Ever My Love

Written by Gretchen Craig
Review by Sarah Johnson

It is 1860 in southern Louisiana, and Abraham Lincoln’s election is on the horizon. After a year at finishing school in New York, where she absorbed the lessons in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Marianne Johnston of Magnolias Plantation has become a firm abolitionist. Though neither her father nor her brother understands her lack of sympathy for the “Southern way of life,” she regularly nurses slaves back to health after slavers catch them and return them home, much worse for wear. Yves Chamard has always thought of Marianne as an insipid southern belle, at least until he sees her devoted care of Peter, a young slave boy nearly mauled to death by the Magnolia overseer’s trained dogs. In return, Marianne believes Yves to be a ladies’ man and typical Creole slave owner; she doesn’t realize he helps slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. Then Yves’s mulatto half-brother Gabriel, a physician trained abroad, is kidnapped and sold back into slavery—forcing them, their family, and friends to take action.

Craig pulls no punches in describing the dehumanizing conditions slaves are forced to endure; there are several violent and brutal scenes, presented realistically and not gratuitously, and not every subplot ends well. She also excels at describing the complex social climate of antebellum Louisiana, in which unspoken rules govern which relationships are permissible across racial and class lines. As with Craig’s previous novel, Always and Forever, which featured the same families one generation earlier, the pacing is brisk, the characters multifaceted, and the plot compelling. The secondary romances enhance rather than detract from the story. Though the romantic elements are emphasized more heavily than in the first volume, this saga is another winner. It was a pleasure spending time with these families once again.