This lovely book begins with a promise made by two strangers. A simple pledge and the courage to keep it leads to a deep and lasting friendship between Elizabeth (Lizzie) Clouston and Captain Roland Ward Jones during a time in our history when very few things blossomed.
Lizzie, the governess at the Carnton plantation near Franklin, TN, is abruptly swept up into the war when the plantation house is commandeered as a field hospital by the rebel army. She, and the rest of the household work feverishly to help as many soldiers as possible, but the battle is devastating for both sides, especially the Confederacy. Lizzie makes many promises that day to dying soldiers. Memorizing final words, promising to mail letters to loved ones. But one promise is different than all the others. One of the injured soldiers is Captain Roland Jones, a sharpshooter for the Confederacy and a slave owner himself. He and Lizzie form a bond when she promises to keep the doctor from amputating Roland’s leg. Lizzie finds herself repeatedly drawn to the captain despite having promised herself to another.
When Roland and several other soldiers are allowed to convalesce at Carnton while their wounds heal, he begins to see Lizzie as more than a nurse–something he never thought possible after the death of his wife. However, his hopes are dashed when he discovers not only is she engaged to another soldier but she’s also an abolitionist. Knowing she is a woman of her word and abhors the idea of slavery, he resigns himself to friendship despite his growing affection for her.
The Civil War has always been an area of interest for me, and Ms. Alexander transports you to the time expertly, weaving details throughout her writing. You won’t find any information dumps in this book! The fact that several of the main characters are real, including Lizzie and Roland, only adds more depth to the book and made my attachments to the characters deeper.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Historical fiction is my favorite, and this book completely immerses you in the time period. I found myself wondering about the story between my nightly reading sessions. To me, that’s always the mark of a good book–it’s never far from your mind whether the words are in front of you or not.
Although I enjoy sweet, uplifting romances, I loved the deeper themes in this book. Slavery, of course, was a recurring theme with Lizzy being of the opposite opinion of Roland. It was interesting to hear the thoughts of a Confederate soldier, and Roland had some concerns about his family I’d never considered. I also enjoyed the discussions about time and how precious it is in our lives. It must have been a subject at the forefront of people’s minds as thousands of young men and boys died for their cause in blue and gray uniforms. When you’re not guaranteed the next day, what is most important? Was the loss of so much life worth it?
I adored getting to know Lizzy. She is a beautiful soul whose compassion and dedication to the soldiers who fought for a cause she didn’t agree with was inspirational and a true example of Christ’s love. I found myself wishing I could be her friend, and I was thankful Ms. Alexander brought her to life for so many to enjoy–including me! She made so many promises to boys and men who lay dying in her arms, and she followed through with each one.
The scenes of devastation at the Carnton plantation were very realistic. It is impossible to think of what happened to the soldiers without cringing inside. However, knowing the truth of what men were faced with on the battlefield and afterward is important to me, and these scenes, though difficult, were necessary. If you have a weaker stomach, you may feel differently. But it was truly the reality of war.
I was already a fan of Tamera Alexander before reading this novel, and I will definitely be pre-ordering the next novel in this series as soon as it’s available. If you enjoy historical fiction, you will devour this book!