An unexpected love in a small, Southern town.
After fifteen months of hiding from the shame of bearing an illegitimate child, two words drive Ruby Bledsoe to face the good citizens of Winslow, Georgia. Never again. She vows to speak out against injustice. For her sisters. For her parents. For her infant son, Solomon.
When she comes to help an injured mill worker, she bristles when a tall, handsome man claiming to be a doctor brushes her aside. Despite his arrogance, Ruby senses he’s someone like her, whose light skin doesn’t quite hide who he is.
Up north, Dr. Adam Morson easily kept his mixed race a secret. Now that he’s in Georgia, summoned by his white father, he can feel restrictions closing in around him.
Something powerful draws him to the beauty whose activist spirit is as fiery as her name. And soon, Adam wants nothing more than to take Ruby and her child far from Georgia’s toxic prejudice. But Ruby must choose between seeking her own happiness and staying to fight for the soul of her hometown.
Warning: Contains a doctor learning there’s more to healing his patients than stitching a wound, and more to a woman than knowing her place—and it’s not in the shadows with her head down. Sorry, Buckeye fans, this hero’s a Wolverine—but we won’t hold that against him.
Source: ARC from Samhain Publishing via NetGalley
This book takes the historical setting of US Georgia, 1915, and breathes so much life and heart into a difficult, troubled time. Ruby is an extraordinary character: a woman who has known pain, grief and guilt and yet refuses to be cowed by the bitter cruelties of her time. Born to a comparatively wealthy, independent farming family, she sees the suffering of the workers at the town’s mill and strives to get better pay and rights for the black members of her community. Being light-skinned herself, it took a brutal attack to fully wake her up to the inequalities being perpetrated on her people by the white locals, but that hasn’t stopped her from fighting.
I really liked Ruby, she’s strong and courageous – and yes, at times a little hot-headed. She’s a real firebrand, but she’s not stupid and she’s not careless. She knows about punishment and consequences, yet pushes on in spite of them because her cause is good. I loved her family – her hard-working, decent father; her four lively and very different sisters; even her quiet, contained mother with whom Ruby has a slightly difficult relationship – and I especially liked her love for her son, Solomon. He might not have started out in the best way, but her love for him and her desire to give him a better future are beautiful.
Which is what this story is – beautiful. Yes, it’s bitter at times and painful and sad, with nasty people and vile actions, but it’s also good and kind and hopeful and strong. Adam might start out the story thinking one way and acting all prim and repressed, but thanks to Ruby he learns to be proud of who he is and see the real good he can achieve, which speaks as much to the world we live in today and to the history this book represents.
It’s also a story about faith, which as an agnostic can sometimes be tricky for me, but it sits well within this story, because it enhances the main characters’ behaviour rather than dictating it. It also provides a point of conflict – as if this story needed more – bringing up issues of sin and illegitimacy. Likewise it brings in a couple of wonderful extra characters in Brother Carver and Sister Jane, who were open and loving and wonderful.
In all this is a strong, satisfying read that sits comfortably in its historical setting and doesn’t shy away from hard questions – about prejudice, assault, lynchings, racial tensions, societal condemnations and even forgiveness. The main characters are nicely developed, though the villains are less so, and there’s plenty of tension to make it a gripping read. The romance is steady and slow-growing and there are moments of lightness throughout to stop it from ever growing too grim. Mostly this is about Ruby and she’s wonderful enough to carry any story through to the end. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and look forward to seeing what the rest of the series has to offer.
A Virtuous Ruby is out July 14th!
Visit Piper Huguley for more details.