"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.
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.
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.