Review: “The Red Ribbon” by Pepper Basham

I’m happy to be sharing a review today of a book by one of my very favorite authors: The Red Ribbon by Pepper Basham. It is part of an ongoing “True Colors” series by publisher Barbour Books, featuring a different author for each standalone novel centered on a true story of American crime blended with a romance.

About the Book

An Appalachian Feud Blows Up in 1912

Step into True Colors — a new series of Historical Stories of Romance and American Crime

In Carroll County, a corn shucking is the social event of the season, until a mischievous kiss leads to one of the biggest tragedies in Virginia history. Ava Burcham isn’t your typical Blue Ridge Mountain girl. She has a bad habit of courtin’ trouble, and her curiosity has opened a rift in the middle of a feud between politicians and would-be outlaws, the Allen family. Ava’s tenacious desire to find a story worth reporting may land her and her best friend, Jeremiah Sutphin, into more trouble than either of them planned.

​The end result? The Hillsville Courthouse Massacre of 1912.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Endearing characters (with a wonderfully sweet romance) are witness to real-life historical events The Red Ribbon, a brisk-paced, suspenseful look at history and culture in early 1900s Appalachia. Author Pepper Basham is her element with this enthralling tale, crafting a sweet interpretation of her signature romance skillfully blended with the drama of the year and customs of the mountain folk.

Basham has established herself with previous stories of historical romance with a dramatic flair and sweet contemporary romcoms. With The Red Ribbon, she proves her mettle in another facet of the genre, with a bit of romantic suspense! Basham carefully threads a story centered on her fictional couple but filled with real-life figures. Her patient research and heritage of story combines with her characters to paint a tale that’s both compelling and a beacon for belonging, yet still leaving the right amount of questions as to the truths and instigators of the real events.

One of my favorite things about this story is seeing the Ava through the Jeremiah’s eyes. Her feistiness and ever-capable personality are the perfect compliment to his quiet and steady ways. He recognizes this, and champions her heart for storytelling in the sweetest ways. She, in turn, realizes the blessing and place of “home” he wants to provide in her life. Beginning-of-chapter quotes from “family members” of both hero and heroine are another aspect that makes me smile and adds a hint of humor and wisdom to the story.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Mini Review: “With This Pledge” by Tamera Alexander

I’m sharing a review today of a novel that will certainly be on my end-of-the-year favorites list! With This Pledge by Tamera Alexander is a fascinating look at the near-end of the Civil War. It is rooted in a true-life setting and characters, bringing a real-life romance to life with exquisite detail all in the midst of heartache and challenge.

About the Book

On the night of November 30, 1864, a brutal battle in Franklin, Tennessee, all but decimates the Confederacy and nearly kills Captain Roland Ward Jones. A decorated Mississippi sharpshooter, Jones has a vision on the battlefield and, despite the severity of his wounds, believes his life will be spared. But a life without his leg, he can’t abide. He compels Elizabeth “Lizzie” Clouston—governess to the McGavock family at the Carnton mansion—to intervene should the surgeon decide to amputate. True to her word, Lizzie speaks on his behalf and saves not only the captain’s leg but also his life.

When a fourteen-year-old soldier dies in Lizzie’s arms that night, the boy’s final words, whispered with urgency, demand that Lizzie deliver them to their intended recipient. But all she has is the boy’s first name. And, as she soon discovers, there’s no record of him ever having enlisted. How can she set out alone across a land so divided by war and hatred to honor her pledge? Even more, does she dare accept Captain Jones’s offer to accompany her? As he coalesces at Carnton, romance has blossomed between him and Lizzie—a woman already betrothed to a man she does not love.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

With This Pledge is exemplary historical fiction from the characterization, romance, and to the care of social and political issues of the time. One example is with the presence of abolitionist leanings in the south: this story considers both the north and south’s positions and issues beyond the central one of slavery, clearly showing how it all pointed back to the freedom of human beings. I appreciate the honest insights into the battle of Franklin, with necessary brutal realities that served a purpose, all bringing out the emotions of the characters and connecting with the reader. And the ROMANCE. I loved it. It was natural, emotional, and refreshingly not a will-they-won’t-they scenario (because of the truth of the story behind the book), but oh the journey was full of surprises, twists, and moments where I wondered just how it would wrap up. But wrap up well, it did! And with just the right balance of resolution and open-ended possibility. The epilogue, in particular, was touching and perfect.

I’m looking forward to more in this series by Tamera!

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “With Love, Wherever You Are” by Dandi Daley Mackall

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Bonus trivia: That’s a photo of the real-life Helen and Frank on the cover!

This book review features a book that is as interesting as it is riveting because much of the story is based on the true-life events of a couple who met, married, and served in Europe during WWII. The book, With Love, Wherever You Are, by Dandi Daley Mackall, is a recent release from Tyndale House.

About the BookEveryone knows that war romances never last . . .
After a whirlwind romance and wedding, Helen Eberhart Daley, an army nurse, and Lieutenant Frank Daley, M.D. are sent to the front lines of Europe with only letters to connect them for months at a time.

Surrounded by danger and desperately wounded patients, they soon find that only the war seems real—and their marriage more and more like a distant dream. If they make it through the war, will their marriage survive?

Based on the incredible true love story, With Love, Wherever You Are is an adult novel from beloved children’s author Dandi Daley Mackall.Review

“Based on a true story”, “WWII era”, and “letters” were all I needed to know I really wanted to read this novel. With flowing style, intriguing settings around the US and the war theater of Europe, and a love story that transcends all kinds of obstacles, this book kept me hooked late into the night.

For starters, this book is based on the real life love story of the author’s parents. While some elements and characters were understandably fictionalized for heightened story tension, the personalities of Frank and Helen clearly shine through as observed by Dandi, their daughter. Fast forwarding to the end and the author’s note section, readers learn what parts of the story are identical to the real-life situation– and those were the most incredibly interesting elements of the story!

I was impressed with the contrasting humor and wit of the relationship between Frank and Helen compared to the dramatic responsibilities, convictions, and events depicted in the book. To quote an author friend, I felt like I was reading the script of a Cary Grant movie sometimes! These personalities really come out in the real-life letters, notes, telegrams, etc. included all throughout the novel—they were a treat!

The pain and destruction of World War II was not shied away from, yet a lens of eternal hope was applied to the gravity of loss experienced by the world. In the middle of it all, this beautiful romance and subsequent relationship was formed, tested by fire, and proved a lasting legacy for Dandi and a story of inspiration to me. It reminded me of the individual sacrifice many men and women have made for their countries. It made me all the more thankful for the generations, past and present, who have held strong to liberty and freedom. Veterans, I thank you.

If you are a fan of history, WWII/military fiction, (slightly) epistolary novels, or romance, I highly recommend this book.

Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for the complimentary review copy. This is my honest review.

What is your favorite book with letters or your favorite WWII novel?