Monday, February 17, 2014

Tamera Alexander's "A Lasting Impression" - a passionate novel that definitely makes an impression!

Cover Art
In this post-Civil War novel, Tamera Alexander invites the reader into Belmont Mansion, the home of the famous, wealthy Adelicia Acklen.  Claire Laurante, a gifted artist who has helped her family by painting forgeries, finds herself on the run from mysterious thieves who attacked her father.  Determined to begin an honest life away from the family trade, Claire applies for the position of Adelicia Acklen's liason - an event coordinator, secretary, and confidante.  Sutton Monroe, Mrs. Acklen's personal attorney, is battling to reclaim his family's land and clear his father's name, both results of belonging to the losing side of the war, while attempting to make a name for himself in a forgery case.  The two of them have to work together to see that Mrs. Acklen's reentry into society is a success - a task that pushes the two of them much closer together than they ever would have dreamed.  However, can an upstanding attorney (and his influential employer) handle the secrets Claire is loath to share?

Alexander's attention to detail is stunning.  Based on her writing, it is clear that she has walked the grounds of Belmont, that she has studied its inhabitants, and that she has a passion for this place.  In addition to a glorious location, her depiction of the time period - the reconstruction following the Civil War - is a moving blend of hardened, embittered attitudes by those who lost and prayerful hope by those rebuilding their lives.  Understandably, as a person - a woman - who profited during the war and then gallivanted off to Europe while everyone else was picking up the pieces of their lives, Adelicia Acklen is in a tenuous position.  It is fascinating to hear about the struggles this strong woman faced. 

In this novel and her others set in the post-war South (especially To Whisper Her Name), the author has masterfully portrayed the spirit of the Reconstruction, if not the reality.  It is not about mending the heart of a nation, but about mending the hearts of people - the people who make up the nation.  Until the hearts of the people are healed, the nation cannot be whole.  Two or three people finding healing - it isn't much, yet every one of those hearts is crucial to eliminating the bitterness and moving on to a future of prosperity.

Alexander's passion for the setting, the characters, and the theme is palpable, even without her heart-felt author's note in the end.  Her poignant statement, "Would you paint if you knew you were painting only for Me?" struck a chord within me, and it made me question my motivation.  Do I make things jut to sell, or to glorify God?  And do I put off things I love because they are not marketable, because they will probably never make it past my eyes only, when maybe God would like me to pursue it just for Him? 

I love the curl-up-in-front-of-the-fireplace feel to this novel; at 426 pages, it is a thick, rich, decadent read  - the kind of novel I love to savor.  And when an author has as much passion about their story as Alexander demonstrates, it must be worthwhile.  5 out of 5 stars!

Belmont Mansion trilogy
1. A Lasting Impression
2. A Beauty So Rare
3. A Note Yet Unsung

(which contains minor connections to the Belmont Mansion trilogy . . . )
Belle Meade Plantation trilogy
1. To Whisper Her Name
2. To Win Her Favor 
2.5 "To Mend a Dream" (part of the novella collection Among the Fair Magnolias)
3. To Wager Her Heart

Carton Mansion
0.5: "Christmas at Carnton" (novella)

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