Morrow, Sep 2001, 28.00, 648 pp.
In 1860 New York, teenager Arabella Leeds, daughter of upper crust parents, commits a terrible faux pas and is exiled to Europe until the furor ends. By 1862, the Civil War costs New Orleans "high-yellow" house slave Aubrey "Bree" Paxton his position of “privilege”. Rather than waiting for the inevitable disaster to finally hit, Bree obtains employment on a ship heading to London.
Bree and Arabella meet in Europe and begin to fall in love with one another. However, though his skin is white, she knows her family would consider Bree as Black and unacceptable. As Bree seeks more about his own roots, Arabella struggles with her parents and peers intervention. Love means nothing in a caste system that these two star-crossed individuals live in everyday of their lives.
LETTERS FORM AN AGE OF REASON is a tremendous historical fiction that will surprise readers by how good a tale is told by debut author Nora Hague. The story line rotates letters and other similar entries between Bree and Arabella that for the most part provide insight into American and English society during the American Civil War years. The duo's look at the attraction between them slows down the overall powerhouse theme that Victorian society cages Bree and Arabella for race and gender respectively. This, in turn, works so well that the plot makes this novel required reading for Civil War era buffs.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner