Christmas at Carnton (2017) is a novella by Tamera Alexander, and will be released on October 3, 2017. This novella will come in all forms including eBook, and is 256 pages in length. With a full-time job and a precocious five-year old at home, this novella took me three days to read. I received a free review copy of this novella in eBook form from NetGalley. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this post are my own. I give this novella 5 STARS. This story is a Christian Historical Romance.
About the Book
In the midst of war and the fading dream of the Confederacy, a wounded soldier and a destitute widow discover the true meaning of Christmas, the cost of love . . . and of loving again.
Recently widowed, Aletta Prescott struggles to hold life together for herself and her six-year old son. About to be evicted, she sees an advertisement for the Ladies Aid Society Auction and applies for a position—only to discover it’s been filled. Then a chance meeting with a wounded soldier offers another opportunity. And friendship. But can she trust him? Is Jake Winston the man he appears to be? Having lost everything once, Aletta is determined to guard not only her own heart, but also her son’s.
Captain Jake Winston, a revered Confederate sharpshooter, suffers a head wound at the Battle of Chickamauga. When doctors deliver their diagnosis, Jake fears losing not only his greatest skill but his very identity. As he heals, Jake is ordered to assist with a local Ladies Aid Society auction. He respectfully objects. Kowtowing to a bunch of “crinolines” isn’t his idea of soldiering. But orders are orders, and he soon discovers this group of ladies—one, in particular—is far more than he bargained for.
Set against the backdrop of the real history of Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee, Christmas at Carnton is a story of hope renewed and faith restored . . . at Christmas.
This novella takes place at Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee during the height of the American Civil War. In this novella, we meet Aletta and Jake, the McGavock family (who called Carnton their home), and the McGavock cook, Tempy. As with all Alexander novels, these characters endear themselves to the reader immediately! I loved everything about this story. In fact, I was really sad when I turned to the last page…I wanted more!
The main characters in this novella are Aletta and Jake. Aletta is a well written and very believable character. She is 25-years old, newly widowed, a single mother of one with another baby on the way. She is completely destitute with the bank ready to foreclose on her home. She has no job and no money. I was completely scared for her through the first quarter of this story. I had no idea how she was going to take care of herself and her son. But, what I love about Aletta is that she is a very brave and determined young woman. She knows to trust God even though she has no idea how she will keep her son fed and clothed and cared for. Aletta is a very realistically written character in the sense that she does have moments of worry, fear, and doubt just like any woman would in her situation. Instead of giving up or giving into the whims of men ready to take advantage of her, Aletta gives her situation over to God, and boy does He deliver for her!
Jake is the hero in this story, and he is wonderfully written as well. Jake is powerful and strong and skilled. As a man, he is exceptionally capable. But, when he is injured during battle, Jake loses a bit of his confidence. When one loses the thing that made him/her unique, it’s really hard not to lose confidence. Begrudgingly, Jake goes to Carnton Plantation to help with a Ladies Aide Society Auction. His commanding officer believes this will be the perfect opportunity for Jake to convalesce after his injury, but Jake just sees it as a loss all the way around. He is the greatest sharpshooter in the Confederate Army, but now he has to pander to women? Why an auction? Why can’t they just donate money and be done with it? But, as he gets to know Aletta, Tempy, Mrs. McGavock, and the other women of the Ladies Aide group, as he sees their hard work and their determination, and as he witnesses first hand these women lose their husbands and sons, Jake realizes that the Civil War is being fought by all citizens, not just the men and boys physically fighting the battles. Jake’s attitude changes, and with that change not only does his body heal, but so too does his heart.
As with Ms. Alexander’s previous works, Christmas as Carnton is very well-researched. The damaging effects of the American Civil War are dealt with authentically and truthfully. It was eye-opening to me to read the scenes where the women would gather around a newspaper to read the Injured-Dead-Missing pages praying their husbands, sons, and/or fathers did not make any of the lists. I loved the solidarity and genuine aid the women brought to one another when a woman realized her husband or son or father had died. The sense of community as women rallied around the devastated woman in order to help in any way they could was absolutely refreshing. This novella also illustrates the plight of many young women who were widowed and made destitute because of the loss of their husbands. There were very few options available to women in the 1860s outside of cooking, cleaning, working in sweatshops, and prostitution. This story does an excellent job of illustrating the strength of women when faced with extremely difficult choices.
This novella reminded me that no matter my current situation, God is there. He is waiting for me to surrender to Him and His perfect plan. When I choose to trust God, He leads me to the exact place I need to be, and blesses me in only ways He knows I need. When life deals me a blow I don’t think I can possibly overcome, God will give me the peace and strength I need if I go to Him. If you are looking for a well-written, engrossing historical romance, I highly recommend Christmas at Carnton. This is the perfect story to read this holiday season. You will not be disappointed!