To summarise and review a Lori Benton novel is always a challenge! In each, she packs such emotion into so much history. She digs deep into hard topics and brings the light of Christ. “Mountain Laurel” is no exception. It tackles what it means to be family in 1793 in North Carolina. Slavery is alive and well, and so, blood is not the dividing line one anticipates.

With the central topic being such a heartbreaking one, it’s by no means a gentle read. Empathetically written, one can’t help be feel for the slaves of these plantations whether under “kind” masters or not.

Seona, as a slave, and Ian, as a reluctant slave owner, bond of over the design of his cabinets as Seona’s natural talent for art shines. Their friendship deepens to love despite discouragement from both sides’ families and the ramifications of their relationship taint the rest of the story. Whilst the ending isn’t a cliffhanger, it isn’t the end of the journey for these two and I look forward to the second novel in this series.

The writing is beautiful, the characters and settings are well-constructed and the history is carefully researched and worked in. It is a wonderful book and highly recommended, a five out of five on the enJOYment scale.

For the sensitive reader, please be aware there are scenes of physical and verbal abuse which may be distressing.

From the back cover:

North Carolina, 1793
Ian Cameron, a Boston cabinetmaker turned frontier trapper, has come to Mountain Laurel hoping to remake himself yet again—into his planter uncle’s heir. No matter how uneasily the role of slave owner rests upon his shoulders. Then he meets Seona—beautiful, artistic, and enslaved to his kin.

Seona has a secret: she’s been drawing for years, ever since that day she picked up a broken slate to sketch a portrait. When Ian catches her at it, he offers her opportunity to let her talent flourish, still secretly, in his cabinetmaking shop. Taking a frightening leap of faith, Seona puts her trust in Ian. A trust that leads to a deeper, more complicated bond.

As fascination with Seona turns to love, Ian can no longer be the man others have wished him to be. Though his own heart might prove just as untrustworthy a guide, he cannot simply walk away from those his kin enslaves. With more lives than his and Seona’s in the balance, the path Ian chooses now will set the course for generations of Camerons to come.

A story of choice and consequence, of bondage and freedom, of faith and family.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from Tyndale House Publishers through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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