"Ms Bell has tackled what could be a difficult subject with integrity and convincing research"
(Lazare Family Saga Book 1)
1700s / 1800s
"In antebellum Charleston, a Catholic priest grapples with doubt, his family's secret African ancestry, and his love for a slave owner's wife. Joseph Lazare and his two sisters grow up believing their black hair and olive skin come from a Spanish grandmother—until the summer they learn she was an African slave. While his sisters make very different choices, Joseph struggles to transcend the flesh by becoming a celibate priest. Then young Father Joseph meets Tessa Conley, a devout Irish immigrant who shares his passions for music and botany. Joseph must conceal his true feelings as Tessa marries another man—a plantation owner who treats her like property. Acting on their love for each other will ruin Joseph and Tessa in this world and damn them in the next. Or will it?"
Joseph Lazare is devout to his Christian Faith, but also bears the burden of a complex, guilty conscience. He sacrifices much for his religion, putting his belief before the object of his desire - Tessa.
Tessa is intelligent, warm-hearted and pretty. She also finds herself committed to a difficult marriage. Between them lies passion but tempered by challenges caused by the restrictions of belief in sin, but at least Joseph has a supportive family, even though they, at times, must tolerate his religious obsessions.
Rather than a fast-paced drama, the novel is more about human nature set against the unquestioning belief of religion and what we now consider as blatant racism, ideals that were typical of the past. The author has very well achieved the antipathy of the period towards black slaves.
Throughout the narrative the author uses quotations from various sources, which fitted well with the story but I must confess as a non-religious Brit I did feel somewhat preached-to at times. I also felt the weight of Joseph's ongoing personal doubts and trials were occasionally depressing; his obsessions with his belief in his unworthiness and sin was a little too relentless for my taste. It is a long book, covering a long period (1789-1843) and there were areas where I felt the dialogue was a little mis-matched and some scenes were 'told' not 'shown', but for all that, Ms Bell has tackled what could be a difficult subject with integrity and convincing research into the real events of Carolina in the late 1700s.
Possibly a read more suited to the American market though?
© Anne Holt