Monday, July 19, 2010

Promise Bridge by Eileen Clymer Schwab

book cover

Promise Bridge
by Eileen Clymer Schwab

Trade Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: NAL Trade Paperback
First Released: July 2010

Author Website

Source: Advanced Reads Copy from publisher.

Book Description, Highly Modified from Back Cover:
A novel of rare friendship, unexpected risk, and the remarkable bonds that define a life.

"This is a promise bridge, and it bridges a promise flowing from your heart to mine. It can't never be broken...the promise is part of you now, understand."

Hannelore Blessing's act of compassion toward a badly injured runaway slave is sealed by a promise to her brother to protect her. This begins an unlikely friendship between a young plantation mistress and a slave girl named Livie. Through Livie, Hannah sees for the first time what life is really like for slaves and her heart rebels against her inability to do much about it.

Protecting Livie from being identified as a runaway and returned to her cruel master is harder than Hannah expected. As Hannah learns more about the Underground Railroad, she decides she must help Livie gain freedom and safety even if it means letting her friend go.

Hannah is aided by Colt, a devoted suitor hoping to win her heart. But a neighbor--a vicious slave catcher--stalks both Hannah and Livie. His unseemly motives and relentless pursuit threaten all that Hannah holds dear.

Promise Bridge is a historical set in the pre-Civil War South, but it also has some romance and suspense. The world-building was excellent, with the details of the setting and historical social and everyday details bringing the story alive in my imagination without slowing the pace. I think the author did an excellent job portraying both the good and the bad of the pre-Civil War American South (and North) without that ever seeming like it was the point of the story. It was the backdrop.

The characters were realistic and dealt with realistic problems. The "good" characters were likable, and I cared what happened to them. There were periods of danger and high suspense, but there were also lulls of safety filled mainly with interesting interactions as Hannah learned to see reality.

There was a very minor amount of cussing and swearing. There was no explicit sex. Overall, I'd recommend this novel as well-written, fairly clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Life at it very core changed forever the day I asked "please" of a colored man. I intended no harm or outrage; my manners got the better of me is all. In fact, the cedar mounts cradling Echo Ridge all but quaked the moment the words floated from my careless lips as I eased a heavy bundle toward Winston's outstretched arms. His playful eyes stoned into a stunned gaze, and though with two hasty blinks the ever-present smile recovered across his mahogany face, my heart sank into the pit of my stomach as his eyes hedged from mine and braced for the inevitable.

On the steps of the general store behind me, Twitchell Grayson stood with his worn snakeskin boot fixed heavily on a stool. Winston's son, Elijah, knelt at Twitch's crooked heel, wiping away dusty clumps of dried clay as best he could with a fistful of oil rag in his capable ten-year-old hand. Following Winston's glance, I turned in time to see Twitch's jaw clench fiercely around the stub of a cigar wedged beneath the coarse charcoal mustache thicketed like a horseshoe around a barely recognizable mouth.

"You forget your place, boy?" Twitch kicked the stool against a crested apple barrel wedged along side the mercantile door. Poor Elijah tumbled backward onto his threadbare britches as an avalanche of ripe red apples plunked down around him.

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