Colonel Blake Wallace has seen enough death to last a lifetime. Weary and disillusioned, he slumps beneath the weight of defeat and loss. With his entire family murdered by the North and his name appearing on a list of officers wanted for war crimes, Blake organizes a shipload of southerners who, like him, long to escape the horrors of war and start a new life in a verdant land called Brazil.
Eliza Crawford can barely remember the days of her youth spent in opulence and comfort at her Georgian home. She can’t help but wonder how different her life would be had she not met her late husband, Stanton Watts, a general in the Northern army. Now a war widow, Eliza is rejected by both North and South. Desperate to keep her marriage a secret and escape her past and pain, she hopes to start over again in Brazil.
But once the voyage begins, troubles abound. Dangers at sea and enemies from within threaten to keep Blake and Eliza from the new life—and love—they long for.
I'm not a fan of high-seas adventures nor South America as a setting, so it is a tribute to MaryLu's characterization, storytelling, and enthusiasm that I enjoyed Forsaken Dreams so much. The series is based on historical events of Southerners who moved to Brazil after the Civil War, who had nothing left for them at home and hoped to start fresh in a paradise-like environment. . . . As Eliza says to Blake, a place where you can "work hard, reap the fruit of your labors, raise children, and live in peace. Peace from others lording it over you, peace from oppression and hatred."
One of this book's strengths is its rich characterization, a colorful ensemble cast of people with a past they'd like to forget. Blake and Eliza are a good, self-sacrificing couple and make endearing lead characters. Fascinating secondary characters add much depth to this story - a doctor who can't stand the sight of blood, a con man who is almost likeable, a freed slave who is shunned by many of the passengers, and a spoiled southern belle who somewhat redeems herself. I am eager to see how MaryLu develops these characters and others as their pasts and motives are slowly revealed.
Spiritual themes are well developed in this story. After all he had experienced in the war, Blake "decided that either God did not exist or He simply didn't care about the affairs of men." Eliza has grown a lot since her years of youthful rebellion, but she struggles as she faces its consequences and lasting effects. I enjoyed seeing Eliza's sacrificial care of passengers who hated her, and the prayer meeting in the hold of the ship was a highlight.
Since I love cats, I can't fail to mention how much I liked the presence of the little stowaway cat, appropriately named "Stowy."
Forsaken Dreams reaches a satisfying conclusion, but many storylines will be continued in the next book, Elusive Hope, which releases November 2013.
From characterization and plot, to setting and adventure, this is an enjoyable read and I am eager for the next book to be released. Recommended to all fans of inspirational fiction.
MaryLu gives some insight about this series on her website . . .
Q: What inspired the storyline for your new series?
A: History. Nearly three million Southerners migrated from the devastation of the South following the Civil War. Close to twenty thousand of them went to Brazil where the Emperor welcomed them with open arms, the farm land was plentiful, and the temperate climate mimicked their own weather back home. Though most ended up returning home, several thousand remained, and their descendants still live there today.
A: Escape to Paradise is like nothing I’ve ever written before. The six main characters, the hero and heroine in each book, have a huge presence in each of the three books, so by the end of the series, the reader will know them all really well, as well as several of the secondary characters. Secondly, and more importantly, this series contains a lot of supernatural elements—curses, angels, visions, demonic battles—which I have not put in any of my other books.
A: An exotic locale, powerful secrets held by each character, a strong spiritual theme that runs through all three books, cannibals, evil temples, visions, angels, demons, prophecies, and a supernatural battle. Doesn’t sound like romance novels, does it? Yet, readers can still expect to find all the adventure and romance they normally enjoy from one of my books.
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To learn more about MaryLu and her books, visit her website at marylutyndall.com. Another enjoyable resource is her blog, crossandcutlass.blogspot.com.
This book was provided by MaryLu Tyndall and BookFun.org in exchange for my honest review.