Tempting Skies
by Michael J. Roueche
Vesta House Publishing

"Coercion. Slavery. Freedom. Casualties. Deaths. Suffering. Starvation. Humiliation. She'd seen them all and was left not knowing what to want, what to believe, what to hope for, except for Hank and her child."

It begins with the discovery of a "remarkable" manuscript that reveals events which occurred in the summer of 1864. During the tumultuous years of the Civil War, the manuscript depicts several lives that intersect amid a dangerous political landscape and the changing tide of a segregated society. Betsy Gragg, formerly Betsy Henderson, secludes herself in a Washington D.C. boarding house, haunted by her southern past. Her new husband, Henry Gragg, a member of the Union's 19th Indiana Infantry, wills himself across the Virginia battlegrounds to reunite with Betsy and their unborn child. Actress, Anna Whitehead, falls victim to the cunning and murderous Lucius Walthorpe (a.k.a. Oskar Dante) who assumes the alias of Daniel Jefferson for his latest revenge plot against Betsy. Runaway slave, William Richman, finds himself in uncharted waters as a freeman while his wife, Victoria Richman, defies conventionalism as a nurse caring for wounded soldiers, becoming witness to the scars of war.

Roueche's third installment in the Beyond the Wood Series completes a well-researched and interwoven narrative of the American Civil War. It once again demonstrates the award-winning author's notable contribution to the genre. His novel, while at times complex, is nevertheless engaging and nothing is wasted. It boasts a large cast of characters who are all essential to the whole of the saga. Their strengths and weaknesses are portrayed in realistic light, each facing their own past in moments of trial and tribulation. As the novel nears its finale, surprising revelations encapsulate a tale of drama, romance, and suspense. Through it all, Roueche expertly highlights the plight of soldiers, discrimination, politics, and violence set against the backdrop of the waning days of a war-torn America. It is a worthy read.

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