“She always wanted more than she had. Would it ever be enough?”
In 1912 West Virginia, starving coal miners are arming themselves and threatening to strike. Wealthy coal operators have hired the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency to protect their fortunes and crush the rebellious miners by whatever means necessary—no matter how violent. Long-smoldering resentments are about to erupt into one of the largest armed insurrections in US history: The West Virginia Coal Mine Wars.
In the midst of this powder keg atmosphere, Ellie Cline arrives in Charleston on the arm of John Havers, a top lieutenant to Tom Felts himself. Ellie becomes the envy and talk of Charleston high society. Young, breathtaking, and, as the gossips whisper behind her back, a kept woman. Ellie doesn’t mind the gossip. She adores being the center of attention. She loves the parties, the fine dresses, the jewelry. This is the life she always believed she deserved. Could it at last be enough?
But Ellie has a past—and secrets. A husband on the run for killing her lover. A baby daughter living with her cousin back in Matewan. A new lover she sneaks into her bed while Havers is away. And her biggest secret of all—Ellie is a spy.
Uniquely positioned to know the battle plans of both sides, Ellie straddles two worlds—the sparkling, high society life of Charleston and the family roots that still twine deep into the coal dust of Matewan. Now Ellie must choose between luxury and loyalty, between escape from drab small town poverty and love for her family.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Blood Creek, the first book in Kimberly Collins’ Mingo Chronicle series, depicts the 1912 West Virginia Mine Wars from the perspective of a feisty triangle of blood sisters. Ellie, the main character, is having an affair with the town sheriff. When her lover confronts her husband, things get ugly. Ellie escapes to Charleston, leaving behind a baby daughter. Cousin Polly raises baby Deannie while her husband leads miners to unionize along with Ellie’s sister, Jolene, and her husband. In Charleston, Ellie falls into the inner circle of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, hired by the coal companies to squelch miners. Ellie relays messages about the coal operators’ plans back to Jolene and Polly. After a year of spying, Ellie questions whether her new lavish life is worth all the risk. The novel is just the right mix of mountain grit, romance, intrigue and solidarity. In four parts, the chapters are discrete episodes told in chronological order. Pacing is swift. Action dominates, with timely pauses for intimacy and tidbits of women’s wisdom. Dialogue celebrates West Virginia dialect. A pinnacle of the story is Mother Jones’ speech on behalf of miners. She is the rabble rousing voice of the workers and their families, motivating all who hear her. While she remains a minor character, she embodies the earthy, hell-bent spirit of Ellie, Polly, and Jolene. Many characters, like Mother Jones, are based on true figures. A helpful description at the start of the book sorts fact from fiction. The three blood sisters share a keen intuition and determination, but the differences in their personalities create a dynamic interplay. Ellie’s sex appeal offsets Polly’s motherliness and Jolene’s smarts. Together, and with their various partners - including maids, midwives, musicians and kids - a homespun tapestry of personal relationships serves as a backdrop to the political excitement. Vitriol between miners and operators is real, coming across in descriptions of actual battles as well as imagined heartaches. The story definitely argues in favor of the miners. The bad guys are plain evil; no nuance there. Female heroines do their part to fight for justice in Blood Creek.