The Bloggers (the term used for our band of blogging women who took SIBA by storm this year) met Taylor Polities at the welcome reception held the first evening of SIBA. He was a little nervous. He had just finished his first novel "The Rebel Wife", and this was sort of his launch party, if you will. But we struck up a great conversation with him, and soon learned that this guy had a passion for the South and all things Gone With the Wind, and was a vivacious and hilariously funny guy. We adopted him as our own.
It is probably an understatement to say that I was excited to see what Taylor had to offer. If his personality had any bearing, I knew I was in for a delightful read.
Synopsis: Back during the years of prosperity before the Civil War, Augusta "Gus" Branson was once a society girl, born in a family of wealth and power. Her friendships and dreams are dashed when it is arranged that she marry a much older man whom she does not love. After the end of the war, in Reconstruction Alabama, her husband suddenly dies of a mysterious blood disease, possibly a plague, and Gus's life is turned upside down. She discovers that in fact her husband was a scalawag and has left her penniless.
Except there is rumor of a large sum of money that was hidden by her husband before he died, and everyone wants to find it. People who Gus thought she could trust...friends, family, even her servants...all seem to be ready to stab her in the back for personal gain. She is faced with hatred, bigotry, greed, corruption, and a war that never really ended, her lone ally a reserved and wise servant. Gus must take a breath and summon the courage to protect her son and herself from those who want to ruin her, or possibly even kill her.
My thoughts: I'd say it takes some serious skills for a modern male author to channel an antebellum female trying to survive in the 1860's, but Taylor has done it. And done it well. Gus is a protagonist that the reader can invest in. In some ways she is a product of her time, fearful of speaking up for herself and believing that it is her duty to take advice from men. She has moments of weakness, but when the going gets tough, she kicks ass. I was doing mental fist pumps every ten minutes towards the end of the book.
Taylor has also created an incredibly authentic, atmospheric setting for us. There is a drought. It is suffocatingly hot. There is an epidemic that is scaring the hell out of people. You feel Gus's paranoia and tension closing in on you, and it builds slowly and maddeningly throughout the duration of the story. I felt genuine FURY towards those who wanted to hurt Gus. Inspiring this kind of emotion is a tribute to Taylor's talent as an up-and-coming writer. I for one cannot wait for his next book. A sequel? I sure hope so.
4 out of 5 stars