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A Southern Belle Searching for Her Lost Love - an Editorial Review of "Conecuh"

Book Blurb:

Bronze Medal winner, 2020 eLit Literary Awards, Historical Fiction.

Emily Rose roams through a country ravaged by war, a damaged land where the very grass blades drink the blood of brothers, cousins, and friends. Protected only by her wits and Nathaniel Whiteeagle, a slave with Cherokee blood, Emily swears she will find her fiancé and buy his freedom. Facing danger at each turn, every clue she follows leaves her another step behind. Will she ever find Caleb? Can Caleb endure the unthinkable cruelty of civil war prisons long enough for her to rescue him? Or will she and Nathaniel meet a violent end?

Conecuh (Cah-NECK-ah ) is a story woven around and through the actual events in the mysterious and ironic life of Private Caleb Garner, CSA, during the most tumultuous time in American history. Whatever happened to Caleb? History has left us blind, but there are clues. Conecuh explores one very real possibility.

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Editorial Review:

Emily turned silent. Just the mention of the word 'kill' did something inside her. Caleb was walking straight into a war, a place where people killed other people. It seemed so bad, so useless, so wasteful.

Many young men who go off to fight in a war know little of the real reasons for their fight, as was the case for the American Civil War. Very few soldiers and their families owned slaves, so the fight to uphold slavery from a young Confederate boy's outlook was, in truth, not his fight... but the allure of sacking a few Yankees and the supposed adventure caused thousands to enlist. Among the list, in actual history, is a young man named Caleb Garner from Conecuh County in Alabama whose actual history and fate is unknown; however, the author takes this bit of history and develops a story around what possibly happened to this young Private in the Confederate army, as well as his back history and the love of his life, Emily Rose.

Why observing the ragged, filthy, animalistic Confederate soldiers was so popular among the town's female population was beyond John Murray's comprehension. The Rebels were not attractive, well-bred, or well-groomed gentlemen. The animals the Southern soldiers had become, in most cases always had been, were disgusting to look at, the lowest of the low. It made no sense. But, sense or not, the ladies crowded onto the enterprising observation towers that had been set up outside Barracks Number Three, built on platforms high enough to afford a good view over the prison wall.

When Caleb goes missing, Emily Rose makes the dangerous decision to go in search of him, along with Nathaniel Whiteeagle, a half-black, half-Cherokee emancipated slave, and she determines she will do whatever it takes to find him.

No longer able to endure the rigors of battle, Caleb was not required to return to the front. He was a free man. But what good was being free when he could not get back to Alabama? All Caleb wanted was to see his home again, to see his mother and father and to stand out on the orange soil that made them work so hard. And, most of all, to hug Emily Rose and find out if she still wanted this half-broken man. But at ever turn, something seemed to stand in the way of reaching Conecuh County. He was beginning to wonder, as he had done many times in battle and even more so in prison, if he would ever see his home again.

Mr Hughes does a good job in providing a reader with an entertaining story, wrapping the possible history of this young man with details of some of the more famous battles of the Civil War, along with the grim nature of the POW camps after Caleb is taken prisoner. Is is when Emily receives word of his capture and imprisonment that she decides to procure his release, but afterwards, dangers still follows them as a renegade Yankee soldier seeks to continue the battle on a more personal level.

She looked up at a flock of blackbirds taking to the air, going out for the day. The birds didn't care about war, about the ugly scars men cut into the earth, cut into themselves and their hearts. Their existence was so simple. They flew out every morning in search of food. They congregated at night to rest.

For fans of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain, this is another adventure into how the Civil War changed lives and separated families and lovers. Mr Hughes's writing is very fluid and descriptive, an easy book to read in one sitting, and the characters truly come to life in the pages of this book. Using the different characters in comparison and in relation to each other – a true Southern belle, a ravaged Confederate soldier, a vengeful Yankee, and a insightful and brave Cherokee slave – Hughes definitely gives us an insight into how alike people really are and that injustice and inequality is wrong. Also, if you are a fan of Gone With the Wind, you will see a bit of the Scarlet-like grit in Emily, but you will definitely get the undertones of Inman and Ada's story from Frazier's book.


“Conecuh” by Herb Hughes receives 4.25 stars from The Historical Fiction Company

Author Bio:

Author Herb Hughes, an Alabama native, worked in the computer industry for over two decades before leaving to create a successful private business. He later sold his business to focus on writing novels.

From Mr. Hughes:

"Since the time I was a teenager, stories have swirled around in my mind. It was embarrassing when called upon in a business meeting, and I was so deep into my imagination, I had no idea what the group had been discussing or what they wanted me to contribute.

Now, several novels later, I find the process of creation more compelling and more interesting than ever. I write in the present, but my stories are about the past and the future: historical fiction and science fiction. I find both fascinating.

For historical fiction, I enjoy most eras but prefer the civil war. It is such a profound part of our past. The chasm that was created still features prominently in our thinking today.

My science fiction is not the typical galactic shoot-'em-up. I prefer to explore the paths less traveled.

If you are looking for something a little different, and if your interests are as varied as mine, I invite you to join me on one or more of my adventures."

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