Christmas at Carnton

Written by Tamera Alexander
Review by Cindy Vallar

As Christmas 1863 approaches, recently-widowed Aletta Prescott loses her job and home. With one child and another on the way, possible employment for an upcoming auction seems heaven sent, but the position has been filled. Although the carpenter’s job remains vacant, Carnton’s mistress is reluctant to hire a woman with such skills.

Jake Winston’s wound has healed, but not his eyesight—a requirement for a Confederate sharpshooter. Rather than return to active duty, he’s sent to Carnton to assist “a bunch of petticoats.” He feels it would be better to just give money to Confederate troops, rather than waste time baking, sewing, and auctioning off the items. Aletta wonders why a man with no visible wounds isn’t fighting. Hiding his affliction, he’s amused when pride initially keeps her from asking for his help. After the walls between them crumble, unexpected news leaves one feeling guilty and the other yearning for the impossible.

Set in Tennessee, this novella introduces a new series at a historic plantation. Alexander intertwines love, war’s cruelties, disabilities, and perseverance in a way that captivates readers. Her well-developed characters and attention to historical detail sweep readers back to the American Civil War. Often novels of this period concern the battles and soldiers who fought them. While this narrative touches on these, Alexander focuses on those left behind and the adversities they endured. Christmas at Carnton is a tale of emotional highs and lows that allow readers to experience the joy, sorrow, and hopes of women in a southern town surrounded by war, as well as witnessing the daily struggles of men who must come to grip with life-altering wounds.