Sixteen year old Emma Cartwright runs away from her family’s South Carolina rice plantation after a slave is beaten to death. Determined to join the fight against slavery, Emma enlists in the Union Army disguised as a young man. Nothing could prepare her for the sacrifices needed—and for falling in love for the first time.
I had a bit of a struggle reading this book at first, not because it isn't good or well written, but because I very recently read a similar story in P.G. Nagle's A Call to Arms. It's obvious to me the books are based on the same real-life woman, Sarah Emma Edmonds. In both books, the heroine joins the Union army during the Civil War, avoids battle by doing hospital work, becomes a spy briefly by coloring herself with silver nitrate, and has a romance with a superior: James. So I felt like I was reading nearly the same thing again, in a different style and words.
There are some differences. In this one, Emma begins as a Southern belle while in the previous mentioned book, the heroine was a bible sales"man" from Canada. The romance is also different. In this book it's cleaner. In the previous one I mentioned, it was rather crude and out of place--vulgar even. While this version of their romance could have used a bit more build up and passion--I really didn't feel it at all--and still have been clean, I'd say this "version" of Emma's romance is preferable.
What I like about this tellin of Emma's tale is how the book shows us the turmoil a Southern daughter must have felt. Example: Emma wants to end slavery, but at the same time, she worries how the rice will get harvested and how her sisters will survive if it doesn't get done. She can't have it both ways and even as she realizes this, she's torn. Yet she continues on her path with hopes of everyone having freedom.
And her worries about killing:
New doubts crept into her head. Could she really kill someone? Indeed, Emma wanted slavery put to death, but did she have the gall, the anger, the fortitude to kill someone over a misinterpretation of right wrong?
There were some things, however, that didn't make sense to me--all regarding her family. Her father "thought it was important to understand other peoples, especially when they weren't like us..." and this man, this same man who helped Cherokee Indians, was a slave owner? And her grandfather, what kind of wonderful g-pa walks in on his grand-daughter being harassed by his overseer and does nothing? And to let the man whip her???? Seriously?
Actually many of the characterizations in this book didn't seem consistent. Another example is James constantly trying to keep Emma out of harm's way or protesting her exploits, yet he gets upset when she suddenly wants to become a woman again and leave before an important battle. Um....huh?
Yet a thumbs up to Ms. King for creating a different ending to Emma's military career. Once we got past the silver nitrate episode, the book became more unique and Ms. King began veering from the predictable. I especially enjoyed when Emma and James infiltrate the Confederate camp. It also has an ending that I didn't see coming--none of that "woman soldier gets pregnant and sneaks away from the army" crap that seems to be done over and over. I love a surprise ending.
Mercedes King is an Ohio native and founding member of Sisters in Crime Columbus, Ohio (affectionately dubbed SiCCO). With a degree in Criminology from Capital University and a passion for writing, she crafted O! Jackie, a novel focusing on the private life of Jackie Kennedy. She has also written The Kennedy Chronicles, a series of short stories featuring JFK and Jackie before they were married and before 'Camelot'. Mercedes writes in a variety of genres, including historical and mystery / suspense. In fact, she's working on creating a new genre, 'modern historical'.
Her newest release, Plantation Nation, follows the journey of Emma Cartwright, a 16 year old Southern girl who disguises herself as a young man and joins the Union Army.
Visit her sites, OJackiebook.com or Mercedesking.com . Contact her at Mercedes 'at' ojackiebook 'dot' com. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.