Audiobook Review: Touched with Fire (The Fire Trilogy #1) by Christopher Datta

Audiobook Review: Touched with Fire (The Fire Trilogy #1) by Christopher DattaSource: Novel Publicity

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Title: Touched with Fire by Christopher Datta
Series: The Fire Trilogy, #1
Release Date: December 07, 2016
Pages: • Format: 11 hrs and 12 mins (Audiobook)
Published By: Christopher Datta
Purchase Links:   Amazon USBarnes & NobleAudible

Ellen Craft is property; in this case, of her half-sister Debra, to whom she was given as a wedding gift. The illegitimate daughter of a Georgia plantation owner and a house slave, she learned to hate her own image, which so closely resembled that of her “father”: the same wiry build, the same blue eyes, and the same pale – indeed, lily-white – skin. Ellen lives a solitary life until she falls, unexpectedly, in love with a dark-skinned slave named William Craft, and together they devise a plan to run north. Ellie will pose as a gentleman planter bound for Philadelphia accompanied by his “boy” Will. They make it as far as Baltimore when Will is turned back, and Ellie has no choice but continue. With no way of knowing if he is dead or alive, she resolves to make a second journey – south again. And so Elijah Craft enlists with the 125th Ohio Volunteers of the Union Army: she will literally fight her way back to her husband.

Eli/Ellie’s journey is the story of an extraordinary individual and an abiding love, but also of the corrosive effects of slavery, and of a nation at a watershed moment.

three-stars
I have mixed feelings about this audiobook. I am so glad the author took on the story of Ellie Craft and weaved an incredible story of heroism. But that is also part of the problem for me, parts of it were just that, unbelievable. The first part of this book was focused on Ellie as a young slave girl trying to navigate and come to terms with where she fit in with her family and community. The second part of the book was so heavy on war facts. I didn’t quite enjoy the second part as much because I couldn’t buy Ellie as union soldier hiding in plain sight so to speak. The narrator’s voice was okay but the singing parts grated my nerves.

I found the author’s writing to be basic and rough in the beginning, but in the second part of the story, the author found his groove. In addition, the characters in this story under developed and too one dimensional. even Ellie. The slaves, Ellie’s sister, even Ellie’s actions were either black and white (pun aside). The slaves, Ellie’s sister, even Ellie’s actions were either black and white (pun aside). I found the transitions from scene to scene to be uneven. It just didn’t flow smoothly. It got better later in the book.

Ellen was born a “quadroon”, one quarter black and three quarters white. Ellie was born to a half white slave woman who was raped by her owner. The result was that Elle looked white, a fact that made clear her parentage. For most of her young life, Ellie felt angry that she wasn’t acknowledge by her father as his daughter, even though she knew she was a product of rape. Ellie was also angry at her half-sister for treating her like help, and not recognizing her as her sister and perhaps equal. It just doesn’t compute with what we know of slave paternity issues back then. If you were born of a slave, it doesn’t matter if you have white, you were still a slave and almost never acknowledged. The internal musings of why her father didn’t accept or acknowledge her as his own painted Elle as a child who saw herself as more than a slave. This also supports the other slaves claim that Ellie was uppity and thought she was better. Ellie never bothered to deny these assertions, thus incurred the scorn of the other slaves. So, for the first part of her life, Ellie didn’t see herself as a black slave.

When Ellie was barely a young adult, she had a violent encounter with the creepy Reverend. She began espousing views on her blackness that come out of nowhere to me. But this is part of the story I enjoyed most, When Ellie and William become a couple. There was love with this couple and I enjoyed seeing Ellie for the first time show genuine affection, need and concern for someone else. He made her appear vulnerable and more human so I liked this Ellie. Their attempt to seek freedom required Ellie to pass both as a white person and as a man, that’s when things went implausible for me. It’s one thing to for an illiterate slave to pass as a white person, but as a white slave owner and man travelling. There is more to pretending to be a man than wearing clothes. But Ellie pulled it off for six years as Eli where she was fighting, sleeping and leaving among other men. Either way, I couldn’t connect with Ellie as a young girl nor as this cantankerous union soldier. I really wanted to like her because I had empathy for her plight, but she just always came off as self-centered to me.

The ending of this story got predictable but it was satisfying. This subject matter is a sensitive one and I think the author gave the reader a hero to root for. I just would have liked a little more realism in emotion and actions by the characters. I haven’t read the actual account of Ellen Craft because I didn’t want it to color my opinion of this book. My opinions are based solely on my experience with this author’s narrative.

