Saturday, August 11, 2012
Sweeter Than Birdsong
Thomas Nelson, 2012
Christian Historical Romance
Source: Received a copy from Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.
Last year I read Fairer Than Morning and liked it so I was excited to give the second book a try. This time we jump ahead to 1855 in Ohio with the protagonists of that book still playing an important role in anti-slavery efforts including aiding fugitive slaves in defiance of the Fugitive Slave Act and writing an anti-slavery song that ends up being compared to Uncle Tom's Cabin in terms of impact. So it's pretty exciting for a history nerd to read about these events on the brink of the Civil War (including several characters predicting that the country can't hold).
My big disappointment with Fairer Than Morning was expecting more of a romance than I got. I only remembered that when I reread my review so I didn't really have expectations when reading this book. Happily I thought there was a bit more romance although it was definitely of a slow-burning quiet kind as both participants need to conduct themselves by the codes of society. What we got was very sweet and made me very happy :)
The male is Ben Hanby, son of Fairer Than Morning's love story, musical genius, and committed to a future in the clergy. The only thing dissuading him from that potential future is the lovely Kate Winter, one of the first female students at Otterbein College, whose society mama has higher expectations than a future pastor. Kate's shyness and awful family life, meanwhile, have her plotting escape until an encounter with a runaway slave jolts her from her plans.
I did think there could have been more about Kate's family life. Her father's a drunk, her mother regrets her decision to leave Philadelphia society, and her younger sister has been emotionally scarred by their toxic home but while the mother's thoughts and feelings are partially explained, the other two are not really talked about. Since Kate's home is so formative to her character, I think it would have been good to have more insight into it.
I thought the historical elements were very well done. I'm not too familiar with the time period but the way that slavery was woven into the story was fantastic. Some of the most exciting and tense passages revolved around fugitives and the simmering conflict among Americans is well-emphasized. I thought the Christian aspect was also well-done. I would definitely not describe it as preachy but instead it was very well-incorporated and sprang organically from the characters themselves.
Overall: An intense historical read about a time period that doesn't always get much attention.
Cover: Hmm, I don't know. I like the hoop skirt (crinolines get a good shout-out in the book) but it doesn't entirely click for me. It's not bad but it's not great to me.