Thursday, March 29, 2012

Crimson Mountain by Grace Livingston Hill

Crimson MountainCrimson Mountain by Grace Livingston Hill

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Laurel overhears a plot to blow up the new munitions plant. Will Phil be able to save her from the web of deceit and danger that is slowly closing around her?
Grace Livingston Hill is the beloved author of more than 100 books. Read and enjoyed by millions, her wholesome stories contain adventure, romance, and the heartwarming triumphs of people faced with the problems of life and love.

This book was an unexpected joy! I found it at the library when I was looking for a book to read with a "red" word in the title. This one came up and it is a little unassuming green library book - no picture on the cover or anything. It is a lovely story or a young woman, Laurel Sheridan, who sets out on her own after he parents die. She stays with a cousin for a while, but that cousin is only interested in finding her a rich husband who is well-known in society. That isn't what this young woman wants. She goes back to her hometown and finds a job as a substitute school teacher. She also meets a young man, Phil Pilgrim, while she is driving around on Crimson Mountain reminiscing, and her car breaks down. He stops to help her and saves her from a stampeding herd of cattle. It sounds very predictable and common when I read what I just wrote, but it's such a sweet story and it isn't mushy. It's romantic and exciting things happen. Phil is on his way to report to camp as a soldier. Before he goes, the two of them go to visit a woman who befriended him when he was a child. They accompany her to her little church and eventually both declare their love for Jesus and begin to seriously live a Christian life. After he goes off to camp, things happen up on Crimson Mountain where the government is building a munitions plant. It doesn't sound as if all this would go together, but it does - beautifully. The book is written in a lovely, 1940's fashion and I just loved it. It just goes to show that you never know what you will find between the ordinary covers of a library book. What a treasure!

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The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

The Kitchen HouseThe Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family.

Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.

Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.

The Kitchen House is a tragic story of page-turning suspense, exploring the meaning of family, where love and loyalty prevail.

This book was our book club selection for March. We all liked it very much. It inspired a great discussion of slavery and how a white girl could end up in such a situation. My ancestors are Irish and some of them could have been in a similar situation in Ireland during the potato famine. I know some of them came over on ships, but none than I know of ended up in the South. They arrived at New York or Boston. Many of them worked in the coal mines in West Virginia and others lived in Pittsburgh, PA and eastern Ohio. Some went as far as Chicago in the 20's. Anyway, my sister and I felt a connection to this Irish girl who was indentured to Captain Pyke. Our book club was interested in how the story actually got on paper as well. The author, Kathleen Grissom didn't want to write about slavery, but she felt compelled and the story, if she was true to her inspirations, came to her and demanded to be told. If she strayed from it, the inspiration was lost. Quite interesting to us. The actual story seemed quite sad to me. The reading of it moved along partly because the chapters alternated between Lavinia (the Irish girl) and Belle (a slave girl on the plantation and daughter to Captain Pyke), and because events kept happening that made you want to see the results. There were times when we just wanted to shout "No more secrets!" and "Just tell them!" I listened to the audiobook as I read which was very enjoyable to me. I like hearing the interpretations of the narrators. It makes the book come alive in a wonderful way. I recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction and those interested in what happened in the South before the Civil War.

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