I just finished reading a book by the well-established but new-to-me author, Shelley Shepard Gray, and honestly, I’m not sure what to think of it… As the first book in the new “Lone Star Hero’s Love Story” collection, “The Loyal Heart” was published by Zondervan in the summer of 2016. Although the storyline was unique and interesting, several other elements just didn’t quite measure up to my standards of well-written Historical Fiction. Let me explain…
As I mentioned before, the plot of “The Loyal Heart” is quite captivating. Told from two primary (and at least one secondary) characters’ points of view, a tale of deception, courage, and unravelled dreams is carefully woven. Although several inappropriate references are made to the activities of less-than-honorable women, that is not the novel’s only flaw. The WAY the tale is told also leaves much to be desired for two glaring reasons….
1) The characters act and converse in a flat, uninspired, and sometimes unnatural manner for their time period. Although the heroine of the story was greatly esteemed by her now-deceased husband, I truly did not notice much in her character that was exemplary. Apart from seeming unrealistic, she also seemed rather selfish.
2) The second annoying factor is the way in which the dialogue was written. One character would make a statement or ask a question, and the second character would then have a lengthy (several paragraphs long) internal process of remembering or otherwise thinking, and THEN make a reply. By that time, I often forgot what the initial comment was! Perhaps some readers wouldn’t mind this technique, but I did.
In the end, if you are looking for an interesting story set in the aftermath of the Civil War and told from the perspective of the South, I do recommend this book. Apart from that, however, I can’t say too much in its favor… Poorly developed characters, a difficult and bumpy writing style, and several unseemly and dark references mar this Historical Fiction novel enough that I do not intend to read it again. But what will you decide? Does a compelling story that captures your interest warrant reading the entire novel, even if it is annoying and lackluster? Or is it the writing style and character development that truly make a novel worth your time?
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.