First, let me say I was prepared to like this book. The premise sounds promising – a young woman whose father is part of a spy ring for the Confederacy falls in love with a Northern soldier and must deal with her torn loyalties as the Civil War begins. I was also impressed with Al Lacy’s statement on the frontispiece, “The editor said ‘If you don’t write sex scenes than you’re through.’ I said, ‘Okay, then I’m through.” Unfortunately, not only is Lacy unwilling to write sex scenes but he’s also apparently unable to write good historical fiction.
The basic rule of historical fiction is “Know your era.” Almost from page one, Lacy shows a complete obliviousness to the language, customs and social moirés of 1861. His characters do, say and think things that would be unheard of. Certainly no lady of good breeding would go out to a restaurant with a man she had never met before. A young man generally sought an introduction through a friend or, failing that, asked permission to call. Gentlemen fathers of the era never thought about their daughters “hooking up” with someone and the term “classified information” appears to date back to 1917, not 1861. Mary Todd Lincoln’s maid probably didn’t answer an observation with a laugh and “What was your first clue?” Certainly after a good cry by the filing cabinets, our 1861 heroine would not have “fixed her makeup” and returned to work. And, according the Capitol Historian, it’s highly unlikely that the Capitol had a receptionist…let alone one who was job-sharing with another woman. I could go on and on, my copy of the book is dog-eared all over with examples but these are just a few that leap into my head.
The sequences in the book dealing with the battle of Manassas are as dull as dishwater. What should be stirring scenes read like they’ve been cribbed from an old history book. There is little to no sense of place and each description reads like something you’ve read before…but it was better in the original.
Mr. Lacy needs to put more time and thought into his work and less energy into blowing his own horn for sticking to his morals. I’m quite appalled at the historical errors in this book and think both he and his editor need some very remedial training in their craft.
This book was provided to my for this review by Multnomah Books through their Blogging for Books program.