Fairer than Morning by debut author Rosslyn Elliott was sent to me as a review copy by Thomas Nelson Publishers. It tells the story of two people in early 19th-Century America who become involved in an unlikely friendship.
Ann Miller has lived her entire young life on a farm in Ohio where her father is an expert saddle-maker and a circuit-riding preacher. After the tragic death of her mother, she is tasked with the raising of her younger sisters. Ann dreams of marrying her sweetheart, Eli Bowen, but her current age, her duties at home, and even her own insecurities keep her from doing so.
Miles away in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Will Hanby has made a choice that will affect his entire future. The illnesses and eventual deaths of his parents and sisters have forced him and his brother into indentured servitude. After his term with a farmer is completed, he goes to Pittsburgh to sign away the next five years of his life again, this time thinking that the city will lead to a broader scope of life and knowledge. His hopes, however, are soon dashed as the reality of life with a cruel master hit him with full force, both figuratively and literally.
Several years later when Ann accompanies her father to Pittsburgh on business, Ann discovers Will’s plight and instantly has compassion for him. Through Ann’s actions and those of her father, Will discovers the Source of hope that can be a light in the darkness of his life. After Ann returns to Ohio, Will is determined to one day seek out the family who gave him the courage to endure his unfathomable situation.
When reading historical fiction, it usually takes several chapters for me to really get into the story and drawn to the characters. That was not the case with this book! I was attached from the very beginning, especially with the story of Will. The author has such a remarkable way of introducing the characters, the setting, and the background that I fell into the story instantly.
This novel was much more intricate than I had anticipated. There were so many turns in the story that I never guessed exactly what would happen next. Even towards the end, I was not quite sure which way the author was going to go with the main plot. The subplots in this book, especially the mentions of the Underground Railroad, made the whole novel historically rich and gave the novel substance. I was also overwhelmed with the intense portrayals of both compassion and hatred in this novel. The evil of man (often in the name of Christianity) that came at the hands of some characters horrified me; however, I was extremely moved and convicted by the compassion that can be shown to others when we allow the true light of Christ to shine through us.
A critique of this novel would be that I felt not all of the storylines were wrapped up at the end. This could be because there is a second novel to come next year in this “Saddler’s Legacy” series. Still, it seemed as if a couple of the characters were left hanging. Also, I felt this book was a little bit ‘wordy’ in places. I love to read, but I get bogged down sometimes when it comes to extensive descriptions of places and actions. I like to be familiar with the settings and the feelings of the characters. In fact, this is what made the novel so easy to read in the beginning, but after these people and places have been established, it is easy to get repetitive when too much detail is given later on in the book. I will also warn the readers that some descriptions in this book are vivid in detail, especially in relation to the cruelty that Will endures under his master.
The best part of this novel for me was discovering that the characters in this book were actually real people in history. It is amazing that so many details of their lives were put into the story by the author. Although most of the events and some of the people in the book are fiction, a lot of the elements are true, which I think is fascinating.
Fairer than Morning is easily the best historical fiction novel I have read this year. I look forward to reading more books in this series and from Rosslyn Elliot in the future.
I will give Fairer Than Morning… 4 ½ BookWorms!
You can read my review of this book online at The Christian Manifesto here.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher, Thomas Nelson. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”