now than it was a few years ago. More and more people have to work multiple jobs just to stay above water. Utilities cost more than they used to and money is losing value. By the time one receives their salary, it’s already spent. With high trade deficits and national debts, people have much less purchasing power. What is happening now that was not happening before? How have we gotten to this point? What conversations do we need to have to change things? How can there be more employment opportunities? How can the citizens live to work as opposed to working to live?
Alex Gall has produced a well-written account of everything people should be saying but will not. The language used in the book is strong but not abrasive and drives the point home effectively and firmly. The authors passion and commitment to the subject matter is commendable and infectious. I consider myself to be an average citizen, I read the occasional hot headline. But this book made me look a little further, and a little deeper, and find something that was shocking and appealed to the citizen in me. This book is delivered from the point of view of a concerned citizen painting a picture, a person who is inviting others to a well thought out and open conversation.
I would appreciated more references of source material because, as stated previously, this book will leave you digging for more information and getting more involved in politics. Some statistics or studies to back up the subject matter would have been appreciated. This book is well researched and is laid out in an easy to follow manner in a compact and readily available format. At times I felt the content a bit dense, or maybe the topics overwhelming. I had to put the book down and think about what I just read. This book certainly causes one to reflect. But once you come out of your reflection, once you put the book down, you will come away with an overriding need to do something.
There are some sensitive topics covered but the author uses a neutral approach which is inviting. His approach to the subjects is completely ‘take it or leave it’. This is one of the best qualities of this book. The fact that the author lays out his position without dragging people with him. The intensity of the book and the truth in the subject matter will carry you effortlessly.
This book does a fantastic job of starting a serious and necessary conversation. This is necessary for anyone who wants to be an informed citizen.
Pages: 260 | ASIN: B079YP7LGM
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Book of Matthew Part I is a tale of forbidden love in rural Missouri in 1850 which was a tumultuous time in the U.S. What was the inspiration that inspired the setup to this intriguing novel?
It all began with a conversation. I had just started dating the man who is now my husband and we were still getting to know one another. He asked if I would vote in the upcoming election and I replied, “of course I will. My ancestors fought and died to give me the right to. Without their sacrifices I wouldn’t be able to vote, own property, read, let alone attend my university. I wouldn’t even be able to date you.” After that conversation I started to wonder how difficult it would have been to have an interracial relationship centuries ago and my first book was born.
I have always been a lover of suspense, mystery and horror so I decided to write in these genres. My goal was to create a Jack the Ripper sort of villain, while maintaining the drama, romance and personal conflicts that make characters relatable and memorable.
While growing up I noticed a double standard in regard to history. If you were white and you wanted to trace your lineage back to the Mayflower this was perfectly acceptable. People were intrigued to hear your family’s history and they encouraged and praised your vast knowledge of a bygone era… but if you were black you were often discouraged from learning anything about your ancestry. I was told things like, “Black people need to leave the plantation,” and “Black people live in the past and need to just forget things.” Yearning to educate myself about the past is not the same as living in it. I didn’t desire someone to blame or scapegoat, all I wanted was the same answers that other races of children were encouraged to seek out.
When I received correspondence from readers in England, France, Ireland and several countries in Africa they applauded my stories and said, “Wow! This was a fascinating look at American history.” Not Black history, nor African American history. Other countries acknowledge this topic as American history because that’s exactly what it is. When I am criticized for this subject matter my response remains the same,
I don’t write racist literature. Nor do I write black history. I write American history.
The book touches on sensitive social topics rarely discussed, slavery and the dynamic between master and slave. What were some themes you wanted to capture in this story?
The main theme I wanted to capture was that every form of this institution was morally reprehensible. When I grew up in school most of my teachers refused to teach this subject whatsoever. We would skip over huge chunks of our textbooks just to avoid it. The few who did teach about it romanticized the hell out of it, and made it seem acceptable because “most slaves were like part of the family” …I actually heard this more than once. What I desired to express in this story was that even if you were a house slave who was treated better than others and much like part of the family, merely being owned endangered your life because someone has diminished your social standing from that of a human being to that of a piece of property. This fact alone placed even the best treated of slaves at risk for kidnapping, rape and murder with no law enforcement to save them.
Second, I wanted to make it known that when some of us are slaves, we all are. Destitute white men, minorities and women of all colors were treated as second class citizens because of that system of inequality.
