Romance novels are not usually my thing. Historical fiction is. To Whisper Her Name is an historical romance, set just after the Civil War in Nashville, published by Zondervan, which makes it a Christian historical romance, doubly suspect in some circles.
I must say, however, I found the novel absorbing, if somewhat difficult to swallow whole in some aspects. The romance was fine, although Olivia, the female half of this romantic pairing, overcomes her novel-long inhibitions about marrying the male lead rather abruptly in the last few pages of the book. The part I couldn’t believe was the deep friendship that develops between Ridley Cooper, a white Union army veteran, and Bob Green, a black former slave and expert horse whisperer, on the plantation, Belle Meade. Ridley actually lives with “Uncle Bob” in a cabin on the plantation grounds. I would like to believe that such a friendship would have been possible, would have been tolerated, in those times in the South, but I find it difficult to envision.
The former slaves who are now working at Belle Meade also invite Ridley, and later Olivia, to their church meetings, to eat meals in their homes, and even to their parties. I just can’t picture the class and race differences being overcome so easily and openly. Maybe someone knows of examples of post-Civil War interracial friendships that would disprove my skepticism?
Anyway, it’s obvious from the beginning of the book that Olivia and Ridley are meant to get together by the end. However, there are, of course, impediments to the match. Olivia is a widow, loyal to the Southern cause, betrayed and made wary of marriage by her late husband’s cruelty. Ridley is a Southerner who fought for the Union, a traitor in the eyes of most other Southerners, and keeping that aspect of his life a secret from everyone is the only thing that allows him to live at Belle Meade long enough to learn about the care and husbandry of thoroughbred racing horses from Uncle Bob. Ridley’s plan is to learn all he can and then leave the South to build a ranch in the Wild Western state of Colorado. How can he and Olivia, a proper Southern lady who, moreover, is afraid of horses, ever come together?
Never fear. They can and will. It’s a Christian historical romance, after all.