Divided Nation, United Hearts, by Yolanda Wallace
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Release Date: March 14, 2017
February 1862. The War Between the States has been raging for nearly a year with no end in sight. Philadelphia socialite Wilhemina Fredericks is safe from the war’s cluthces, yet she feels compelled to do her part to bring the madness to an end. Accordingly, she disguises herself as a man, takes up arms, and heads South to join the fight. What could possibly go wrong?
Clara Summers’s father and older brother are serving in the Confederate army. Forced to look after her two younger brothers as well as the small Tennessee farm the family depends on for its livelihood, Clara has no time nor interest in love. Then she meets a handsome Union soldier named Wil Fredericks, and her loyalty to both her family and the Southern cause is put to the test.
At some point in my impressionable youth, I read a true account of a woman who fought in the Civil War. That story has stuck with me, and any story about a woman who disguises herself to go to war goes to my insta-read pile. Divided Nations, United Hearts delivers on its promise, and is a good-hearted addition to this particular trope. This story also has the sweet bonus of a very satisfying romance between Wilhemina and Clara.
This is a book set during the Civil War, and despite how grounded the story is in the war, the startling thing about this book is that it doesn’t feel like a “war” story at all. There are battles, the expected brutality of the wounds from that particular war, and the specter of battles to come as the armies gather around Clara’s farm, but the story still feels thoroughly centered on Wilhemina and Clara.
This was a major strength of the book, which very firmly avoided using the Civil War and North/South to stand for good/bad, and instead focused on the humanity of its participants and the strength of the communities formed by and around the war. While there are instances of sexism throughout the book, the story carefully sidesteps the ideologies of the Civil War. Other than a cameo by Frederick Douglass in the opening pages of the story, there are only white characters in this story, for better or for worse.
Wilhemina and Clara don’t meet each other until about halfway through the book, so the tension slowly builds as we wait for their paths to cross. The story kicks into high gear when they finally do, but it does feel slightly disappointing how quickly they declare their love for each other after that. Parts of the end feel contrived or rushed, but I still very, very much appreciated the details of Clara and Wilhemina’s HEA, and am still smiling as I think about it. For all of the small flaws of this book, I very much recommend it for anyone looking for a lovely F/F story that thumbs its nose at the conventions of the time and allows its protagonists to get everything they want.
Yolanda Wallace is not a professional writer, but she plays one in her spare time. Her love of travel and adventure has helped her pen ten globe-spanning novels, including the Lambda Award-winning Month of Sundays. Her short stories have appeared in multiple anthologies including Romantic Interludes 2: Secrets and Women of the Dark Streets. She and her partner live in beautiful coastal Georgia, where they are parents to two children of the four-legged variety.
You can purchase Divided Nations, United Hearts from:
Bold Strokes Books
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.