Friday, September 19, 2014

Of Blood and Brothers: Book Two - E. Michael Helms

Summary:  Following the unexpected death of his father, reporter Calvin Hogue is eager to resume writing his weekly serial featuring Daniel and Elijah Malburn, brothers who fought for opposing armies during the Civil War some six decades ago.

After its resounding victory at Chickamauga and subsequent defeat at Lookout Mountain/Missionary Ridge, the Confederate Army of Tennessee has fallen back to winter quarters at Dalton, Georgia. Spring arrives, and with it come thousands of fresh Union troops to reinforce the armies under the command of General William T. Sherman. Soon the Federals launch a relentless offensive against the greatly outnumbered Confederate army, determined to take the vital railhead at Atlanta.

The Confederates make the first of many valiant stands at Resaca, but are flanked and forced to retreat toward Atlanta. During a fierce battle near the small town of Dallas, Daniel suffers a severe head wound. His “pards” report he’s been killed, but he comes to and is captured. Sent north to Rock Island Prison, Daniel faces a new war—surviving the harsh conditions and cruelties to which the Southern captives are subjected.

After unwillingly leading Union forces on a raid through the Econfina Valley, the Malburns’ lifelong home, Elijah learns the Federals’ next objective is to capture the Florida capital of Tallahassee. The Confederates confront the invaders south of the city at Natural Bridge, and after a vicious battle win a striking victory. Elijah survives the fight, but he’s had enough of a war he wanted no part of. With Union forces scattering in disarray, he and beloved family slave Jefferson desert and set out for home.

The South finally surrenders, but the peace is far from won. Freed from prison, an expectant Daniel faces an arduous, year-long trek home only to find his dreams shattered and his world forever changed.

Trouble stalks the Malburns in post-war Florida. Amid the violent days of Reconstruction, Daniel and Elijah face continuing conflict, family turmoil and heart-wrenching tragedy as they struggle toward a hard-earned and costly reconciliation.  (Summary and Image from goodreads.com.  I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.)

My Review:  I found myself giddy to receive the concluding book of E. Michael Helms' series Of Blood and Brothers.  I was so excited to find out how the brothers would reunite (praying it wouldn't be on a battlefield), what would happen with Annie, and I wanted to know what caused the rift I sensed in the first novel.

Helms has done a great job continuing the brothers' stories and propelling the overall story of the Malburn family forward.  I appreciate seeing different sides of the war than I'm used to (Daniel's time in Rock Island and his journey home), and I was fascinated by his journey home.  Elijah's desertion felt so organic I didn't even question what he was doing, which surprised me.  The grief that the Malburn family feels upon receiving the erroneous news of Daniel's death shook me.

I also appreciated the story continuing on through the Reconstruction, detailing the stress, the worry, and the boiling animosity between the South and the encroaching carpetbaggers.  Unfortunately, the story switched points of view so quickly during this section I found myself confused more than once whether it was Danny or Eli wreaking havoc.  The conclusion to the arc was dramatic and sorrowing ... but the overall conclusion felt a little trite.  I guess it's because I was expecting more of an understanding as to the rift between brothers that I sensed in the first book.  Either I imagined that rift, or that storyline was unresolved.  

My Rating: Three stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  Wartime battles, postwar and POW violence, and cold-blooded murders.

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