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Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite
Down Salem Way, by the acclaimed Meredith Allard, is an absorbing work of historical fiction about the Salem witch hunts and enduring love. This well-reviewed author brings the subject to life in a unique, fresh way, causing you to wonder what it would be like if you had lived in that era, or were accused of being a witch, or were on trial for such. This story is set in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1690, the heart of the witch hunts. We have James Wentworth and his father John coming into town to run John's successful mercantile business. This is when James meets and falls in love with Elizabeth. Though she is the daughter of a farmer and someone he barely knows, they decide to marry, and the result is a lasting romance. But there is something darker going on in Salem, and some call it witchcraft. A sort of insanity ensues, and it's enough to drive the strongest marriages into the ground. We wonder if or how James and Lizzie can survive the onslaught.
Imagine witnessing the hangings of the accused witches in Salem, or being caught up in the cruelty. Allard expertly combines fiction with history, delivering a compelling plot, realistic characters you care about, and some unexpected turn of events. This author is a master at bringing facts to life in a captivating way, setting you down in the midst of the time period and historical events, especially daily life with illness, work, religion, and socializing. This is the perfect novel for those who know little about the Salem witch hunts, as it educates in an entertaining way. And besides witches, there is another dark surprise in store, but I won't spoil it here for you. Allard's use of Old English was a good choice for this book, and I rather enjoyed that aspect because it lends another layer of authenticity. The first-person POV makes the narrative seem more personal. Sequels to this book follow, in Her Loving Husband trilogy, but this particular one is a standalone novel. If you like cliffhangers and well-written period fiction you can get lost in, you will love Down Salem Way by Meredith Allard.