Monday, 10 February 2014

HIS PROMISE TRUE by Greta Marlow. Reviewed by Ann Turnbull.

You might think from the title and cover that this is a romance.  And certainly it is a love story - but a realistic historical one, set in Tennessee and Arkansas in the 1820s, at a time when large numbers of people were moving west in search of land.

The first-person narrator is fifteen-year-old Maggie Boon, a mountain girl from a poor family in Tennessee.  When the story opens, Maggie, wearing her Ma's best dress and a false bosom made of rags, has been brought against her will to a barn-raising where her Pa is set on selling her into marriage to one of the neighbouring farmers.  There is dancing, the whisky is flowing, and he's determined to strike a bargain before the evening is over.

But Maggie runs off, jettisons the bosom, and meets - and kisses - John David McKellar, the youngest son of a much wealthier family in the valley.  He's celebrating his twenty-first birthday with a little dancing and too much whisky.  John David declares that he will marry Maggie - and Maggie's father, sensing better pickings, has the pair of them tying the knot that very same evening.

It's not the most favourable start to a marriage, especially as the McKellar parents are hostile.  After some bitter rows, John David decides to make the long and difficult journey to Texas to start a new life with Maggie.  And that's when their real troubles begin.

The two main characters are well developed and believable, and their relationship drives the story.  Maggie is a capable but uneducated girl whose home life has made her fearful of "smacks" whenever she makes a mistake.  John David is over-confident, drinks too much, gambles, takes risks - and yet is lovable because he is so good-hearted and loyal.  Both of them grow and change and are tested by the trials they encounter.

I was uncertain whether this book was intended for adults or YA.  To me it seems like one of those "age 13 to 95" books that get passed around the family - though it doesn't pull its punches and adults might like to check it out first.  The style is colloquial and immediately draws you in, and the story is hard to put down.

The author lives in Arkansas, and her book is published by EMZ-Piney Publishing in both paperback and ebook.


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