Tag Archive | Civil War

Honor Before Heart (Emerald Belles #1) by Heather McCorkle

honor before heart

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Risking it all for love and valor . . .

When Corporal Sean MacBranian awakens after being injured in battle, he is sure the luck o’ the Irish has run out on him. Or that he’s died and gone to Heaven. There can be no other explanation for the blond-haired, blue-eyed angel standing before him. But his “angel” is a truehearted lass named Ashlinn, and she wears a nurse’s uniform. Her tender ministrations have brought him back from the brink of death—and have given him a new reason for living.

Ashlinn knows their parting is inevitable; her handsome hero must return to the 69th infantry of the Union army, and there are no guarantees of his safe return. With most of her family already destroyed by the war ravaging America, she is sure she cannot survive another loss. Yet she feels powerless against the draw of Sean’s strong and steady heart. Neither time nor distance nor the danger of battle seems to lessen their bond. But when their secret letters are intercepted, the devoted nurse’s love will face the ultimate test . . .


Publisher and Release Date: Lyrical Press, March 2017

Time and Setting: Virginia, 1862
Genre: American Historical Romance (Civil War period)
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Sara

Honor Before Heart is a sweetly romantic story set against the horrors of the American Civil War. McCorkle has definitely done her homework to show the brutality and personal cost faced by those who fought or lost someone in the war, although I wish that a bit more had been done to develop the characters past their basic outlines and turn them into a man and woman I could fully connect with.

Ashlinn O’Brian’s life has been changed forever by the war. Her three brothers heard the call to arms and enlisted in the Northern army. After two of them died from poorly treated wounds Ashlinn has been desperately searching the battlefields to find her youngest brother to hopefully save him from dying too. Ashlinn learned everything she could from her parents, a progressive doctor and a midwife, and her skills at keeping patients alive has made her more than a few enemies in the army camp hospital she works in. The latest battle on the shores of the James River has littered the ground with the bodies of dead Union and Confederate soldiers but Ashlinn’s prayers are answered that none of the men she finds are her brother. Before returning to the safety of the army camp Ashlinn’s attention is drawn to her faithful dog Cliste dragging something by the river bank. Getting closer to the water Ashlinn sees that the dog is trying to help a Union soldier who is unconscious but bleeding heavily from a gut wound. Knowing she’s the man’s only hope for survival, Ashlinn gets him into a makeshift shelter and treats his injuries using the supplies she always carries with her.

Corporal Sean MacBranian had escaped injury during the battle only to be caught by a Rebel soldier he found abusing a dog. He managed to kill the Southerner but not before the man got a few good hits on Sean’s person. The pain of his injuries knocks him out and for a moment Sean is certain he’s died when he wakes up to the beautiful face of a guardian angel leaning over him. Fortunately for Sean, his angel is a nurse who knows better ways to heal severe injuries than slicing and dicing up a patient. Ashlinn’s skills at suturing his wounds and keeping them clear of infection allow him to regain some of his strength so they can move out of enemy territory. As they travel Sean finds that Ashlinn is a well-spoken young woman but every so often he can hear a bit of a brogue seeping into her words. As an immigrant from Ireland, Sean is drawn to that little hint of Ashlinn’s own background as it’s something special they share.

Upon arriving safely at the army’s encampment Sean and Ashlinn try to keep their relationship on a cordial level since the war could separate them at any moment. Ashlinn has already learned the difficult lesson that caring for someone makes it agonizing to watch them march into an uncertain future on the battlefield. Sean, too, has seen many good men die and fears that his growing feelings for Ashlinn might become a distraction when his focus should be on the soldiers who serve under him. What neither of them counted on was how strong their bond had already become after Ashlinn saved his life and Sean protected her from the unwanted advances of the camp’s brutal doctor. They become inseparable after Sean is deployed into another battle and Ashlinn knows she would be lost if he were killed in action. Their new relationship is tested when Ashlinn discovers proof that her brother is alive but the circumstances of his disappearance may make her choose between her family and a future with Sean.

