Somerset by Leila Meacham
ARC, e-Book, 625 pages
Grand Central Publishing
February 4, 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction, Family Saga
Source: Received for review via Netgalley request
“One hundred fifty years of Roses' Tolivers, Warwicks, and DuMonts! We begin in the antebellum South on Plantation Alley in South Carolina, where Silas Toliver, deprived of his inheritance, joins up with his best friend Jeremy Warwick to plan a wagon train expedition to the "black waxy" promise of a new territory called Texas. Slavery, westward expansion, abolition, the Civil War, love, marriage, friendship, tragedy and triumph-all the ingredients (and much more) that made so many love Roses so much-are here in abundance.”
I LOVED Roses and was supremely excited when I heard that Somerset, the prequel to Roses, was coming out in 2014. The story of the Warwicks, Tolivers, and DuMonts was just calling for more to the story. I was thrilled when my request for the book was accepted by the publisher, and then…it sat in my Kindle bookshelf and aged. I was so excited to read it, but I think I also held back because I didn’t want it to ruin how I had felt about Roses. When trying to select the book I would read while on my honeymoon, I knew it had to be Somerset – it was the right time.
I LOVED Somerset just as much as Roses, but in a different way. The characters and writing were the same level of awesome, but while Roses was more of a romance story, Somerset was a story of westward expansion and the foundation of 3 Texas dynasties. Of course there were romantic elements, but the story had a different feel for sure. The novel just oozes southern cultural history – of both the plantation owners as well as the slaves/emancipated servants who worked on the plantations. There is a clear passion for the cotton industry which is palpable on every page.
The real heft of the plot is the “curse” on the Tolivers. We are introduced to it in Roses, however we get to the origin of the curse in Somerset. The pages flew by due to the author’s writing style and the fact that the dialogue always feels natural. The novel ends just after the birth of Mary, the main character in Roses, and I felt that it was the perfect breaking point. I highly recommend reading Roses first – not because it would be confusing to read Somerset first – but because I think that the revelations in Somerset are more rewarding if you already know what happened in Roses.
And isn’t the cover just divine!
Author Leila Meacham also has written Roses and Tumbleweeds.
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