Like the first book in Beyond the Woods Series, the second, A River Divides, offers a complex view into life during the Civil War era. This multifaceted book has the same engaging characters found in the first and includes a few new ones, that when combined, will keep readers riveted to the pages.
The story resumes in winter of 1864, where Betsy Henderson remains outside Staunton, Virginia with a freshly bruised face, worrying whether she’s revealed too much. Will the sheriff find out about her affair with Union soldier Hank? Does the sheriff have enough evidence to capture Walthorpe, the man who gave her the bruise and nearly made away with her fortune? Walthorpe, meanwhile, has another plan up his sleeve, one that will force Betsy to grapple with her southern loyalties, including the secret she’s keeping from Hank—one she won’t be able to hide for long.
Author Michael J. Roueche does a great job introducing esoteric terms while giving them proper context, thereby helping present-day readers immerse themselves in the historical tapestry he’s created. All the characters in this story demonstrate authentic shades of good and bad, making their choices (and their consequences) even more intriguing. Especially William, the former slave from Betsy’s plantation, whose bond with a new family makes his objective of joining the Union Army a lot more complicated.
Reading the first in the series isn’t required here but doing so will certainly enhance the experience. Roueche’s ability to sprinkle in enough detail to keep the interest of readers of Beyond the Wood while enticing those who are yet to pick through its pages makes this bittersweet story more than palatable. The sheriff’s point-of-view not only enlightens new readers to the necessary backstory found in the first book but also offers some surprises along the way. Readers will also get a glimpse into Walthorpe’s past and gain insight into his character that will suggest his villainy isn’t as cut-and-dried as it originally appears.
Roueche writes each character’s voice so distinctly that the reader may not notice the point-of-view shifts within the scenes, a small, but present, distraction. On the whole, Roueche’s beautifully written imagery and ability to immerse readers in place and time will delight and hook readers from the very beginning to the very end.
By the close of A River Divides, it’s clear that a river divides no more. And the cliffhanger in the final chapter will whet readers’ appetites for the next book in the series.