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Reviewed by Susan Sewell for Readers' Favorite
In 1853, a much-loved reverend is being tried for murder in the fictionalized true-crime novel, Beneath the Splendor by Jamie Taylor. While visiting her cousin, Elizabeth Carawan takes the maid's twelve-year-old daughter, Mary, to be her personal maid. Having grown up in servitude, Mary is enchanted by the beauty and splendor of her new home, and entranced by the handsome and charismatic Reverend Carawan. Several years later, when Elizabeth falls ill, Reverend Carawan seduces the awestruck Mary. After he discovers Mary is pregnant, Elizabeth suddenly and conveniently dies. Three days later, the reverend marries Mary. However, the happy life she is promised is never realized. Instead, Mary endures violence and hatred. When a schoolteacher enters her life, Mary begins to dream of escaping. Can he help her start a new life? Or will Reverend Carawan destroy all their chances of happiness?
Based on actual events occurring over a century ago, Beneath the Splendor by Jamie Taylor stunningly portrays the mind and actions of a psychopath. Skillfully executed, it is an extraordinary tale regarding the lasciviousness of deviant human nature. Set in the late nineteenth-century, the dramatic plot captures the nuances of that era, creating a realistic and believable story. Well-developed and relatable, the characters' psychological aspects form true to life actions and reactions to their situations. Reverend Carawan's character is a splendid representation of a depraved mind and the epitome of an immoral soul. A literary gem, this is a stirring tale of domestic violence, infidelity, and murder, with a hint of the paranormal woven into the storyline. I highly recommend this captivating novel to everyone who enjoys a historical thriller. Due to the violent and sexual content in some of the scenes, this novel is more suitable for mature readers. An elegantly rendered piece of literary perfection.