Written by Leila Meacham
Review by Arleigh Johnson

Encompassing seventy years and four generations, this much-anticipated prequel to Roses surpasses all expectations with its exquisitely detailed and character-driven narrative. Silas Toliver, Jeremy Warwick, and Henri DuMont set the stage, traveling from Plantation Alley in the South through bustling New Orleans and finally setting in the dangerous but fertile land of East Texas.

In the 1830s, Mexico and the United States are warring – one offering free plots to settlers and the other raiding these homesteads. With the added problem of American Indian attacks and sometimes merely exposure and the threat of disease, our protagonists find that taking a wagon train out West is a dangerous business.

Somerset, a plantation named after the Tolivers’ Wars of the Roses-era ancestor, becomes everything Silas had dreamed, but seemingly at a heart-rending price. He was warned by his mother of a curse on the enterprise that would take her youngest son into a perilous and war-torn land, but scoffs at the notion – until several unfortunate events befall the family.

The heroine of the story, Silas’s indefatigable wife, is a surprising and endearing woman who chronicles decades of Toliver history and ultimately lends her courageous and heartening nature to her great-granddaughter, Mary. Through the years leading up to the Civil War, the war itself, and the aftermath, Howbutker, Texas grows into a significant city thanks to its founders – the Tolivers, Warwicks and DuMonts. The ever-intriguing industrial age, with several inventions and name-dropping projects mentioned, brings another interesting facet to the story.
As with its predecessor, this novel is filled with the ups and downs of three families and is altogether an engrossing and unforgettable tale, ending with a perfectly primed setting for those who have not read Roses. This book is highly recommended for those who love historical sagas!