It's 1954, and twenty-two-year-old Lucia Lafleur has always dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps. While sock hops and poodle skirts occupy her classmates, she dreams of bacteria and broken bones—and the day she’ll finally fix them.
After graduation, a letter arrives, and Lucia reads the words she’s labored a lifetime to earn—"we are pleased to offer you a position at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine." But in the midst of her triumph, her fiancé delivers a crushing ultimatum: forego medical school, or forego marriage.
With fractured hopes, she returns home to Louisiana, expecting nothing of the summer of '54 but sweet tea and gumbo while she agonizes over her impending choice. There, she unexpectedly befriends Nicholas, a dark-skinned poet whose dignity and intellect are a salve to her aching heart. Their bond, initially forged from a shared love of literature, soon blossoms into something as bewitching as it is forbidden.
Yet her predicament deepens when a trivial misunderstanding between a local white woman and a black man results in a brutal lynching, and the peril of love across the color lines becomes chillingly real. Now, fulfilling her lifelong dream means relinquishing her heart—and escaping Louisiana alive.
I didn’t realize I’d drifted off until Nicholas touched my hand, startling my eyes open. He lay on the blanket a few feet away, watching me. His twilight eyes were as heart-stopping as ever, his lashes so long they nearly brushed his brows.
“I’m sorry it took so long,” he said. “I wanted to get here earlier. You don’t know how envious I am, seeing you nap. I stay up half the night for all the work I should’ve finished while here with you.”
His mouth curved gently, though a sliver of sadness showed in the bow of his lips. I wondered if he intended the words to distract me from what I had to ask.
“What happened last night?”
“Nothing you need to worry over, little bird. Everything’s alright now.”
He didn’t elaborate. Around us, cypresses reared skyward like cathedral columns while soft light filtered through the canopy and dusted our faces with tiny islands of radiance. As always, the pristine silence of the swamp circled steaming waters, but today, something menacing lurked beneath it all.
“How can it be alright? They’re talking all over town, about how someone attacked the Widow Magnusson in the street.”
His face lengthened. “You heard about that?”
“I couldn’t not hear about it.”
He looked away.
Fear bubbled up from somewhere deep. “Who’re they talking about?”
“Does it matter?”
The same maddening answer Gertrude Mays had given. But she’d said it maliciously, while Nicholas imbued the words with grief.
“Will it always be like this?” I said, frustrated. “Will there always be secrets, things you can’t tell me?”
“Yes,” he said.
5 out of 5 (exceptional)
By the Light of the Embers is a story that enveloped me in a world unknown. Taking me back to 1954 in Louisiana, I found a world where women were expected to be housewives, and people of colour were seen as second-class citizens.
This was an amazing story that gripped me from the very beginning, with descriptions in such perfect detail, you have no trouble seeing what the author saw. Although this book details some harsh realities, there are moments of gentleness, which made it all the more poignant. Once Lucia went to Louisiana, it became obvious that there was a connection between Sebastian and herself. At the same time, it was also obvious that Nicholas and Lucia wouldn't have the happy ending I was hoping for. Although I was sad at their ending, I also found it absolutely perfect, and am glad the author did it that way. It allows me to smile and imagine their HAE for myself.
Exceedingly well written, with no editing or grammatical errors that disrupted me, I thought this book was amazing. The characters change throughout the story, as their experiences change them, and yet each remain true to their core. A stunning book that I highly recommend.
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and the comments here are my honest opinion. *
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SHAYLIN GANDHI secretly stole her mother’s copy of Clan of the Cave Bear at age ten, and fell madly in love with love stories. Now, as an author, she still can't get enough, and the tales she spins all center around affairs of the heart. To her, that's what makes a story truly worth telling.
Besides writing, she tries to stamp her passport at every opportunity. Traveling has been a lifelong passion, and she’s lucky to have done it a lot. Shaylin and her husband once spent an entire summer living in their van while touring the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, and Alaska. Her most memorable trips often tie in with writing: her books are usually inspired by majestic places that stole her breath.
In addition, Shaylin practices medicine, scuba dives, plays the piano, and once rode her bicycle from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. She now lives in Denver with her incredible husband, their identical twin daughters, and two adorable rescue dogs. The family can usually be found in the mountains, either hiking up or skiing down.
You can find Shaylin online at www.shaylingandhi.com or on Twitter @shaylingandhi. Please get in touch—she would love to hear from you!
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