Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray, by Dorothy Love

Publisher’sbook cover Overview:

A general’s wife and a slave girl forge a friendship that transcends race, culture, and the crucible of Civil War.

Mary Anna Custis Lee is a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, wife of Confederate General Robert E Lee, and heiress to Virginia’s storied Arlington house and General Washington’s personal belongings.

Born in bondage at Arlington, Selina Norris Gray learns to read and write in the schoolroom Mary and her mother keep for the slave children, and eventually becomes Mary’s housekeeper and confidante. As Mary’s health declines, Selina becomes her personal maid, strengthening a bond that lasts until death parts them.

Forced to flee Arlington at the start of the Civil War, Mary entrusts the keys to her beloved home to no one but Selina. When Union troops begin looting the house, it is Selina who confronts their commander and saves many of its historic treasures.

In a story spanning crude slave quarters, sunny schoolrooms, stately wedding parlors, and cramped birthing rooms, novelist Dorothy Love amplifies the astonishing true-life account of an extraordinary alliance and casts fresh light on the tumultuous years leading up to and through the wrenching battle for a nation’s soul.

My Take:

As someone with an interest in the American Civil War, I knew that Arlington National Cemetery was created in the grounds of Robert E. Lee’s plantation and that it was done so that the ‘traitor’ would never be able to return home. I also knew that General Lee was somehow connected to George Washington. I knew nothing of a slave being left in charge of Arlington during the war. Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray was a revelation in more than one aspect.

Because the book covers over 50 years it isn’t as detailed as some readers might like, and only the last quarter is set during the war. It focuses on Mary and Selina’s lives, dividing the chapters between their perspectives. While it’s known that the Custis and Lee families treated their slaves relatively well, Dorothy Love hasn’t shied away from descriptions of the way slaves were treated at other southern plantations. Nor does she ignore the instance when Lee demanded the physical punishment of three slaves who attempted to run away. While becoming an ardent supporter of the southern cause, George Washington’s great-granddaughter was conscious of his legacy and did her best to preserve it, a cause that became Selina’s after the Lee family was forced from their home.

Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray is based off extensive historical sources and quoted from various letters and documents. Among the select bibliography at the end are books written by General and Mrs. Lee’s children. General Lee’s original letter freeing his slaves is included in the narrative; their emancipation being a requirement of Mary’s father’s will. In an author’s note at the end, Love states that she has tried to “recount events mostly as they happened,” with only a couple of exceptions. Thanks to her extensive research, this biographical novel of a surprising relationship between a slave and a white woman can be appreciated by both Civil War history fans and the casual reader. It’s one of my favorite books of 2016 and will stick with me for some time to come.

Thank you to TNZFiction Fiction Guild for my complimentary copy of Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.


Publisher: Thomas Nelson (a division of HarperCollins Christian)

Publication Date: 14 June 2016

Page Count: 400

Read more on:   Dorothy Love’s Website   TNZFiction’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million

There Will Be Stars, by Billy Coffey

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

“In a life full of lies, he settled finally for the truth.”

No one in Mattingly ever believed Bobby Barnes would live to see old age. Drink would either rot Bobby from the inside out or dull his senses just enough to send his truck off the mountain on one of his nightly rides. Although Bobby believes such an end possible—and even likely—it doesn’t stop him from taking his twin sons Matthew and Mark into the mountains one Saturday night. A sharp curve, blinding headlights, metal on metal, his sons’ screams. Bobby’s final thought as he sinks into blackness is a curious one—there will be stars.

Yet it is not death that greets him beyond the veil. Instead, he returns to the day he has just lived and finds he is not alone in this strange new world. Six others are trapped there with him.

Bobby soon discovers that rather than the place of peace he had been led to believe he was in, it’s actually a place of secrets and hidden dangers. Along with three others, he seeks to escape, even as the world around him begins to crumble. The escape will lead some to greater life, others to endless death . . . and Bobby Barnes to understand the deepest nature of love.

My Take:

There is something that keeps drawing me to the fictional town of Mattingly, Virginia. This series of books has both confused and intrigued me but I keep returning with each new release. At least this book is set AFTER In the Heart of the Dark Wood, which Billy Coffey had written previously. There Will Be Stars can probably be read alone, but it does contain brief references to earlier events.

This is a book about the decisions we make and the ones we don’t make; when even a decision to do nothing has repercussions. It’s about one person’s heaven being another person’s hell. It’s about sacrifice and love, and selfishness and power. It’s about an innocent façade hiding an evil as old as time, and it’s about time running out when we think we have all the time in the world. That’s my opinion anyway. It’s primarily Bobby Barnes’ story but, when all was said and done, I was left thinking about the fate of more than one of his fellow characters. The final two pages are possibly the best, and most important, in the entire book.

Strange things – unconnected things – happen in Mattingly, and I’ve not always understood them. Remarkably, I understood what was happening in There Will Be Stars even though I’m not sure I ever fully learned the machinations behind everything. There’s a revelation midway through that was surprising but also expected on some level. It was a twist that made sense. Ultimately, this is the most enjoyable of all the Mattingly books I’ve read.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson and BookLookBloggers for my complimentary copy of There Will Be Stars, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read There Will Be Stars? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.


Publisher: Thomas Nelson (a division of HarperCollins Christian)

Publication Date: 03 May 2016

Page Count: 416

Read more on:   Billy Coffey’s Website   Thomas Nelson’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million

A Thousand Shall Fall, by Andrea Boeshaar

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

A story of love, hope, and healing set in the midst of the Civil War

Nineteen-year-old Carrie Ann Bell is independent and spirited. The only thing she really fears are the Union soldiers fighting against her Confederate friends. When her youngest sister runs away from home, brave Carrie Ann is determined to find her and bring her back. Disguised as a soldier, she sets off–only to find she’s fallen into the hands of the enemy.

Her childhood friend Confederate Major Joshua Blevins has warned her against these Yankees: they’re all devils, ready to inflict evil on unsuspecting young women. When Colonel Peyton Collier arrests her for her impersonation of an officer, it seems to confirm all her fears.

Soon, though, she finds herself drawn to the handsome, gallant colonel. He rescued her, protected her, and has been every inch the gentleman. Carrie Ann discovers that her foe has become her ally–and more than that, someone she could love. But the arrival of Joshua in the Union camp as a spy will test her loyalties. Will she protect someone who has been like family or be loyal to this stranger to whom she wants to offer her heart? When her world is being torn apart around her, whom should she trust?

Continue reading for my thoughts on A Thousand Shall Fall, and also for a link to a Kindle Fire giveaway to celebrate the book’s release. Continue reading