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From the Low Country to the Deep South - an Editorial Review of "The Last Laird of Sapelo"

Book Blurb:

The Last Laird of Sapelo is based on the tragic story of Randolph Spalding, the youngest son of Georgia's most well-known antebellum-era coastal planter and influential political figure, Thomas Spalding. Following his father's death in 1851, Randolph parlays his father's fame and gifted landholdings on Sapelo Island, hobnobbing from Charleston to Savannah to Milledgeville and ultimately failing to thwart Georgia's decision to follow South Carolina into secession by early 1861.

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Author Bio:

T. M. Brown, Mike to friends and family, embraces his Georgia heritage, thanks to the paternal branches of his family tree. Mike recalls his childhood when on many warm Sunday afternoons his father drove the family beyond Stone Mountain to his Great-Uncle’s farm. Though the dust-filled, red clay back roads of Snellville, GA, now widened and paved over the subsequent decades, Mike fondly recalls getting bitten by barb-wire pasture fences, sipping cool well-water from a ladle, and getting scrubbed in a washtub near the front stoop of Uncle Kerry’s and Aunt Monk’s old farmhouse.

Retired since 2014 from the 9-to-5 life, Mike and his wife Connie live below Atlanta near Newnan, Georgia. Creating his fictional rural town of Shiloh and its cast of memorable characters has conjured up many near-forgotten memories, and thanks to recollections of his Pop and Poppa, the truth they espoused to Mike as a young man resonates in his stories — “The testament of a man lies not in the magnitude of possessions and property left to his heirs, but the reach of his legacy long after his death.”

His new book, a historical novel, The Last Laird of Sapelo, is based on the life of Randolph Spalding of Sapelo Island fame. The story dramatically portrays the challenges he and his family faced after Georgia seceded from the Union. Though Randolph and his famous father were against secession, he faces the challenges of preserving his land, family's legacy, and the people who had sworn to protect while defending his beloved Georgia against the approaching Union navy in the first months of the War Between the States. Koehler Books, July 2023.

Shiloh Mystery Series: Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories (Jan 2018); Testament, An Unexpected Return (March 2018); Purgatory, A Progeny's Quest (February 2022).

Presenting author at 2017 & 2018 Decatur Book Festival, 2017 Milton Literary Festival, 2018 Dahlonega Literary Festival, 2022 Southern Lit Fest, 2022 & 2023 Sharpsburg Book Fair, and Carrollton BookFest 2023. Member of the Atlanta Writers Club, Georgia Writers Association, Columbus Writers Club, Southeastern Writers Association, and Broadleaf Writers Association (ATL). Founding President of Hometown Novel Writers Association, Inc. based in Newnan, GA; Board of Trustees member of Newnan Carnegie Library Foundation.

Christian Suspense Book of the Year 2017 finalist, Reviews & Interviews; nominated for Georgia Author of the Year in 2018, and 2018 Best Book Award Finalist, for Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories. Runner-up for the Hal Barnard Fiction Award, June 2019 by the Southeastern Writers Association and 2021 Silver Falchion Suspense Book of the Year Award Finalist for Purgatory, A Progeny's Quest at Killer Nashville.

Please visit for updates and to subscribe to his Southern Ponderings. You can also find him on Facebook @TMBrownAuthor and Instagram @T.M.Brown.Author.

Editorial Review:

T.M. Brown's "The Last Laird of Sapelo" is an exquisitely crafted historical epic that delves into the tumultuous period of the American Civil War. Set against the backdrop of the Southern cotton trade, the novel follows the Spalding family led by the charismatic Colonel Randolph Spalding. As they face the impending war and the threat of the Union blockade, the Spaldings grapple with the legacy of their plantation empire built on the back of slavery.

From the outset, the novel crafts a gripping narrative that captures the essence of the antebellum South. As news of Lincoln's naval blockade reaches the Spalding family, Brown meticulously builds the tension between loyalty to Georgia's self-determination and the growing unrest over the reliance on slavery for cotton production. Randolph, the patriarch of the family, contemplates his father's legacy as a successful planter and the weight of responsibility that comes with being the laird of Sapelo Island.

Throughout the book, the characters' depth and complexity shine brightly. The novel is not merely a tale of historical events; it is a rich tapestry of human emotions, relationships, and personal struggles.

At the heart of the story, Colonel Randolph Spalding, the laird of Sapelo Island, wrestles with a profound internal conflict that deeply impacts the course of the novel. As a man of privilege and authority in the antebellum South, Randolph's position as a plantation owner and master of slaves has bestowed upon him a sense of duty to protect and preserve the family legacy and its vast cotton empire. However, with the Civil War looming on the horizon, he begins to question the moral implications of his way of life.

