Friday, January 22, 2021

DREAMS OF SAVANNAH by Roseanna M. White, Reviewed by Rebecca and Paula

"Cordelia bolted upright in her bed . . . . What a terrible dream. Hissing flames and acres of water, darkness pressing in on every side. Then - what had it been? More water. A storm. Something bad, something dangerous. Pain, searing and throbbing. Then the gritty taste of sand in her mouth."

Troubled by re-occurring dreams after her barely intended young suitor, Phineas Dunn, takes to the seas on behalf of the Confederate Navy, Cordelia Owens is terrified that Phin has experienced life-threatening circumstances. Living in their Savannah, Georgia home while Yankee troops encroach closer and closer along the coast, Cordelia's family encourages her to pursue a match with a wealthy cousin whose attentions Cordelia continues to spurn. Using her gift of story-telling , Delia chooses to regale Phin's family with her combinations of delightful words, conjuring up grand adventures before his eventual return as a celebrated hero. Thankfully for everyone, Phin does return home, but as an entirely different type of hero than Delia could have ever imagined.

"The water enfolded him, warm as a dream, and silenced the thunder of traitors."

When a mutiny aboard his ship goes terribly awry, Phineas Dunn finds himself sinking to the bottom of the sea, his last thoughts being those of a beautiful blonde belle promising to wait for him, forever. He can only pray that it won't take that long. Washed up upon an unfamiliar shore, barely clinging to life, Phin is at the mercy of an imposing black British freedman, Luther Bromley, whose search for his beloved wife had stalled on this remote Cuban island. Luther has the means to give Phin aid, but he asks a nearly impossible favor in return.

Ushering in a panoramic view of the complexities of the Civil War's impact upon the South, "Dreams of Savannah" debates the moral issues of the day using the thoughts, dreams and actions of its characters as a landscape. And what wonderful characters they turn out to be; each allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to mold their thoughts and intentions, while wielding the sword of courage and carrying the banner of compassion. Phin and Cordelia allow their less than ideal circumstances to change them for the better, so that they too might echo those words hummed that day along the sandy shore, "O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come. Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home."
*I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher. The opinions stated above are entirely my own. 4.5 stars

This story has all the elements of a fairytale set amid the Civil War. Damsels in distress , a dastardly villain and a flawed hero who returns in time to save the day.

I liked Cordelia Owens from the start. She is not quite the perfect Southern Belle. She has a vivid imagination and writes stories to help keep folks entertained during a dark time in our history. “We need happy stories in the midst of trials. They keep us going . Remind us of what we are struggling for.”

I could say the same for the purpose of Christian Fiction, and this book fits the bill nicely.

Delia comes to realize that all people have a story to tell and she seeks to help them tell it. “Stories of heartbreak and injustice, sometimes. Stories of love and family, always. Stories of redemption and sacrifice, more often than not. Stories of humanity. Stories that had changed her as she heard them, as she wrote them.”

Phineas Dunn is off to war after Delia promises to wait for him. Crisis comes and he finds himself recovering far from home. Luther Bromley, an English free black preacher in search of his kidnapped wife, Eva, nurses Phin back to health. Phin’s flagging faith is rekindled and he searches his soul on the position of slavery.

This is so much more that a great story. It is one to make you ponder a person’s role in this world, and how we can follow God’s purpose for us.
* I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House on behalf of the author. I was not required to give a favorable review. All opinions are my own.*5 stars, strong faith thread.

BackCover Blurb:
Cordelia Owens can weave a hopeful dream around anything and is well used to winning the hearts of everyone in Savannah with her whimsy. Even when she receives word that her sweetheart has been lost during a raid on a Yankee vessel, she clings to hope and comes up with many a romantic tale of his eventual homecoming to reassure his mother and sister.

But Phineas Dunn finds nothing redemptive in the first horrors of war. Struggling for months to make it home alive, he returns to Savannah injured and cynical, and all too sure that he is not the hero Cordelia seems determined to make him. Matters of black and white don't seem so simple anymore to Phin, and despite her best efforts, Delia's smiles can't erase all the complications in his life. And when Fort Pulaski falls and the future wavers, they both must decide where the dreams of a new America will take them, and if they will go together.
Bethany House Publishers, January 2021
Available in digital ebook, paperback and hardcover:

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