REVIEW: Under the Same Sky by Genevieve Graham

Monday, January 16, 2012 1:00
Posted in category Review

Book CoverSandy M’s review of Under the Same Sky by Genevieve Graham
Historical Romance published by Berkley Trade 3 Jan 12

This book poses a huge dilemma for a reader. It’s one you can’t put down. It’s that good. But it’s also one that you have to put down. Just to exhale that breath you’ve been holding, to then inhale and take on a calmness so you can continue on. It’s not that easy, however. The story is that heart-wrenching, so full of tragedy for these courageous, honorable, and so very likable characters.

Maggie Johnson has always had “the Sight.” Whatever she dreams come true. Whatever she sees will come to pass. Among all the horrible dreams there’s been one constant, the boy whose smile and eyes are with her always. They’ve grown up together, seeing one another but never speaking or touching but understanding a look across the span of thousands of miles. As they grow older, Maggie calls this warrior her Wolf, bringing to mind those graceful predators. For Andrew, Maggie is the prettiest woman he’s ever seen and he knows they belong together, that some day they will find a way to each other. He also is able to see events before they occur, and his dreams are as full of Maggie as hers are of Andrew. The way the book is set up, several chapters are devoted to Maggie, written in first person, then several chapters are given to Andrew from his POV, and this continues throughout the book.

Tragedy strikes Maggie and her family after her father has died. She, her mother, and sisters have been surviving the best they can, without letting townsfolk know about the lack of a male presence on the homestead. But that only lasts for so long, and the day comes when men ride up with evil intentions on their minds. One shot is all it takes to leave the girls on their own, at the mercy of these men, their intent to sell them as slaves – after they deliver their own brand of evilness. These are such heart-breaking scenes, especially when it comes to Maggie’s youngest sister, ten-year-old Ruth. Though her scene is not described in detail as Maggie’s, you know what’s happening to the child in the woods, and that fear is confirmed when the men return without her. As man after man has his way with these girls, you want to reach through the pages and choke the ever-lovin’ life out of each of them. Maggie and Adelaide do their best to hold on, knowing the horror has to be over soon and escape is still a possibility.

War is the tragedy in Andrew’s life – he loses everything and everyone he loves as a result of the battle at Culloden in 1746, fighting with his father, brothers, and other Highland clans. Of course, we all know the outcome of this particular battle, the massacre that is a significant part of the downfall of the clans of Scotland. At first, surviving such an onslaught is not the gift it should be for Andrew. Then finding his home, along with his mother, destroyed, coming in contact with no other person – Highlander or Sassenach – for days on end, he’s more than tired enough to lie down and let this nightmare end, but he fights on.  Finally he discovers the friends that will become his family as they all rebuild their lives. Feeling disconnected from everything to do with his country, wanting to get as far away as possible from the violence, Andrew decides to leave his homeland for good, along with others who feel the same.

Maggie and Adelaide are rescued by a tribe of Cherokee, who take them in and help them heal. The sisters learn the Indians are not the savages they’d always heard about, and they carve out a place for themselves, learning the language and way of life of these people who don’t frighten them as the white man now does. Eventually Maggie is allowed to accompany the men to the closest fort to trade furs and skins, and she does well for them, understanding how the tribe has always been cheated. But meeting Captain Quinn, a respected man about town, once again ends with Maggie bearing the brunt of men and their superior attitudes. She’s accused of and tried for – railroaded, actually – murder.

I kept thinking to myself throughout this book, “When are these two going to catch a break??” I was exhausted after reading these scenes and just had to put the book down to take a deep breath. But then I had to immediately pick it up again to see what happens to them, how they react, how they recover, how they move on. And, because of the era, they, of course, resolutely move on just because they have to, that’s how people of the time lived and died. I haven’t been this emotionally wiped out reading a romance in a long time.

Andrew finally makes landfall in America, receives land given to immigrants willing to work hard, and makes his way toward Maggie. Even that journey is fraught with danger and delays. But all along they’ve had each other in their dreams, and for a while now those dreams have been very real. They now touch, they feel, they talk, and they remember it all with clarity afterward. Though these scenes of them together are nice and frequent enough so that hero and heroine are together at various intervals throughout the book, I wish there’d been either more of those dreams or more of Andrew and Maggie together at the end of the book. After everything each of them have been through, have helped the other through with comfort and strength, even knowing that happily ever after would be upon them soon, I wanted to see more of that happiness instead of being told about it because it’s now time for the story to end. That’s my only nitpick. For me, there’s just not enough. We’re given just enough to let us know their life together is good and gets better as the years will go on, but I wanted to feel it more, to see it happening, to experience a bit more with them after such a harrowing time has been had to get them to this point.

I’m quite impressed with Ms. Graham’s debut novel. She takes a reader on an epic journey that thoroughly engages the heart and gives them characters who defy horrific odds and who never give up. I look forward to her future work.

SandyMGrade: A-

Summary:

The year is 1746. A young woman from South Carolina and a Scottish Highlander share an intimacy and devotion beyond their understanding.

They’ve known each other their entire lives.
They live a half-world apart.

And they have never met…

Maggie Johnson has been gifted with “the Sight” ever since she was a child. Her dreams bring her visions of the future and of a presence she knows is not a figment of her imagination. She calls him Wolf, having watched him grow from a careless young boy into a fearsome warrior, and she trusts him with her life and her heart.

Andrew MacDonnell is fascinated by the woman who has visited him in his dreams for as long as he can remember, entranced by her beauty, knowing deep in his soul that she is as real as he. Although he doesn’t know who she is, Andrew believes that destiny will bring them together.

When tragedy and war strike their homelands, both Maggie and Andrew suffer indescribable losses. Separated across an ocean, the bond they share nevertheless grows as they sense each other’s pain, lend each other strength, and embark on a journey of the spirit to find and love one another at long last…

No excerpt available.

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