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Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite
Keeping Secrets by McGee Mathews is an intriguing novel of historical fiction set during the Civil War era. The story has Elizabeth Hepscott escaping the traditional role expected of her--wife and mother--when she enlists in the war as a young man (EJ) alongside her brother, to help him out. Another major player in the story is a wealthy, independent heiress named Charlie (Charlene), who has everything she wants except true love. The lives of these two intersect in a random way at first. They strike up a friendship, then EJ goes off to fight, so, will they see each other again? What follows is an interesting drama about two women stepping outside the norm to find true happiness and themselves.
McGee Matthews has written a compelling novel. The plot is lean and ever-moving forward, the characters bold and well-drawn, the settings, descriptions, and attention to detail carefully crafted. This is a story you eagerly wait to unfold, and the author is skilled at setting up scenarios with satisfying payoffs. There are a lot of books about the Civil War, but this one is a little different, and Matthews treats the material with respect and care. As the reading audience, you get to know these full characters, and you feel for their situations, the distance between them, the obstacles, the relationships in a time when they were not accepted. The author has a wonderful way with dialogue, pace, and conflict, and delivers a story that will hold readers until the end. Of particular note are the tiny facts and customs of the day that lend authenticity to the narrative. When you're finished, you'll feel like you've been teleported to the Civil War era and back. Keeping Secrets by McGee Mathews is a book you could happily read more than once.