Third, I wanted to acknowledge all the people who were adamantly opposed to slavery and fought against it at every turn. 400 years of Americans are blamed and villainized for what some people did. Though slavery was socially acceptable, not everyone agrees with 100% of what is socially acceptable. Disagreeing with social norms is what makes us individuals. Fighting against corrupt social norms is what makes us heroes. The people who stood against these heinous acts are rarely recognized, but without them our society would’ve failed to evolve.
Sarah is a slave that is targeted by a serial killer that murders with impunity. What were the driving ideals behind Sarah’s character development?
The driving force behind Sarah’s character development was the total lack thereof I have witnessed in similar stories. In many of the plantation novels I have read the slaves are faceless one-dimensional victims who serve as little more than background for white main characters. The female slave characters were poorly developed and served as little more than objects of lust incapable of inspiring true feelings of love and affection. Reading a plantation novel with no black main characters is like reading Memoirs of a Geisha with no geisha. These stories failed to capture my attention and I found the characters unrealistic and totally unrelatable. When I wrote a book I was determined to make sure there were black main characters as well as white ones, and that ALL of my characters have depth and unique personalities. I wanted Sarah’s character to have hopes, dreams, ambitions, drama and romantic conflicts of her own. I yearned to put a human face on a slave character, an aspect rarely seen in books of this nature. Though there have been many forbidden lust stories in this genre I wanted to give Sarah an against all odds forbidden love story readers wouldn’t soon forget.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Revelations: The Colburn Curse is a prequel to Book of Matthew that traces the Colburn family back to their beginnings in New Orleans, Louisiana. In this story Matt Colburn Sr. is a young plantation heir who has been given the duty of protecting an aristocrat named, Arial. He falls madly in love with the elusive heiress, but she is hiding a deadly secret that has made her the target of the Louisiana Strangler, a secret that endangers everyone she holds dear, especially Matt. This book is already available for purchase on amazon.com.
The Infinity series is based on the many star crossed lifetimes of Sarah and Matthew. I wrote this series for readers who enjoy historical suspense but prefer a tale with less violence and adult content. Three of the ten books are already available on amazon.com.
Book of Matthew II: Ancient Evil will be released December 2018.
Women of color are not a priority of law enforcement in 1800’s Missouri. They are not even considered human. These social injustices allow a serial killer to run rampant. Sarah, a beautiful black slave, finds herself in the crosshairs of a monster who murders with impunity. The only one concerned with her plight is the master’s son. Will Matthew find the strength to rescue this slave girl, even if he lacks the courage to admit he’s in love with her…
It’s Jack the Ripper meets Roots in this pulse pounding historical thriller. House of Whispers packs the chills of a Stephen King book, the romance of a Nicholas Sparks novel and the in your face irony of an M. Night Shyamalan flic.
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Catalina DuBois’s Book of Matthew: Part I. House of Whispers is a tale of forbidden love that, at times, seems Shakespearian in its delivery. The story begins in rural Missouri in 1850, a tumultuous time in the United States. Slavery was still very much in practice at southern plantations. Along with the master/slave dynamic came secret, taboo romances between captive slaves and free, white plantation owners and their family members. Matthew, the plantation owner’s son and heir, and Sarah, a slave owned by Matthew’s father, are two star crossed lovers trying desperately to navigate through social stigma, away from the plantation-dominated south, and toward freedom.
Barely a few pages into the first chapter, Matthew’s lust for the slave girl, Sarah, is evident. This is shown through a very sexually explicit scene that turns out to be a dream. There are a few of those scenes like this scattered throughout the book. Over all, I didn’t feel they detracted from the book, but might be a little too graphic for some readers.
The book seems accurate in its depiction of slavery. Slaves are subjected to unwanted sexual advances, beatings, whippings, and, in some cases, death. Families are ripped apart. Mixed race children are born in slave quarters. Secrecy is rampant. Slaves aren’t legally recognized as people. They are merely property. They are bought and sold as simply stock on store shelves. They are forced into unwanted marriages. They are denied a proper education, and are often punished if they find a way to become literate. They have no rights. They have no choices. This is a grave, but important reminder of America’s past.
Thank goodness for the few characters besides Matthew and Sarah who seem to have some common sense about them. A handful of characters, even during that timeframe, believed in equality. They are reminded at a point that race didn’t matter at all in God’s eyes, even if men’s eyes had such skewed filters. They find help from some unlikely sources as they try to outrun those who would rather see them dead than together.
