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Friday, May 20, 2016

Everyone Wants a Happy Ending. Nobody Believes in One.

Most readers want happy endings, but readers of historical fiction also want the facts to be accurate. Therein lies a problem. Historians understand that most things end badly if you just wait long enough. Everyone dies, eventually.  History is fully of calamities that changed the world. Mt. Vesuvius erupted and buried the city of Pompeii along with everyone in it. Earthquakes have lifted up mountain ranges and split off pieces of continents (think British Isles and Japan, Russia and Alaska). Other continents may have sunk from view and human memory. Did Atlantis really exist?

In other cases, changes were not caused by massive geologic events but by microbes making their way through whole populations. Bubonic plague, smallpox, influenza, and polio all reached epidemic proportions before bringing about massive economic and scientific advances. Wars changed everything from the political structure of whole countries to the psychological struggles of the individuals caught up in horrors of warfare. Scientific discoveries, in their turn, have changed the way we liuve and the way we think.. The introduction of gunpowder,  the explorers who opened the Atlantic to travel and discovered a "New World," the Industrial Revolution, atomic energy, and space travel all come to mind.

 And then there are the great individuals who rose to enormous power and crashed to earth again in ignominy (think Socrates drinking hemlock in prison, Alexander the Great struck down by unexplained illness after a drinking bout, Julius Caesar stabbed by his closest friends,  Richard the Lionhearted dying of gangrene from a random arrow strike, Napoleon dying in exile).

No, I'm afraid we have to save the proverbial "living happily ever after" for children's fairy tales, the occasional Victorian novel ("God bless us, every one"), or the series finale of "Downton Abbey." No, in historical novels, as in actual history, the endings are not always pretty. And discerning readers usually want to know what really happened.

Those who have read Damned Yankee will realize that the book ended with a happy ending of sorts. The family struggles during the Civil War came full circle when the war ended, as they returned to their ancestral home in Charleston. But was it enough to end the story there? I didn't think so. When I looked back over the story line, I saw more questions than answers, and I think readers will do so, too.

Were Jonathan and Susan able to resume their lives in Charleston without more challenges? Will Jonathan finally find that satisfactory teaching position, and will Susan be content with her melodeon and her growing children?

Will the former slaves, Sarah and Hector, find what they are looking for in the South Carolina Lowcountry? Will their lives as free citizens be happier and more comfortable now that they have been emancipated? And what of their children, Eli and Rosie? Will they seek lives of their own or continue to see themselves as part of the Grenville family?

Will Charlotte and her new husband be happy living on the Cumberland Plateau on Tennessee while the rest of the family is in South Carolina? Will Johnny come to accept the loss of his leg in battle, and will he at last recover from the horrors of war that haunt him? Will Eddie become a successful farmer, and will he ever learn how to make really good cheese?

What of the youngest children--Becca, Robbie, and Jamey? Will they recover from the sacrifices of their childhood years? And what about Mary Sue, the statistical "Middle Child" who is still too young to pursue her own interests but too old to be treated as a child? Is she about to become another casualty of the war?

And what about South Carolina itself? Will the state that most people blamed for starting the Civil War be able to recover from the trauma of losing that war? Will a new ruling class emerge? Can the state's institutions be rebuilt on a stronger foundation, and will its new majority population of freed blacks be able to sustain their apparent gains in political and economic status?

These are just some of the questions that find resolution -- whether for good or ill -- in Yankee Reconstructed.  If you read the first book, you'll want to know what really happened. And you'll have a good chance to do that this coming weekend.

On Saturday, May 21, starting at 8:00 AM (Pacific Time), the Kindle edition of Yankee Reconstructed will be available for just ninety-nine cents. That’s a price reduction of something like 80%.  Get it quickly, because at 8:00 AM on Sunday, May 22, the price will jump to $2.99. That’s still a bargain at half-price, of course. But don’t delay further, because at 8:00 AM on Monday, May 23, the price reverts to the list cost of $5.99. This is a once-a-year bargain countdown deal. The clock will be ticking, and the remaining time will show up on the book’s Kindle page, for those of you who need to convert to other time zones. Click here to grab your copy:

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