Virginia Renfro Ellis, Author . Ballantine $21.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-345-44482-0

Set in post–Civil War Virginia, Ellis's suspense-filled romance evokes the aftermath of war in a state that is dying by inches, economically ruined and devoid of an entire generation of young men. The three beautiful Atwater sisters—two with dead or missing husbands, one whose chances for marriage have been blighted by the war—cling to each other in the ruins of their family home, Oak Creek Plantation. In an effort to stave off despair, the widowed Julia makes a rash gesture: she announces that 17-year-old Claire, the youngest, will be married in the spring. With no funds and no groom in sight, Julia, Victoria (whose husband has gone missing in the war) and Claire dedicate their resources to making a wedding dress. Tested by events ranging from the supernatural (ghostly Southern soldiers) to the providential (lace and buttons appear through the generosity of friends and strangers), the sisters rely on their faith to see them through. With the arrival of Monroe Tacy, Julia's husband's old comrade, along with several surprise visitors, some joy may be salvaged from the ashes of their lives. Ellis spins an engaging story, though her Southern dialect can be stiff and some scenes wax overly sentimental. Her narrative warmly embraces its entire range of characters and keeps the reader guessing until the end. The author, who has written a dozen romance novels under the name of Lyn Ellis, is off to a good start in combining a historical perspective with generous portraits of appealing characters. (June)

Reviewed on: 03/18/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
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