In Charleston, a master of historical fiction spins a tale of a 19th-century southern aristocratic dynasty divided by love, murder, betrayal, and family secrets. A memorable and realistic multigenerational epic.
Characters in the latest multigenerational epic from Jakes, author of fifteen consecutive bestselling novels, including On Secret Service, describe Charleston, South Carolina, as the "cradle of secession" and "the most hated place in the Confederacy." Critical readers might be tempted to dub it the capital of stilted dialogue and soap-opera coincidence, as the author celebrated for the historical accuracy of his North and South trilogy traces the rise and fall of this Southern port through the travails of the ill-fated Bell family. From the Revolutionary War until the aftermath of the Civil War, the Bells embody the tensions that threaten to tear America apartbetween slave owners and abolitionists, blacks and whites, men and women, patriots and profiteers. Much of the book concerns the life, loves and tragedies of Alexandra Bell, a free-spirited, anti-slavery crusader. Among her other distinguishing features, Alex appears to be Jakes' only female character without a remarkable bosom. Otherwise, his women are described in the following ways: "stunningly proportioned," "blessed with disproportionately large breasts," "a voluptuous creature" with "generous breasts," "soft and buxom beauty" and a "ripe body men found desirable." Who's writing this stuffJohn Jakes or Hugh Hefner?
Jakes, the bestselling master of historical fiction, begins his newest saga in 1720, a mere 50 years after the first settlers occupy the still-rustic village of Charles Town at the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, in what will become the state of South Carolina. Arriving from a primitive western trading post, Sydney Greech, a 20-year-old British immigrant, and his pretty, pregnant bride, Bess, take a more euphonious surname as they begin a new life of menial labor and spawn the Bell clan, whose successive generations will be bound up with the history and fate of Charleston. Much of the book is set between 1779 and the 1866 post-Civil War rebellion in South Carolina; it takes up the story of 21-year-old Edward Bell (grandson of Sydney) and his rivalry with his older and more devious brother, Adrian, who steals his sweetheart while Edward is studying in London. The intrigue then comes to focus on great-granddaughter Alexandra, born in 1815, who grows up to see her secret black lover murdered and travels north to become an abolitionist crusader. Members of the extended Bell family often find themselves on opposite sides of the various ideological divides that dominate the first hundred years of U.S. history, and their story is a dark tapestry of betrayal, revenge and murder as royalists clash with patriots, Unionists with Confederates. Fans of Jakes's earlier hits should find plenty of drama and antebellum flavor in this lusty epic. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Jakes's many best-selling historical novels include the recent On Secret Service, a tale of Civil War espionage. Charleston is the story of both the Bell family and the city of Charleston, SC, through three major epochs the American Revolution, the dangerous years before the Civil War, and the Civil War itself. The Bell family includes a predictable host of heroes and villains who deal with the issues and events of their respective periods, with slavery the most pervasive. Charleston is action-filled and fast-paced, perhaps too fast-paced, as it leaps from one major event to another. Overly ambitious and disappointingly lacking in character development and historical depth, the novel pales in comparison with other Jakes novels, such as Homeland, America, California Gold, and even the North-South series. For larger collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/02.] Robert Conroy, Warren, MI Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Jakes (On Secret Service, 2000, etc.) takes another big bite out of southern history with a tragic multigenerational saga set in Charleston, South Carolina. Book One limns the Revolutionary War years (more battles during that conflict were fought in South Carolina than in any other colony); Book Two portrays the expansion of slavery and the cotton trade from 1822 to 1842; Book Three chronicles the final period of the War for Secession and the brighter morning arising with Reconstruction not that far-distant. (Two sections entitled "The Years Between" fill in the gaps for 1793-1822 and 1842-63.) General Sherman, Jakes tells us, saw that the whole Union Army "burned with an insatiable desire to wreak vengeance on South Carolina. I almost tremble at her fate, but feel that she deserves all that seems in store for her." The author focuses on all levels of southern society-the belles at their balls, the cowards and patriots-and shapes vengeance and melodrama with great force. The author's pleasure in this many-voiced hymn to his home state of 25 years comes through strongly: popular historical fiction at its most readable.
"A great read...a family intrigue that stretches across sweeping historical events." -Charleston Post and Courier