The book keeps interest piqued through all the obstacles that Matthew and Sarah overcome to try to be together. There are similar story lines that play along parallel to theirs. Other pairs of seemingly mismatched lovers run and hide and jump through hoops to be together as well. This story based on love is not without its hindrances. Villains walk amongst them in their treks toward love. Menacing characters sabotage, violate, abuse, and even murder their victims throughout the story. They still don’t give up on each other. Even in such dire circumstances, love finds a way to unite. Ultimately, love conquers all.
DuBois’s story reads easily and quickly. I didn’t want to put it down. I found myself cheering for the more righteous characters, and hating the more deviant of them. The plot flows nicely, and loose ends are tied up neatly by the end. I’d love to read a Part II and see where DuBois takes Matthew and Sarah’s journey.
Pages: 233 | ASIN: B076ZS21T6
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In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree takes place in the 1860s and follows the lives of three people trying to find their way in post-Civil War America. What was the inspiration for your characters; the Henry the ex-slave, Clara and lieutenant Elliot?
I have always been an omnivorous reader. From horror to historical and most genres in-between. The American western is genre that seems to have sort of faded into obscurity over the last thirty years or so. I suppose I can understand why. A lot (not all) of it had become dusty, formulaic, trope-worn, overly-romanticized, and historically inaccurate. I set out to write a story set somewhere between the gold rush and the turn-of-the-century. Something with a different kind of hero from the gunfighter or bank robber. Something that would dust off the genre, add some real humanity, and hopefully spark some renewed interest in this fascinating and sometimes troubling time period.
Henry as the main protagonist was an easy choice. I read a short once, about a man who was freed after the civil war and went on to become a well-known cowboy in Texas. The man had a remarkable way with horses. He was the inspiration for Henry. The challenges African Americans faced even after they were freed from slavery were monumental, and so many extraordinary men and women overcame this adversity and went on to live noteworthy lives.
With Clara I wanted to highlight challenges that women of the period faced. Their oppression can’t be compared equally to African American’s enslavement, but neither can it be marginalized. I also used her character to showcase the disconnect between wealthy easterners and the reality of what was going on in the rest of the country.
John Elliot’s inner conflict wasn’t that uncommon for soldiers both during the civil war and the years following. I have read truly heartbreaking letters sent home disillusioned soldiers from the period, particularly ones from soldier’s involved in what could arguably be called the Native American genocide.
This novel gave a good view of life in 1860s America for slaves and Native Americans. What were some themes you tried to highlight throughout this novel?
Henry and Clara’s relationship is touching but anchored with fear and a desire to find their way to the right side of things. What served as the basis for their relationship while you were writing?
Henry and Clara’s relationship is one of self-discovery for both of them. Henry begins to forgive himself, and finds that he is still capable of love. Clara discovers that her prejudices were misinformed. Her interactions with Henry, and his honesty, later affects how she later handles John’s disturbing revelations.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
I have two novels in the works. One is a contemporary drama about a twelve-year-old whose parents both die tragically less than two years apart. He’s subsequently injected into the foster care system and eventually runs away hoping to find an estranged grandparent who lives off-the-grid in Montana. The second is about a man searching for his daughter years after a global catastrophe. Both novels should be released in 2019.
In 1865 a shadow hovers over the nation: the shadow lingers still…
Born into slavery, Henry’s young life is spent working in tobacco drying sheds on Missouri plantations. Freed at the onset of the Civil War, he’s alone, starving, and on the run from Confederate militiamen.
Five years later, Clara Hanfield, the daughter of a powerful New York shipping magnate, escapes her tyrannical father and travels west in pursuit of John Elliot, the man she loves. John, a U.S. Army lieutenant, was sent to the Dakota Territory where he discovers a government conspiracy to incite an all-out war with the Indians; a war meant to finally eliminate them as an obstacle to the westward expansion.
Henry finds himself caught in the middle.
Aided by Clara, John, and his native ally, Standing Elk, Henry must battle hatred, greed, and the ghosts of his past during this turbulent and troubling time in American history.
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In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree, by Michael A. McLellan, takes place in the 1860s and revolves around the lives of three people trying desperately to find their way in post-Civil War America. Henry, a man freed from slavery but never free from the horrors he endured, finds himself assisting Clara Hanfield in her quest to reunite with Lieutenant John Elliott, the man she loves and her father loathes. All three are caught up in the government’s plot to push the Native Americans from their land once and for all. Fate has dealt quite the hand to Henry, and his introduction to Clara and her mission to find John poses yet another obstacle to Henry’s quest to find the freedom and peace he deserves.
