Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

Well, I kicked off February with a fantastic tale of love and marriage during the Civil War.   I confess I might have a little crush on Gryffth Hockaday.  This was one surprisingly good read, and will probably be one of my favorites of the year.  

Placidia is a young woman living on her father's plantation in South Carolina in 1863. A chance meeting with Major Hockaday, who has come to buy a horse, sparks an attraction between the two that they both seem utterly unable to resist.  Hockaday asks for Placidia's hand in marriage, and they are married a mere two days later.  Riding through the night to reach Hockaday's farm (Holland Creek), they begin their marriage tentatively. Before they can settle in, Hockaday is called away to battle, and Placidia is left to run the farm on her own, with just a few slaves to help with the crops.  Hockaday has also left his two year old son Charles to be raised by Placidia.  She's over her head, but struggles to carry on through a whole lot of bad luck.  Through it all, she writes Hockaday with news of the farm, yearns for him at night, and worries for his safety.  Hockaday himself manages to get a few letters to Placidia, pledging his love to her.  He's a pretty intense man, and at age 32, quite a bit older than Placidia.  Yet somehow they work, and the quick, intense love they share seems very believable.  They are meant to be.  

Coming home two years later, in 1865, Hockaday hears that his wife was pregnant, and the baby died.  Hockaday, scarred by the war, angry at the apparent faithlessness of his wife, wants nothing to do with her while she awaits trial in the murder of her child.  What the heck happened?

This novel is told through letters between Placidia and her Aunt while she awaits her fate; letters between Placidia and Hockaday during the war, and a diary Placidia keeps during her struggle to keep Holland Creek running by herself.  It jumps ahead 30 years about halfway through, so you know what happens, yet it circles back to Placidia and Hockaday as they tell their tale through their own words.  Oh!  Placidia just makes your heart break.  What a tough young woman, battling against the odds.  And Hockaday, seeing the horror of war, waiting to die, and wishing he was back with his love.  This would make one heck of a great movie.  

Susan Rivers writes the story of Placidia and Hockaday with beautiful language; it's not corny or overly dramatic but believable.  Two damaged people fighting to find their way back to each other and the promise of what their life together could be.  

Rating:  8/10 for a novel that has two remarkable main characters, a powerful love story, and plenty of family angst that echoes through the generations and asks the question:  what do we keep hidden from our family in order to protect them?

Available in hardcover, audio, and e-book. 

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