I was given a free copy of this book by Revell Reads, a division of Baker Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review and participation in a blog tour.
The Mistress of Tall Acre takes place immediately following the Revolutionary War. General Seamus Ogilvy returns a hero to Tall Acre, sadly neglected for the past years when his wife had fallen ill and taken their daughter with her to Williamsburg to her parents where she succumbed to a fever and died. When the Fitzhughs refuse to send little Lily Cate home to him, Ogilvy arrives on horseback and takes her forcibly from their townhouse and takes her to Tall Acre. It is Lily Cate who first meets their neighbour, Sophie Menzies of Three Chimneys, who, enchanted by the not-quite-six-year-old, invites her to tea for the following afternoon. Her household is in much worse shape than Tall Acre — her father had taken his Tory sympathies and absconded to Scotland, the British soldiers used up most of her resources, she is gathering chestnuts to make tea and flour, and her hired hand “looked to be a hundred years old . . . [and] the housekeeper wasn’t much younger”. Little Lily Cate is afraid of the stranger with the mutilated hand who has taken her away from the only home she remembers leaving all her clothes and toys behind to come to the huge, two-story plantation home, but she is instantly drawn to Sophie who clearly knows the path into the heart of little girls.
Sophie and Seamus begin an uneasy friendship. During the war years both have lost some of their smooth social skills: she has become rather plain spoken, he is used to giving orders not taking them. After a few minor altercations, their devotion to Lily Cate draws them together. When Sophie finds that the new American government is going to confiscate her land because of her father’s politics, Seamus thinks to keep Three Chimneys and Sophie safe, first proposing a lease arrangement, and then, proposing marriage. Despite his best intentions, their idyllic family life is soon strewn with political and familial roadblocks, their marriage called into question, and their physical safety jeopardized.
This is the first book by Laura Frantz that I have read and I found it quite engaging right from the beginning. Interspersed with flashbacks, mostly by use of a diary kept by the first mistress of Tall Acre and secreted in a hidden part of the desk in her room, a desk that perfectly matched one Sophie had at Three Chimneys. The story is extremely realistic with lots of detail true to the time and some of the complications that affect the lives of the Ogilvys come out of the beginnings of the new American legal system. It is Sophie’s belief that God will bring good out of all circumstances and answer her prayers that sees her through, and Lily Cate’s earnest petitions to her father to pray with her that draw him back into the circle of faith. As I was reading, I kept thinking that if this was made into a movie, the right person playing Lily Cate would steal the show. All of the relationships revolve around her and she pulls everything together. This was a delightful read. * * * *