In a departure from his tales of contemporary or near-future conflicts, Coyle (Code of Honor, 1994) gets off to an absorbing start on a new Civil War series. Following a girl's violent but accidental death (which is hushed up), Princeton student James Bannon is banished to Virginia Military Institute by his overbearing father, a widowed Irish immigrant whose business achievements have not earned him the social acceptance he craves. Younger brother Kevin (who's actually responsible for the tragic mishap) remains at home in New Jersey and enrolls at Rutgers. Once the battle between North and South is joined, James follows VMI best friend Will MacPherson into the Virginia Volunteers, while Bannon päre uses his political connections to obtain the insecure Kevin a commission in the state militia. Ignorant of the other's whereabouts, the two brothers (whose loyalty has survived their separation) fight on opposite sides in some epic campaigns from Manassas, Antietam, and Fredericksburg through the Wilderness. Meanwhile, as the struggle between Union and Confederate forces grinds on, both men suffer grievous personal losses but find love amid the carnage: a more self-assured Kevin with Harriet Shields, a headstrong daughter of the local gentry who crosses the Mason-Dixon line to nurse the wounded; and alienated James with Mary Beth, Will's rebel sister. The brothers finally meet during the fierce clash atop Gettysburg's Seminary Ridge. Following a brief, emotional encounter, however, they part. Renewed in spirit, James marches off to continue fighting for the lost cause he now supports wholeheartedly, while Kevin and Harriet are left to wonder when or whether their paths will cross again. Authentic accounts of murderous combat on home-front battlefields, plus nuanced portrayals of men and women at arms. A rally-round-the-flag triumph with storytelling appeal for the Blue or the Gray.