I grew up reading memoirs, which made me delve into history, and which makes me happy reading when it comes to historical fiction (ironic to me, because I write fantasy set in contemporary times.) American History was also one of my favorite genres to study, so in reading Shadows, by Jules Nelson, I was pretty intrigued at the beginning.
Set in the pre-Civil War era in 1850, the book follows Emma Fern Wells as she falls in love with a man, but she is coerced into getting engaged to another man at her family’s bidding.
Emma meets Thane as she is gathering the purple flowers (on the cover of the book) and after her mother’s death shortly after, she is quick to forget him. But he doesn’t forget her. He saves her from the unwanted attentions of a new neighbor in town eight years later, and Emma and Thane become fast friends.
While Thane and Emma shy away from her family and his, feeling their bond of friendship would be complicated by their family’s opinions and the town’s gossipers, Emma’s family has come around to get her to marry James, her brother Mark’s friend from school. It takes a long time for Emma to see James’ attentions, and by then, she is in love with Thane. Her family quickly agrees to the engagement, and Emma despairs over her fate, as she doesn’t want to hurt James’ feelings, but she cannot deny her own toward Thane.
1. Emotional roller coaster. The love triangle appeal is often lost on me, but this book did a great job of keeping me reading straight through. You want to cheer for James as much as Thane, but you are secretly glad at the end of the book.
2. Historical atmosphere. Seems like things were simpler before social media. I love the concern for honor, the care that is taken in reputation and demeanor. Nelson did a great job of keeping it interesting while also keeping it focused on honor.
3. Tragedy’s role in defining us, and blinding us. Some people don’t suffer enough to become better people, and some people suffer so much they think they can’t embrace happiness when God gives it. The internal and external struggles both Emma and Thane face – the loss of their mothers, the hardship of growing up and taking on more family responsibilities, and the fight for what they want – define their characters and keep their conflict driving forward, even if it settles eventually.
Have you read this book? Let us know in the comments below!