Civil War stories always bring both tears and redemption it seems. I thank Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for sending me a copy of Essie’s Roses by Michelle Muriel at no charge for my honest review.
About the Book:
Publication Date: March 23, 2015
Publisher: Little Cabin Books LLC
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Genre: Historical Fiction
Growing up in the Deep South during the years leading to the Civil War, two young girls find freedom on a hillside overlooking Westland, an Alabama plantation. Essie Mae, an intuitive, intelligent slave girl, and Evie Winthrop, the sheltered, imaginative dreamer and planter’s daughter, strike up a secret friendship that thrives amidst the shadows of abuse.
Told from the viewpoint of four women: Katherine Winthrop, kind mistress and unexpected heiress to her father’s small, cotton plantation; Delly, her sassy and beloved house slave; Essie Mae, her slave girl; and Evie Winthrop, Katherine’s only child, Essie’s Roses tells of forbidden relationships flourishing in secret behind Westland’s protective trees and treasured roses.
After scandal befalls Westland, Evie and Essie, aged nineteen, travel to Richmond, Virginia, to escape their abusive pasts. There, they face the gross indecencies and divisions leading to the War Between the States. Though the horrors of slavery and discrimination prompt action, Evie and Essie’s struggles lie within. The secrets they hold and the pain of the past lead them away from one another and back home again.
A story about a black slave who frees a white woman, Essie’s Roses reveals the diverse meanings of freedom, the significance of a dream, and the power of love. In their efforts to save each other, will the women of Westland find the true freedom they desire?
About the Author:
Michelle Muriel holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts, magna cum laude, and after graduating, she worked as a professional actress, a member of Actors’ Equity and The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists for almost twenty years, doing theater, voice-over, and commercial work. She is also a songwriter and musician. Michelle lives in St. Louis, Missouri with her husband and two quirky Border collies. She first developed Essie’s Roses as a screenplay. This is her debut novel. She is currently at work on her second.
This is a very timely book given the current discussions of race going on in the country right now. It opens in the years before the Civil War on a small plantation in Alabama. It is owned by Katherine Winthrop but she defers to her husband in its running. He is not a very nice man for many a reason but it is time when women were not considered smart enough to do anything but look pretty.
Katherine has a daughter, Evie, and is friendly with her house slave Delly. Delly cares for Essie a child of the plantation. These four female voices tell the story in alternating chapters. Usually this aggravates me but Ms. Muriel writes in four such distinct voices I felt like I was in the space with each one.
Essie and Evie are born on the same night but into very different lives. That doesn’t stop them from finding each other and becoming friends. Life becomes complicated and dangerous as the South secedes and war enters their world. Soon the girls find themselves fleeing the plantation they have always known for Richmond and life changes for them in ways they never could have imagined.
I was pulled into this book from the very first chapter where Essie introduced herself. She is an unforgettable character who is far ahead of her time. In fact all of the characters are very well drawn and uniquely interesting. It’s not always an easy story to read but it is exceptionally well written and it was very hard to put down. I read it in one short before bed start and then finished in one long read the next day.
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