Tour and Giveaway: Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins with Review

Tour and Giveaway: Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins with Review five-stars
Enter to Win a $25.00 e`Gift Card to Choice Book Seller

 FORBIDDEN

Beverly Jenkins
Releasing on January 26, 2016
Avon 

USA Today bestselling author Beverly Jenkins returns with the first book in a breathtaking new series set in the Old West

Rhine Fontaine is building the successful life he’s always dreamed of—one that depends upon him passing for White. But for the first time in years, he wishes he could step out from behind the façade. The reason: Eddy Carmichael, the young woman he rescued in the desert. Outspoken, defiant, and beautiful, Eddy tempts Rhine in ways that could cost him everything . . . and the price seems worth paying.

Eddy owes her life to Rhine, but she won’t risk her heart for him. As soon as she’s saved enough money from her cooking, she’ll leave this Nevada town and move to California. No matter how handsome he is, no matter how fiery the heat between them, Rhine will never be hers. Giving in for just one night might quench this longing. Or it might ignite an affair as reckless and irresistible as it is forbidden . . .

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REVIEW:
This was my first book by Beverly Jenkins and it was all I had hoped for and more! It was an awesome story, not just because of the love, but because of historical accuracy, and intentional tactfulness in which the author dealt with the time period’s racial tension. I loved that world building and carefully developed, yet complex characters she gave us here.

Rhine Fontaine was a son a slave master and a slave who found out around 8 yrs old that he was light enough to pass as white. So after he finished his tour in the Civil war, he moved away from his hometown and began to “pass” as white man. He built a successful life and only a couple of people knew his secret. One day, he rescued a woman who had passed out from heat and exhaustion, and thus began his introduction to Miss Eddy Carmichael.

Eddy was on her way to California to build a life as a cook. Eddy was a strong and hard working woman who wanted more out of her life and she had no qualms about working towards it. On her journey to California, she was robbed of all her money and left out in the heat to die. When Rhine and his business partner rescued her, Eddy was given an opportunity to stay in town and make a little money to aid her in her dream of opening her own restaurant in California.

The only problem was how she was going to fight her attraction to the green eyed white man who was always being so kind and attentive to her; a dangerous thing in these times where blacks and whites were not accepted as equals enough to be together. Eddy wasn’t the only one with the dilemma; Rhine was engaged to woman from a powerful political family whom he needed to continue to push his agenda of gaining equality for the recently freed black people. He couldn’t be with Eddy if he was “white” and he couldn’t continue as a champion his initiatives as a Representative if he was known to be “black”. What path will Rhine choose to follow?

I loved this story. This time period the 1870’s can be very emotional for me as I find the topics painful. I always assumed that once black people passed, their lives were carefree and they had achieved that which everyone so desperately yearns for: equality, respect and a fairer opportunity for social mobility. I found that so selfish but then again, I couldn’t begrudge anyone their opportunity to be treated with dignity that they already deserved as a human being. But for the first time, the author enlightened me to the obstacles and sacrifices people who Passed made.
I had never considered that before so it was interesting seeing Rhine’s inner turmoil. He was a kind and compassionate person, and was working the best way he knew to change the system from the inside. What a battle it was to do so, and maintain his secret. Now Eddy made him want a different life.

Eddy was such a fascinating character. She had inner strength and a tough outer shell. She had been hurt and taken advantage of before, so Rhine had to work hard to gain her trust and ultimately her admiration.

“I am a woman of color, a hard shell is necessary!”

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The pace of the story was just right. I never felt bored, nor was I filled with angst. I loved how the love grew and wasn’t one of those insta-love stories. Both characters had to let down their armor to experience this and they did! I was just looking forward to the choices the characters had to make and to see how those choices impacted the dreams that Eddy and Rhine had for themselves as individuals. The writing was just smooth as I could picture the story as a movie. This book felt so real and just resonated within me as I reflected on it. This is what I love in HRs, a history lesson and a great love story. I cannot believe this is my first book this author, but it certainly won’t be my last.

Ms. Jenkins is the nation’s premier writer of African American historical romance fiction and specializes in 19th century African American life. She has over thirty published novels to date.

 She has received numerous awards, including: five Waldenbooks/Borders Group Best Sellers Awards; two Career Achievement Awards and a Pioneer Award from Romantic Times Magazine; a Golden Pen Award from the Black Writer’s Guild, and in 1999 was named one of the Top Fifty Favorite African-American writers of the 20th Century by AABLC, the nation’s largest on-line African-American book club.
 
She has also been featured in many national publications, including the Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, Dallas Morning News and Vibe Magazine. She has lectured and given talks at such prestigious universities as Oberlin University, the University of Illinois, and Princeton. She speaks widely on both romance and 19th century African-American history and was the 2014 featured speaker for the W.W. Law Lecture Series sponsored by the Savannah Black Heritage Festival.