This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Historical Romance
Published by Indie/Self Published
Released on July 2, 2019
Evocative and brilliant, The Colonel takes the reader down a bittersweet path of a charismatic, yet flawed man’s life. I was captivated for the first time by this author’s writing when reading Longbourn’s Songbird. It was a love story at its heart, but was also the saga of family and friends set against the modern historical time of the American South of the late 1940’s. I was ecstatic to learn that one of the most colorful and emotion-generating characters of that story was being given the spotlight in the follow-up companion novel, The Colonel.
As I indicated, The Colonel is a companion novel. While not exactly a sequel, The Colonel wraps around and weaves through the events in the early story, Longbourn’s Songbird. It works best read after that one to get the full effect of several of the more pivotal scenes and experiences.
The Colonel is two stories, really. There is a contemporary thread about Ben Fitzwilliam. He’s an award-winning journalist now in his fifties who struggles with PTSD and grief from 9/11 and finds himself ready to take the fork in the road that leads him out of NYC and his career to the quiet Annapolis home that was his father’s where he not only discovers a new chance at love, but also an opportunity to fill in the large gaps that he knows of his dad’s life through newly discovered letters and reunions with his cousins.
Ben’s story wraps around his father’s full, tumultuous life beginning from the time Richard went away to fight in WWII to his mid-life years. Picking himself up many times over with a life story that can’t be told in isolation because of all the lives tied in with Richard’s, Richard displayed a man who made mistakes and owned them, but also a privately courageous man who was shaped by tragic circumstances and the times. Ben discovers who his father truly was and in so doing finds healing for himself and a new chance at love as well.
This book is heartwrenching and will brutalize a reader’s emotions. It’s not an easy reading experience, but it ends up owning a reader until the end. I was glad to get Ben’s chapters sprinkled throughout to give me moments to recruit myself because of the emotional impact of Richard’s story.
It was deeply moving as Richard became known to me as more than the larger than life side character in Longbourn’s Songbird. He was an amazing character and I was glad to get to know him through his own eyes and through the eyes of those nearest and dearest to him. They all knew him well and yet no one knew him completely like the reader is allowed to know him.
I just wanted the best for him and agonized as he sought for ways to get past his grief of losing James, the darkness that the war left in him, finding and losing true love and then looking for its replacement and knowing he would never find it, trying to be part of his family and yet tugged to keep looking for peace and contentment since love was even more elusive. It’s a heavy hitter and has stayed with my still.
Richard’s story was brilliantly written and I was left both fully satisfied and all hollowed out with tears running down my cheeks. It occurred to me just how important Ben’s framing story was after I was through reading. Ben got to have what I wanted desperately for Richard and I could console myself with that thought. Lots of superlatives come to mind when I think of this book and I have the strongest desire to gush, but at the same time, I feel like a mourner who wants to show utmost respect through silent contemplation.
Incidentally, while I’ve mostly raved about the superb characters and storyline, I really shouldn’t neglect mentioning the attention to historical setting of the forties and fifties that was present and colored in the scenes so masterfully.
I feel a little guilty wanting so many people to read this one knowing just how much it will gut its readers, but, yes, those who enjoy historical romance and fiction of the WWII and post-war eras, family sagas, and the more tragedy torturing their heroes the better, should snatch this up along with a goodly pile of tissue.
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