Honor Before Heart is tonally perfect for the period –  I could almost see everything happening to Ashlinn and Sean through a sepia-colored lens. One would think that the importance of social status would be something easily ignored while living in an army camp; however Ashlinn’s background as a wealthy Northerner is something that matters to Sean. He is aware that his own status as an Irish immigrant puts him much lower in class than her family even thought they, too, had immigrated generations earlier. There is also a black mark on his family’s name that Sean is hesitant to reveal since it was part of the reason he came to America to start a new life. Once he decides to pursue Ashlinn he adjusts their situation within the camp to always provide a chaperone or keep their meetings within the bounds of propriety. It makes their romance very sweet for most of their courting.

Unfortunately those sepia-colored lenses cannot hide the fact that Sean and Ashlinn never seem to grow or change much throughout the course of the story. Sean is a noble man who fights for the Union to bring freedom to the Southern slaves. Ashlinn is an intelligent and enlightened woman far ahead of her times when it comes to the care of the sick and injured in the field. Those two ideas are discussed between characters many times and serve as the major points of conflict when Ashlinn’s methods are challenged by the male doctors or Sean is captured by a Southern plantation owner. Long passages of the story paint vivid pictures of the brutal conditions Ashlinn is fighting against in the field hospitals, yet that’s all she seems to be fighting for. We don’t really know why her family joined the fight or what her thoughts are about the political side of things.

With that said, I enjoyed enough of Honor Before Heart to recommend it. The calm pace of the story creates the perfect conditions for a romance to thrive but the darkness of war is always present. It’s nice to believe that something as beautiful as love will survive past all of the hate.

Wedded to War (Heroines Behind the Lines #1) by Jocelyn Green

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Tending to the army’s sick and wounded meant leading a life her mother does not understand and giving up a handsome and approved suitor. Yet Charlotte chooses a life of service over privilege, just as her childhood friend had done when he became a military doctor. She soon discovers that she’s combatting more than just the rebellion by becoming a nurse. Will the two men who love her simply stand by and watch as she fights her own battles? Or will their desire for her wage war on her desire to serve God?

Wedded to War is a work of fiction, but the story is inspired by the true life of Civil War nurse Georgeanna Woolsey. Woolsey’s letters and journals, written over 150 years ago, offer a thorough look of what pioneering nurses endured. This is the first in the series “Heroines Behind the Lines: Civil War,” a collection of novels that highlights the crucial contributions made by women during times of war.

Publisher and Release Date: River North, Moody Pulbishers Fiction – 20 June, 2012

Time and Setting: American Civil War, New York
Genre: Christian Fiction, Military Fiction
Heat Level: 2 (warning – there is a rape scene)
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review By: Sabrina

I have been eager to read this book ever since I downloaded the sample in May. Something about the fierce determination of Charlotte’s character had me wanting to read more of her. After completing the novel, I am pleased to report that the book lived up to my expectations! This beautifully written story created a realistic view of Charlotte’s life and struggles and I felt like I was experiencing things right alongside her. There was no holding back in its apt and descriptive details of life as a war nurse. We’ve endured the “ugly” together and I feel connected to Charlotte and her cause because of it. What a life! To be so brave – Charlotte is a woman with a calling who courageously embraced it.

We start off in New York City where our protagonist lives. We get a clear understanding of her character from the start and it was easy for me to rally behind her. While most ladies of her station are content with superficial giving, Charlotte is looking to do more. When civil war breaks out, she is determined to help. For the first time, female nurses are being recruited to tend the wounded soldiers. Charlotte, sensing her opportunity, volunteers despite knowing she will face opposition from home.

Charlotte leaves behind a beau to whom we are introduced early in the book. Phineas seems perfect in every way, but you can sense Charlotte isn’t in love with him. I believe she wants to love him, but there is a hint that her affection is placed elsewhere and, well, when you can’t release your heart from one there’s usually no room for another. I imagine this is why it is so easy for her to leave. Phineas, however, is not giving up so easily. He is determined to win her over and plans on doing everything he can to make her love him.