McLellan’s writing is simply breathtaking. The richness of the language he gives his characters immediately reels in the reader. The exchanges between Henry and Eliza are tender, and her early attempts to refine his speaking habits are affectionate and determined. The trials the two endure to survive as slaves in the South and their attempt to escape the lynch mobs running rampant tore at my heart. McLellan’s words ring all too true. Henry and Eliza’s story is painful, tragic, and well-crafted to convey the horrific circumstances of the era.
Clara’s rescue by Henry is one of those moments in the book worth rereading. Henry, for all intents and purposes, is making amends in any way he can for the loss he has suffered and the guilt he feels for that loss. Sweeping in and pulling Clara from the hands of the enemy, Henry begins a friendship he never could have seen coming. Theirs is a touching relationship punctuated with fleeting moments of light-hearted banter and anchored with fear and a fierce desire on both their parts to find their way to the right side of things. Clara, described as being much like her father, uses it to her advantage as she faces insurmountable challenges on her journey with Henry. Hers is a character refreshingly unlike any other I have read in the genre of historical fiction.
Randall breaks my heart. He is one of those characters the reader will root for from his first appearance. Without giving away too much of Randall’s subplot, I will say that from those first moments of indecision with Clara at West Point. I wanted to see Randall come out on top. The backstory involving his own child and his love for Clara makes for a unique connection and offers the reader all the more reason to admire Randall.
I am giving In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree an enthusiastic 5 out of 5 stars. McLellan has written a piece of historical fiction incorporating elements for every reader. His plotlines involving a family divided and the tragedy surrounding Henry’s life as a slave intertwine to create a beautiful story of friendship, trust, and stand as a testament to the strength of the human spirit. I highly recommend this book to any fan of novels from the Civil War era. McLellan’s characters are truly unforgettable.
Pages: 268 | ASIN: B071YMXDQL
Posted in Five Stars
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The Raid on Troy, written by Murray Lee Eiland JR, is the seventh book in the Orfeo Saga. It follows two brothers, Memnon and Menas as they rise to power from the chains of slavery. Determined to taste the gold of Troy, the brothers assemble their lives so they are in a position of power to take the city. Telemon is drawn into the plans after a prophecy about the kidnapping of his daughter Elena is fulfilled. The battle lines are drawn as each player in the war game draws their sharpest weapons and assembles their greatest armies to fulfill their own dreams and desires.
This epic adventure begins with a slave boy Memnon attempting to escape the perils of slavery caused by an early capture from the Therans. Memnon’s previous family life is all but a distant memory and for now, all he knows is slavery and hierarchies of power. The brutality that he has experienced in his life has meant that kindness has seeped away from his soul, leaving a dangerous man with nothing left to lose. He is inherently a leader who fearlessly takes control of perilous situations. This allows him to develop a following of men who are eager to drop the chains of slavery too. Together they begin to rebuild their lives, raiding villages and meeting with bandits who help them acquire food and weapons.
Menas, Memnon’s brother, is also an escaped slave and eager to live a life beyond being a pawn of the Therans. Menas soon involves himself with the Spartans, where he becomes a “fixture in the local politics of Sparta”. The two brothers rise to power in an epic tale of action, revenge, lust, and influence. You will admire their ability to rise to power and success as they take what they believe is rightfully theirs, having no mercy for those who dare to cross them.
The Raid on Troy has several storylines that are interweaving together as you progress through the novel. We have Orfeo who enters the plot line as an admirable and successful leader who has a beautiful wife Clarice, Telemon and Estra with their daughter Elena and the brothers Menas and Memnon who all take the leading roles in this twist of Greek mythology. There are similar aspects to the traditional mythology story, however, Murray Lee Eiland JR curates this version to be an almost historical version of events, leaving the reader to feel connected to the characters and the plot line.
Murray Lee Eiland JR writes with a legendary force that will have the reader engaged from start to finish. The chapters are short and fast-paced, allowing the plot line to develop quickly whilst covering vast amounts of time. However, there is still an incredible transformation in the character development as you watch the characters grow in both power and ambition. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys an epic battle mixed with the rise of power and fortune.
Pages: 300 | ASIN: B06ZYK6M2Z
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