I leave critical reviews such as character development, etc. to the experts and only ask: Did I like this book? Did it hold my interest? Book #2 of Saddler's Legacy Series earns a resounding YES! I hadn't realized that the underground railroad existed so far north; in my ignorance, I thought all northerners were anti-slavery. That notion was corrected in this book. The main thought I took away was "man's inhumanity to man". It was an affront to my sensibilities! Then I asked myself what, living in that time in history, would my thoughts have been about slavery? Were they not just as you or I or just property? I shudder to think what my answer might have been if I were not an independent thinker. One just went along with what one's parents' said was right or wrong; heaven kelp you if you didn't. Slavery was not the main focus here, but the deveopment & growth of Ben's & Kate's relationship, which has twists & turns of its own. If you like history, you'll enjoy this book.
Kate Winter is painfully shy, so shy that her graduation from Otterbein College is on the line because she cannot summon the bravery to perform a speech in front of her class. Forced by her mother to work through her shyness, she auditions for a musical performance led by Ben Hanby. Though initially extremely reluctant to participate, Kate decides to use the performance to run away when she discovers that her mother plans to marry her off to a wealthy man. She finds herself drawn to Ben Hanby, and he to her, though he must keep his secret, that he assists fugitive slaves to run away, to himself. An accident on the Underground Railroad throws them together, but what will they do when Kate's parents are not happy with their growing attraction to one another?
Sweeter than Birdsong was a generally interesting story, and handled with more delicacy and balance than many romances, focusing as much on the plot points of Kate's shyness and the Underground Railroad as on the romance of the story. I appreciated that Ben's pursuit of Kate after he knew that it was against her parents' wishes was portrayed as wrong, and that he had to apologize for it in the end. I also appreciated that while Kate's relationship with her mother was very strained at the beginning, Ms. Elliott ensures that their relationship is mended by the end of the book. The strained nature of the relationship and Kate's mother's behaviour towards her was also given a believable backstory.
The main thing I did not like about Sweeter than Birdsong was the touching. There was altogether too much physical contact before marriage for a "Christian" romance. It could have been as good of a book, if not better, if the contact had been omitted.
Sweeter than Birdsong is a story that will take you back in history to a social world few, if any of us, can understand. It is a glimpse of slavery in many senses of the word at a time when the nation was divided_ just beginning to change. It is a story of forbidden love between different classes of people when the heart will not follow the social proprieties of society. It is about finding courage to stand up for what is right and decent and good even when it is not popular.
The characters are lively with a variety of personalities sure to keep you reading late into the night.
Will and Ann Hanby, whose story was shared in Fairer than Morning, are now middle-aged, with eight children. Sweeter than Birdsong, the second book of The Saddler's Legacy series and also based on actual people, focuses on the Hanbys' eldest son, Ben, and the lovely but shy Kate Winter. Ben and Kate are students at Otterbein College, and both have a passion for music and for those mistreated by others, such as the suffering slaves.
Set in the second half of the 1850s in Ohio, tensions are increasing between those who support and oppose slavery. The Hanbys continue to assist fugitive slaves, which leads to harrowing moments. Kate's unhappy home life makes her desperate to escape, but her mother wishes to marry her off to a high-society suitor. Ben and Kate seem to continually be thrown (and drawn) together. They find much in common, but could they ever overcome the obstacles that separate their lives and possible future happiness?
Rosslyn Elliott does a masterful job at portraying life in pre-Civil War days. Readers will feel like they're present and experiencing the physical sensations and the depths of emotion along with the characters. I must say I would rather read about such adventures than live them, and this novel does an amazing job at transporting one there vicariously.
What a delight to return to Westerville, Ohio and the Hanby family! I enjoyed revisiting Will and Ann, and meeting their children. The Hanbys' passion for helping escaped slaves has continued to the next generation, especially Ben. As a student at Otterbein College, Ben met Kate Winter. Kate was so shy, conversation was limited to one-word answers and giving a speech was impossible. Sweeter Than Birdsong is the story of Kate's struggle to overcome her fear. Along the way, she grows in understanding her mother and she joins Ben's family in their work on the Underground Railroad. The ending is so perfect for both Ben and Kate, it brought me to tears!