The Civil War gets a supernatural assist in this blood- and sex-soaked epic, the first entry of a planned series from the husband-and-wife writing team.
Opening shortly before the first shots of the War Between the States, the novel traces the rise and fall of several characters but focuses mainly on the titular Anne, an astonishingly lovely Southern belle who begins the story in a life of bliss. Happily (and lustfully) married to a successful plantation owner, Anne and her two sons lead a pampered life of comfort. As war nears, however, Anne’s husband leaves home to join the fight, urged on by his malefic father, who turns out to be more than he appears. Forced to move to Atlanta, then to flee home as Sherman’s men loot and burn a path to the ocean, Anne is forced into an increasingly compromising series of choices, culminating in a confrontation with a deeply disturbed Union major, who has his own history with her father-in-law. As befitting the first novel in a planned series, a great deal of narrative ground is laid, with a sometimes dizzying number of characters getting their own stories and points of view. While the number of plot threads and characters can be overwhelming—particularly in the last 150 pages or so, where new developments and characters are still being introduced into the richly layered story—the Hodges develop most characters with a surfeit of attention and detail, usually bringing the speaking roles to life with confidence and a sure sense of story. However, not every plot thread and theme is handled with equal verve; the supernatural element, embodied in Anne’s father-in-law, seems to stand alone for most of the book, and veiled references to future events and stereotypical character traits stand out as examples of threadbare development. Nonetheless, the Hodges’ knack for epic storytelling and the otherwise believable characterizations help propel the story past the slow parts, all the while displaying a remarkable style.
With more than a hint of being a bodice-ripper, this accomplished debut will speak to fans of historical fiction and epic novels.