Cassie Kendrick is on the run. Her abusive father arranged her marriage to a despicable man, but she’s discovered an escape. Disguised as a man, Cassie enlists in the Union army, taking the name Thomas Turner. On the battlefields of the Civil War, keeping her identity a secret is only the beginning of her problems, especially after she meets Gabriel Avery, a handsome young photographer.
Anxious to make his mark on the world and to erase the darkness and guilt lurking from his past, Gabriel works with renowned photographer Matthew Brady to capture images from the front lines of the war. As Gabriel forges friendships with many of the men he encounters, he wonders what the courageous, unpredictable Thomas Turner is hiding.
Battling betrayal, their own personal demons, and a country torn apart by war, can Cassie and Gabriel learn to forgive themselves and trust their futures to the God who births hope and healing in the darkest places?
Why This Book:
June 4, 1851
New York City
Gabriel Avery hit the unforgiving pavement with a grunt. Above him, the thin dirty faces of his foes looked down on him with sneers.
TEN YEARS LATER
April 12, 1861
“Cassandra Kendrick! What have you done?”
Cassie cringed at the slurred, booming voice hovering just beyond the barn door.
My attention was engaged from line one of the prologue. I immediately wanted to figure out what was happening and once I did, I wanted to see how it played out. Gabriel Avery snared my heart from the first scene as a brave young man struggling to stand (literally and figuratively) in a harsh world he couldn’t control.
Gabriel Avery– A young man from humble beginnings shadowed by the guilt of youthful choices and a strong sense of duty to those who’ve blessed him. He sees the world in a unique way that provides a different lens through which the reader experiences the events of the story.
Cassandra “Cassie” Kendrick a.k.a. Thomas Turner – This young woman is made of sterner stuff than I, no question. The circumstances she overcomes and the experiences she endures take her on an incredible journey both physically and spiritually. Not without her faults and certainly not exempt from terrible errors in judgment, Cassie is a character you want to see succeed and won’t soon forget.
Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:
The pacing of this novel was spot on. Not a moment was dull. In fact, several places had me literally holding my breath, yet I was unwilling to skim a single word. I wanted to savor every second of the experience.
Easily one of the most moving novels I have read this year, this story had me running the gamut of choking back tears and giggling like a giddy school-girl. Long after I turned the last page, these characters and this world stayed with me, calling me back.
Elements I especially liked/disliked:
I especially loved the mistakes both the heroine and the hero made in the course of the story. It made them more relatable and real.
I’ll be the first to admit that Civil War stories are not usually my first choice. It just isn’t a period of time I typically enjoy dwelling on. However, I thoroughly appreciated the accuracy and realism of the war experience as portrayed in this novel. I truly felt I wasn’t just reading about these characters and what they went through–I was living through it alongside them. The horrifying, the heartwrenching, and the heart-lifting–every moment was well written and deeply felt.
Withholding forgiveness doesn’t hurt the unforgiven–it hurts the one holding onto the anger.
I do admit to having mixed feelings about the ending for one of the secondary characters, but I can’t argue against it logically. It made sense, even if it wasn’t what I was hoping for, and it was handled perfectly by the author. Other than that minor issue, I found the ending to be refreshingly surprising, unique, and satisfying. After reading the last word, I spent several moments just sitting there, pondering the events of the story, revisiting the character’s world and imagining what might come next for them. It was definitely one of those books where I felt the story had come to its best conclusion and yet I was a little sad that it was over.
5 out of 5 stars
(I’m telling you right now, Where Dandelions Bloom will be on my annual list of Top 10 Historical Romance Novels for 2019. Don’t just add this novel to your TBR. Read it!)
Have you read either of Tara Johnson’s novels? Do you enjoy Civil War fiction? What are your thoughts on forgiveness?
Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the photos above for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly !
Note: I purchased my own copy of this book and was under no obligation to anyone to write a review. You may read my full disclosure of materials HERE.