Newly orphaned and forced to live with her brother and the overbearing woman who will soon be his wife, Olivia Killion is determined to gain her independence by inheriting 80 acres of farmland in far off Michigan. Her father’s will bequeathed the land to whichever of his offspring would put in a crop and stake a claim to it. Olivia insists, “I’m sprung off him just as much as Avis or Tobey.”
The problem: she’s seventeen, female, and it’s 1841.
She has a friend who would make a perfect partner for this endeavor. Mourning Free knows how to run a farm, having worked many years for local farmers. More importantly, Olivia has complete trust in him and no fear of a romantic entanglement developing between them. Mourning will put in the crop for her and she will then help him buy land of his own.
The problem: Mourning is black, the orphaned son of runaway slaves, and reluctant to travel and work with a white girl. He especially fears the private agents from the south who patrol the free states, hunting fugitive slaves.
Olivia believes she and Mourning can make their partnership work and they set off together. All goes well, despite the drudgery of survival in an isolated log cabin. Incapable of acknowledging her feelings for Mourning, Olivia thinks her biggest problem is her unrequited romantic interest in their young, single neighbor. Then she is betrayed and violated and her world falls apart.
Strong-willed, vulnerable, and compassionate, Olivia is a compelling protagonist on a journey to find a way to do the right thing in a world in which so much is wrong.
Awards: 2010 YWO Book of the Year, 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, Quarter-Finalist
Genre: Historical Fiction (1840’s), Historical Romance, Adventure, Cultural, Women’s Fiction
Kindle Edition: 1, 393 pages
“If ever there was a soul in need of a new start in life, it’s Mourning Free.”
Now, Olivia just needs to convince Mourning of this.
They relentlessly plan, and consider everything that could go wrong, including racist gossip, and a slave-chaser capturing Mourning. Olivia is persistent, and finally he agrees.
“This man could be my salvation, she thought. Now all I have to do is make him realize that I could be his.”
Once in Michigan, they settle into a routine of hard work, planting crops, farming, and getting ready for the winter. They meet a couple of their neighbors, but mostly keep to themselves. Life becomes depressing on the farm, and Olivia wonders why she ever wanted a life like this.
“She could remember how anxious she had been to get to Michigan, claim this property, and make a new life; she just couldn’t remember why.”
Then, one day Olivia’s world falls apart… She actually misses her mundane life on the farm, and the simplicity of it all. Life certainly has changed for Olivia. The only thing that keeps her going, are her thoughts of Mourning Free, and revenge for those who have wronged her.
The author certainly put a lot of thought into the time period, race relations, and the setting, giving this historical fiction an authentic feel. While reading this novel, I was impressed by her talent of world building, which I imagine might be difficult when writing a historical fiction set in the 1800’s!
Olivia Killian was certainly an admirable heroine. I don’t know many young women NOW, let alone in the 1800’s, who would be brave enough to leave home to claim land and start a farm, living in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. The fact that her partner was black, made this story all the more interesting, considering race relations back in the 1800’s. The romantic in me wanted to see them have a romance, so I was disappointed that the Author didn’t pair them together, (more than briefly).
I really liked Mourning, and his backstory was fascinating. One of my favorite parts in the book, was when Mourning suggested they lie in bed together, (I believe this was when Olivia was sick), and she was worried about what ‘people’ would think. He exclaimed, ‘who is going to see us?! The raccoons!’ -I laughed so hard at this! I pictured him twirling around, arms outstretched, a look of bewilderment on his face. 🙂 I really enjoyed the relationship between Olivia and Mourning, and I wished the Author had taken this further.
I was surprised at the direction this story took, and from there, it got really confusing. There were so many unanswered questions that left me feeling frustrated. I’m disappointed that it ended on such a huge cliffhanger, and based on book 3, Whatever Happened To Mourning Free?, I’m guessing that one of my major questions won’t be answered in book 2. Arrgh!
I received an e-copy of this novel, by the Author, in exchange for a fair, thoughtful and honest book review. This in no way swayed my opinion or rating.
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About The Author
I grew up in Michigan, but have lived all my adult life in Israel where I have worked as a dishwasher, secretary, librarian, office manager, agricultural laborer, management systems analyst, English teacher, Hebrew-English translator, technical writer, marketing writer, and proposal writer.
I have just completed two new historical novels: Olivia, Mourning and The Way the World Is (Books 1 and 2 of the Olivia Series). Both take place in Michigan and Pennsylvania in the 1840s. I love the challenge of recreating daily life in another time and place and based many of the details in Olivia, Mourning and The Way the World Is on letters and journals passed down through my family, over seven generations of lives lived in the Midwest. I received a great deal of insight from my sister, may she rest in peace, who lived in a fairly isolated log home, hunted her own land, and was just as independent and stubborn as Olivia. —Goodreads Author Bio