Lee County Elegy

By Courtney Allen

Book Blurb

From Courtney Allen, the author of the award-winning novel, Down From The Mountain, comes Lee County Elegy, which is an equal work in depth, character portrayal, and historical fiction. This novel follows the morally challenging account of the Grayson family, of how they survive in the rural south during the Great Depression, and by what means they overcome a life of unfavorable consequences. In the beginning, Mac Grayson suffers a critical lumberyard accident that leaves him helpless to support his farm and family. Due to the onslaught of the weakening economy, land values plummet and the bank threatens foreclosure. During a drought, a bitter dispute with a wealthy landowner concerning water access to the Flint River becomes a contentious argument, and volatile tensions mount. In order to survive, an agreement must be met, but Mac must negotiate and risk the well-being of his family to assuage their neighbor’s divisiveness. In this story, the Grayson’s are faced with few resources and endless controversies fraught with dire consequences that create challenges almost impossible to overcome. Filled with page-turning suspense and unyielding dilemmas, the ends required to endure are made by difficult choices, and the honor of each character is brought into question as the story unfolds. This depression era novel is of sorrow and redemption, struggle and hardship, of love and loss. The pace is fast, the heart of the book strong, and the ending bittersweet yet satisfyingly triumphant. For historical fiction lovers, Lee County Elegy is worth reading.

Blurb from Goodreads.

My Review

In this beautifully detailed historical novel about the depression era and the hard times that fell on everyone, we meet Myra Grayson who is the central character in the story.  Maclin and Ila Mae Grayson adopted Myra when she was just 3 years old.  She had two older brothers, Arden and Cade.  Times were tough.  Ila Mae was long ago institutionalized in another town for dementia and Myra, a young teen, was left to care for Maclin who had been in a horrible “accident” and left with permanent disabilities.  She had the responsibility of caring for their home, preparing meals, and doing some of the farm work.  When the depression hit, things went downhill quickly.  Arden left to bring Ila Mae back home when the institution could no longer take care of her financially.  Cade took off after an unfortunate incident and left Myra to fend for herself and Maclin.

Jack Waylon, their neighbor, had his eye on their land because of the natural supply of water he wanted access to for his farm.  There was a long history of conflict between Maclin and Jack and Maclin refused the access and threatened Jack if he stepped foot on his land.  This set the stage for the rest of the story.

I found the characters to be well developed and believable.  Myra showed an incredible amount of resilience and such a soft side. At times, I felt if I could reach in and give her a hug or a pat on the back, her life would have been easier, if only for a moment. Maclin often seemed gruff but considering his situation, it made his character come to life. I felt Arden and Cade got a lot of attention in the beginning, but then, for the most part, seemed to drop out of the story, being resurrected now and again.  Jack Waylon had a strong Jekyll and Hyde persona.  He was a character I loved to hate, one I could have pulled out of the book and smacked around.

I had a difficult time getting into the story, unusual for one of Courtney Allen’s books.  It started off slowly with a great deal of description and a story that seemed to be going nowhere. I was concerned about whether the story would ever pique my interest.  As the storyline took precedence, I became intrigued and couldn’t put Lee County Elegy down.

As always, the author researched the era and the locale with great attention to detail.  Though life was difficult in the cities, it was much harder felt in the rural areas.  These contrasts were well documented in the story.

Because I almost lost interest before the story reeled me in, I am giving this book four stars.  I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Disclaimer

I was given a copy of Lee County Elegy by the author in exchange for my honest review. 
I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

 

About the Author

Courtney Allen lives with his family in Atlanta, Georgia. He has been writing for many years and has written several other books.

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The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley

By Susan Örnbratt

The Particular Appeal of Gillian PugsleyBlurb

From the shores of The Great Lakes to the slums of Bombay and a tiny island in between, this love story takes the reader on an intimate journey to unravel a family secret that’s lain hidden for generations.

To satisfy her wandering feet, eighteen-year old Gillian McAllister is sent from Ireland to Canada in the summer of 1932.  She arrives with her Irish ways intact, determined not to let the wiles of crop duster Christian Hunter woo her into submission.  Yet as the summer unfolds and the sweet taste of love grows, Gillian’s appeal lures more than she anticipates.

Fourteen years, a Great Depression, and a World War later, Christian sets out to discover why Gillian was ripped from his life.  What he discovers on the Isle of Man will change them both forever.  Not even a thatched cottage by the sea, a spritely Gillian, or memories sprinkled on a page can mask the secret that has been buried for too long.  But it isn’t until a set of poems is given to Gillian’s granddaughter that the real mystery––Gillian’s true secret––is freed.

So who is Pugsley?

Review

Plot:  I read some other reviews and the blurb for The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley, and decided this was a “must read.” When the author contacted me to ask if I would be interested in reviewing her book, I didn’t hesitate.  I loved the story.  It is definitely my kind of book, containing a mix of genres – historical fiction and romance. What could be better?   The book did not disappoint. There is some mystery to the story, but it is eventually brought to light.  The story was, at times, exciting with lots of surprises, and at other times, melancholy, but not overly so.  The way the author kept going back and forth from present time (2003) to the early days of the story (1931-32 and 1946) kept my interest in overdrive. The transitions were smooth and easy to follow.

Characters:  What made this book so enjoyable for me is that it is character driven.  Gillian McAllister Pugsley, is seen as strong and independent with a lot of love to give, but will she find Mr. Right, and if she does, will she let him back into her life?  Christian Hunter is everything a young girl could hope to find – handsome, strong, interesting, romantic, daring.  As the story progressed, the characters grew with it, and this increased their believability.

Writing:  I loved the way the book was set up.  A poem written by the author’s grandmother preceded each chapter.  The story was easy to follow even though it kept changing back and forth between times, and sometimes from other characters’ point of view.

Author BioSusan Örnbratt

Susan Örnbratt was born in London, Canada and grew up on the dance floor until her brother’s high school rowing crew needed a coxswain. Quickly, she traded in her ballet shoes for a megaphone as rowing filled all of Susan’s time outside of school while competing in regattas across Canada and the US. When she was 16, Susan became a member of the Junior National Rowing Team and went on to compete in the Junior and Senior World Championships and the XIII Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Scotland.

A graduate from the University of Western Ontario in French and the University of Manitoba in elementary education, as well as attending L’Université Blaise Pascal Clermont-Ferrand II in France while she worked as a fille au pair, Susan has gone on to teach and live in six countries.

Although a maple leaf will forever be stitched on her heart, she has called Sweden her home for the past sixteen years with a recent three-year stint in North Carolina, USA for her husband’s work. It was there, where Susan wrote her second and third novels while achieving her long time goal of signing with a publisher for The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley.

Susan lives in Gothenburg with her husband and two children and an apple tree nibbled on by the local moose population.  If she isn’t shooing away the beasts, you can find her in her garden with some pruning shears, a good book and always a cup of tea. If Susan were dried out, she could be brewed.

Author:  Susan Örnbratt

Title:  The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley

No illustrator

Format:  Paperback and e-Book

Publisher:  Light Messages Publishing

Publication Date:  April 23, 2015

Number of Pages:  329

Genre:  Historical women’s fiction

 

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The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Michelle Clements James ©