They’re cut from different cloths…but their hearts are a perfect fit.
Asa Caldwell returned from the Great War with nothing to show for it—as in nothing below his left knee. Forget about the journalism career he loved. His story is over. Done.
Yet he finds the strength to journey to Winslow, Georgia, to get Ruby Bledsoe Morson’s sister out of trouble. Before he can bring Mags Bledsoe home, though, a spate of mysterious attacks reawakens his investigative instincts.
During the war, Mags did her duty to God and country by stepping into a management role at the textile mill. Now she’s been shuffled back to the rank and file—and Asa has her hard-earned job. Not only is the infernal man doing everything wrong, her plan for revenge against the mill owner who lynched her childhood sweetheart is farther out of reach than ever.
As they clash over almost everything, Mags begins to set fire to Asa’s soul, bright enough to dim the memory of the killing fields of France. Enough to give him a new mission in life—to make her feel the same way.
Warning: Contains a wounded warrior who’s done with fighting…and one feisty woman who makes him snap to attention.
Source: ARC from Samhain Publishing via NetGalley
After thoroughly enjoying the first book in this series, A Virtuous Ruby, I was keen to read the second Bledsoe sister’s story. Mags is the quiet sister who keeps her head down and does all the hard work, even if she isn’t always given credit for it. Yet she surprised her entire family when she opted to work in the town mill, especially considering all the bad history between her family and the mill owner. But just because Mags is quiet, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have plans – and she’s definitely got something in mind for Paul Winslow. That is until Asa shows up and steals her job.
While the first book in this series was more heavily influenced by the politics and prejudices of 1915 Georgia, with an added touch of romance, the romance felt stronger for me in this story. There is still plenty of history too, of course, especially with Asa being a journalist finding out as much as he can about the lynchings and other unrest in the South, but because both Mags and Asa know exactly who they are there was less talk of race here than with the light-skinned Ruby and Adam. It is still an issue, of course, but less personal and more societal.
Instead both characters are plagued with self-doubt – Mags doesn’t believe she is pretty enough or clever enough to deserve love, while Asa’s insecurities are strongly tied to his lost leg and his unhappy return from the war. I really liked Mags. She’s a strong woman who isn’t afraid of hard work, but she’s not as fiery as her sister, Ruby. Instead she’s thoughtful and willing to take a long time to wreak revenge upon Paul Winslow. I liked Asa too, even if he does have a lot to learn. Thankfully Mags is just the woman to teach him.
The historical setting is excellent, giving a real sense of time and place and the discriminations and divisions not just in society, but in the US as a whole, with the South doing things a very particular way, and the North offering more freedoms for all. Yet there are good things about Mags’ life in Georgia, not least her family – and particularly her father. I love her father. There are also friends and community spirit, that help make life worth living. Of course there are cracks and fractures in all of this, since this was a very volatile period, full of violence and injustice, where bullies literally got away with murder. This book never shies away from the darker aspects, but the romance between Asa and Mags has occasional moments of sweetness to balance it all out.
Overall this is a good read. The historical setting feels natural, the characters are deep and interesting and the issues it raises are as important now as they have ever been. If you like historical romances, then you should give this a try – especially if you like strong characters, a compelling plot and a satisfying romance, or have never tried an African American historical before. I look forward to reading more about the Bledsoe family soon.
A Most Precious Pearl is out September 8th!
Visit Piper Huguley for more details.