Christmas at Carnton by Tamera Alexander (novella review)

christmasatcarnton_alexander_thnelsonChristmas at Carnton is a novella introducing Tamera Alexander’s upcoming Carnton series.  Though at the heart this is a love story, it is also a story of war’s devastating effects on the homefront of Civil War era Tennessee.  

Aletta Prescott is expecting her second child when she finds herself without work and on the verge of losing the family home, close on the heels of her husband’s death in the Civil War.  Desperate, she seeks employment at Carnton Plantation, and though at first turned away she is soon not only working but living there with her son all due to tenacity and circumstances.

“Life is too short and our days too few to willfully spend time in the company of people who insist on telling us how much better they are than everyone else.”

“Amen to that,” Tempy whispered… (pp. 71-72)

Working with her is the injured Confederate sharpshooter, Captain Jake Winston, assigned to assist the Women’s Relief Society in their auction, much to his chagrin.  An attraction builds between them that Aletta fights against, but it is through this relationship and his assignment that Jake comes to appreciate the strength of the women left behind as boys and men go to war.

Through this employment, Aletta also becomes personally acquainted with a slave for the first time.  Working in Tempy’s kitchen, Aletta gains a deeper understanding of what slavery means to an individual.

Though this novella at times has the heft of a novel, I found myself worrying each time Aletta had a twinge or there was mention of a creche, that her child would be born just in time to play baby Jesus.  While some of the plot development is predictable, thankfully this was not one of them, and there were a few small surprises along the way.

She turned to him and, for an instant, he saw the love in her eyes, her desire for him written so clearly in her expression.  Then in a blink, those feelings were shuttered again, buried beneath the fear and the pain.  And she walked away.  (p.176)

Overall, a heart-warming Christmas read that includes some harsh realities of the Civil War homefront.  Happily, Tempy and a few other secondary characters will be in the first novel, and I am looking forward to reading it, as well as the previous (and briefly alluded to) Belle Meade Plantation series.

Christmas at Carnton (Carnton, .5) by Tamera Alexander | Thomas Nelson, October 2017 | paperback, 256 pages which include discussion questions, recipes, and an excerpt from To Whisper Her Name

I voluntarily received a finished copy of this novella for review from Thomas Nelson and Zondervan’s Fiction Guild.  All opinions expressed are my own.

From the Publisher:

Amid war and the fading dream of the Confederacy, a wounded soldier and a destitute widow discover the true meaning of Christmas—and sacrificial love.

Recently widowed, Aletta Prescott struggles to hold life together for herself and her six-year-old son. With the bank threatening to evict them, she discovers an advertisement for the Women’s Relief Society auction and applies for a position—only to discover it’s been filled. Then a chance meeting with a wounded soldier offers another opportunity—and friendship. But can Aletta trust this man?

Captain Jake Winston, a revered Confederate sharpshooter, suffered a head wound at the Battle of Chickamauga. When doctors deliver their diagnosis, Jake fears losing not only his greatest skill but his very identity. As he heals, Jake is ordered to assist with a local Women’s Relief Society auction. He respectfully objects. Kowtowing to a bunch of “crinolines” isn’t his idea of soldiering. But orders are orders, and he soon discovers this group of ladies—one, in particular—is far more than he bargained for.

Set against the backdrop and history of the Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee, Christmas at Carnton is a story of hope renewed and faith restored at Christmas.