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The Star-Crossed Lovers of the Civil War - an Editorial Review of "Lockett and the Devil's Path"

Book Blurb:

The star-crossed Union officer and Confederate spy find that it is not easy to escape their pasts.

On the heels of the battle at Hoover's Gap, James Lockett receives a cryptic message regarding Anna Tucker's whereabouts and impending peril. Will he trust a man who once vowed to kill him?

Stymied by General Bragg and the limited passes south through the hills, General Rosecrans and the Union army finally move on Hoover's Gap. Riding with Wilder's new mounted infantry brigade and armed with the experimental repeating Spencer rifle, Lockett and company find surprising success in the seven mile long Hoover's Gap. Too much success...

Far in advance of the rest of Rosecrans's army, Wilder's Brigade fights for survival against overwhelming numbers. Meanwhile, the former Confederate spy, Anna Tucker, finds herself equally trapped by truth and fabrication.

James and Anna have reached a point of no return.

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Author Bio:

A Michigan native, T.J. Johnston is the author of the James Lockett Civil War historical fiction series. A history lover and long time author, he has degrees from Hope College and Michigan State University. He currently resides in Texas where he is working on subsequent historical fiction and mystery novels.

Editorial Review:

So, James Lockett was still alive.

That was the only person that it could be. The depiction given by the Congressman was perfect now that he thought about it. That was indeed what Lockett’s burns looked like, almost as if the Devil himself had tried to choke Lockett and drag him away.

James Lockett may carry the reminder of the past with him wherever he goes, for all to see when they look at him, but he is not bound by the past, and will not be hindered as he fights alongside his comrades – apart from one small part of the past that he can’t let go of. Anna Tucker had nursed him back to health all that time ago, and he hadn’t been able to forget her since, but it is unlikely he will ever see her again. He is a Union soldier, and she is a Confederate spy. It was unlikely for their paths to have crossed in the past, and the chances of them meeting again were next to nothing.

Anna could not stop thinking of James, no matter how hard she tried to forget him, or how much her Aunt Molly told her to move on. After rejecting the advances of Major Ellicott, a slimy individual who was clearly not used to people refusing him, Anna finds life around her slowly falling apart, until she is fenced in, stuck by people who see a false reality as the truth. In her moment of peril, there is only one person who she wants by her side, and he is across battle lines, fighting against her people.

A thrilling snapshot in the midst of battle, to the monotonous day to day life imprisoned with no hopes of escape, Lockett and the Devil’s Path by T.J. Johnston is an encompassing viewpoint of the lives of many people from different backgrounds during the American Civil War.

Aim, fire, repeat. Again and again.

Once you get going with this book, it is rather difficult to put down again. It is a little slow to get started, but in this, you join Lockett and the Union army who have been at a standstill for much too long, and are eager to get moving again. Once the order comes in to start moving, the book

picks up dramatically, and it is easy to get sucked into the fact-paced action of the Battle of Hoover’s Gap, and the advantage held by the Union’s with their advanced Spencer rifles compared to the single shot carbines still in use in the Confederate army. The advanced warfare of being able to shoot multiple rounds without having to reload gave the Union soldiers a tactical advantage, and this novel clearly shows how much of a leap this was for widely distributed weapons, and the advantage this gave the Union army. It is clear that many hours of work have gone into the research of these weapons and the warfare of the time, for it has been detailed very clearly and the battle itself is so tangible you can almost feel the cold seeping into your bones from the near constant rain, and taste the smoke in the air.

Captain James Lockett is a character I couldn’t help but fall in love with as I read this book. He is wildly dedicated to his position in the army, and values those around him. He respects people who deserve his respect, rather than simply giving it to anyone of a higher station than himself. At times, he almost reminded me of Sharpe, of Bernard Cornwell’s famous series. You can certainly liken Lockett to Sharpe, but in the vastly different war of the American Civil War, rather than the Napoleonic Wars.

She put on a brave face and tried to appear pleasant throughout, but it was a long night. She didn’t want to be here and certainly didn’t want to be here with Major Ellicott. At various points, she found her thoughts drifting elsewhere, wondering about James.

Anna plays a pivotal role in this novel, for what happens to her directly affects what actions many other characters have to take. She has never forgotten James, and checks for his name in the Union papers just as she checks for her brother’s in the Confederate papers, trying to find out if they both still live. For the first part of this book, I wasn’t too sure what I thought of Anna, but as the story progressed, I found myself respecting her, and rooting her on as she struggled to keep herself safe.

There are several characters in this book that I simply could not stand, the kind that make your skin crawl whenever their names are mentioned. There is, of course, Major Ellicott, who tries to play with Anna and reacts none too kindly when she fights back and bests him. Another was

Sergeant Philyaw. He, and one of the Union Major’s, have a severe dislike of one of the young drummer boys, Charlie. Charlie is an escaped slave, who is very close to Lockett due to their history, and both Philyaw and the Major would like to see nothing more than this ‘contraband’

disposed of. I loved Charlie, you can’t help but fall in love with them as soon as you meet them, which makes you hate Philyaw and the Major all the more. To create characters you can’t help but love, such as Charlie, Lockett, and Anna, to also pen characters you loathe is admirable, and the author has clearly displayed such a skill in this novel.

While reading this book, you feel very much like a fly on the wall, getting to see into the conversations of so many different people. Although, it is not always easy to know who they are talking about, or who is there. There are so many names and people to remember in this book, it can be difficult to keep up with who is on what side, and who each person is when you start reading. This is a series you would benefit from reading in order, as meeting each character as they become relevant would definitely help to keep track of them, rather than jumping in at the deep end with a novel several books into the series. However, once you are committed to the novel, and all the characters have shown up a few times, you can get to know them, and where they fit into the story. To truly know them, though, starting with the first book in the series may be preferable.

Lockett and the Devil’s Path by T.J. Johnston is a novel of war, of life amidst battle, and the casual terror of not knowing what day may be your last. It is truly immersive, and the pages practically turn themselves as you can’t help but read one more chapter. It is a novel that makes you want to go back and read the rest of the series, for you have stepped into the lives of the characters, and can’t help but want so much more.


“Lockett and the Devil's Path” by T.J. Johnson receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company



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