Randolph's personal journey is a complex one, and T.M. Brown delves into his psyche, presenting readers with a multi-layered character whose struggles and growth are at the crux of the narrative. At the outset, Randolph's identity is tightly bound to his role as the laird of Sapelo, and he carries the weight of generations of Spaldings who built their wealth on the backs of enslaved people. His loyalty to his family's traditions and his duty to protect their interests are at odds with the growing unrest among the workers on the island, some of whom he considers friends.

As rumors of the Union blockade and the potential for slave uprisings reach Sapelo Island, Randolph's anxieties intensify. The safety of his family and the workers becomes a paramount concern, and he grapples with the stark reality that the world he knows is changing rapidly. He is torn between wanting to shield his loved ones from harm and realizing that his decisions have far-reaching consequences for the people who have toiled on his plantation.

Throughout the novel, Brown masterfully illustrates how Randolph's perceptions and beliefs begin to shift as he witnesses the effects of the war on both the white and black communities. He develops a growing empathy for his workers, recognizing their humanity and the injustices they endure under the system of slavery. These internal conflicts lead to moments of soul-searching, as he questions the true nature of his family's legacy and his place in the changing world.

Randolph's relationships with other characters also play a crucial role in shaping his internal conflict. His interactions with his wife, Mary, and his daughter, Sallie, and his sons, Tom and Bourke, bring out his vulnerability and the intensity of his love for his family. He grapples with the responsibility of keeping them safe, even as his world crumbles around him. Additionally, his close friendship with Hector and Alma, servants on Sapelo, their daughter, Cecile, and son, Jeremiah, further blurs the lines of social hierarchy and forces him to confront the harsh realities of slavery.

As the war unfolds and events escalate, Randolph's internal conflict reaches a boiling point. The disappearances of Jeremiah and Cecile serve as pivotal moments that challenge his beliefs and values. These incidents haunt him, serving as powerful reminders of the consequences of his decisions and the human cost of the institution he upholds.

The cotillion scene, with its lively discussions and heated arguments, stands as a remarkable display of Brown's skill in fleshing out a diverse cast of characters. The tensions surrounding the fate of the North's army and the potential threats of slave uprisings add layers of complexity and foreshadow the unfolding drama.

As the story progresses, the book masterfully shifts gears to explore the military aspects of the war. General Lee's arrival to evaluate coastal defenses and the subsequent assignment of Colonel Spalding as staff liaison for Camp Spalding on Sapelo Island showcases the meticulous research undertaken by the author. Brown's vivid descriptions transport readers to the treacherous tidewater channel, the strategic placement of batteries, and the rugged terrain of the island.

The story also captures the impact of the war on the Spalding family, their workers, and the entire region. The harrowing events surrounding the disappearance of Jeremiah and Cecile are haunting, painting a grim picture of the cruelty and violence that unfolded during those turbulent times. These tragic incidents add a profound layer of poignancy to the story, emphasizing the sacrifices made by ordinary people during extraordinary circumstances.

This book doesn’t shy away from an exploration of themes that resonate even in modern times. The story delves into the complexities of family, loyalty, legacy, and the consequences of war. It prompts readers to reflect on the ethical dilemmas faced by those caught in the crossfire of history and the enduring power of resilience and hope in the face of adversity.

Brown's prose is a true delight to read. His eloquent and evocative language conveys the grandeur and despair of the era with equal finesse. The rich descriptions and attention to historical detail immerse readers in the sights, sounds, and emotions of the past. The vivid imagery allows one to witness the beauty of Sapelo Island, the grand parlor of South End, and the chaos of battlefields with equal clarity.

While the book is undoubtedly an engrossing tale that will appeal to history buffs, it occasionally suffers from a slightly slower pace. Some readers might find the wealth of historical detail overwhelming at times, but this very aspect also grants the novel its remarkable authenticity.

"The Last Laird of Sapelo" is a compelling and emotionally resonant historical epic that captivates from beginning to end. T.M. Brown's superb storytelling skills, attention to historical accuracy, and well-crafted characters come together to create a vivid and immersive experience. This is a novel that breathes life into a pivotal period of American history while delivering a timeless exploration of human courage, sacrifice, and the enduring legacy of the past. A must-read for history enthusiasts and fans of gripping family sagas alike. With its gripping narrative and well-crafted characters, the author has created a truly remarkable literary work. Without a doubt, it deserves a perfect 5/5 stars.


“The Last Laird of Sapelo” receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company



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