Parallel to Charlotte’s story, we have Ruby, a sweet, poverty-stricken immigrant from Ireland whose husband has just enlisted in the New York union. He does this in an effort to gain a better life for him and his wife. Ruby, however, falls on hard times as there is no money coming in and she is left to fend for herself. It is a rough life and with limited options Ruby is going nowhere fast. I admit to crying for her and raging bitterly at the unfairness of her predicament. Ruby’s struggles were difficult to get through and I admired her strength. When the two women finally come together I found myself relaxing and feeling just a bit easier.

But wait – there is a love story hidden in all of this. It is subtle, as our two lovers are apart for most of the book. However, once they finally come together it was a happy “hurrah” moment for me. While I would have preferred a little more time with our couple, the story was so engaging overall that I was only slightly disappointed with the brief HEA.

Touched with Fire by Christopher Datta


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Touched With Fire is a novel of the Civil War inspired by the true story of Ellen Craft.

Ellen Craft is property, in this case of her half-sister Debra, to whom she was given as a wedding gift. The illegitimate daughter of a Georgia plantation owner and a house slave, she learned to hate her own image, which so closely resembled that of her father – the same wiry build, the same blue eyes, and the same lily-white skin.

Ellen lives a solitary life until she falls, unexpectedly, in love with a dark-skinned slave named William Craft, and together they devise a plan to run North. Ellie will pose as a gentleman planter bound for Philadelphia accompanied by his “boy” Will. They make it as far as Baltimore when Will is turned back, and Ellie has no choice but continue. With no way of knowing if he is dead or alive, she resolves to make a second journey—South again. And so Elijah Craft enlists with the 125th Ohio Volunteers of the Union Army. She will literally fight her way back to her husband.

Eli/Ellie’s journey is the story of an extraordinary individual and an abiding love, but also of the corrosive effects of slavery, and of a nation at a watershed moment.

Debut author CHRISTOPHER DATTA is no stranger to civil conflict or the still-extant scourge of slavery. Most recently the acting ambassador to the Republic of South Sudan where he helped end a war in April of 2012, he has spent a distinguished career moving from one strife-torn country to another, including Lebanon, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. A lifelong student of the American Civil War, his research for Touched with Fire is exacting and based in part on a true story.

Publisher and Release Date: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 21 June 2013
RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1800s Georgia
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by: Sabrina

Ellen (Ellie) Craft is the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy plantation owner and a house servant. Ellie serves in her father’s household but is not acknowledged as a daughter or sister. Unfortunately for Ellie, she is also not accepted by the other slaves in the community as they think she looks down on them. Ellie is distant, but not for the reasons people think.

I immediately felt for Ellie. She was a resolved, hardened woman, but completely and utterly alone. Tormented from every angle, she actually hoped to die to avoid living the life she had. When Will enters her life, I was jumping for joy. I loved him from the first moment. A voice of reason; he exuded the quiet strength and devotion Ellie was lacking. She needed him in her life and I’m glad she finally realized this.

But this book is not about their interactions as a couple. In fact for the majority of the book they are apart. Wanting to live a free life, Will and Ellie decide to flee North. Being three-quarters European, Ellie is fair-skinned and easily poses as a white-male plantation owner. It is quite ingenious the way they accomplish this and I can only imagine how terrifying it was for Ellie to assume the role of a dominant male. Some of the conversations she/he had to endure were brutal and I was completely on edge the whole time.

So close to freedom, they encounter trouble and are split apart. This parting was heart-wrenching and their loss felt overwhelming. Ellie, though, is a determined woman. Posing once again as a man, she enlists in the Union Army with all intentions of destroying the rebels and getting her husband back. With this goal in mind, this is where Ellie, now Eli, comes alive. He, as she now refers to herself, is an armed and trained angry soldier. Because he is not afraid to die he is fearless on the battlefield and that, I believe, is one of the biggest reasons he survives. During Eli’s time in the army we are introduced to some pretty fantastic secondary characters who help him live through this madness. With the help of one friend in particular Eli is able to understand people better and let go of his hatred, which saves his soul. The moments between the two friends are heartfelt and insightful.

For me, books on the Civil War are always hard to get through. I find my emotions rolling most of the time and it’s hard to escape the overwhelming saddness of it all. This book provided a fantastic story that engaged in its actions scenes and tempered with its easy dialog. I really enjoyed reading Touched by Fire.