J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the category “book review”

Five-Star Review for A Beckoning Hellfire

I received another five-star review for my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire. This is the second book in the Renegade Series. Thank you so much, Jose Popoff, for your outstanding review!

Jose Popoff

5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase

A beautiful tale set in history

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸

America will always remember the Civil War as one of the most tragic events in their history. This story is set in that time and it is quite engrossing. The details and narrative are captivating and you can see how the author easily conveys a bevy of feelings in its characters.

But I think that, more importantly, there is a strong powerful message embedded within the words, sentences, and paragraphs. This is like a poetic salute to the delusion that war is honorable and whatnot. I have never seen a man die but I am guessing that there is nothing beautiful about it. This book exposes this through the experiences of David Summers.

Awesome Review for A Beautiful Glittering Lie

I received this review from the US Review of Books for my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. Thank you so much, Mihir Shah, for your flattering review!

A Beautiful Glittering Lie: A Novel of the Civil War (The Renegade Series)

by J.D.R. Hawkins

Westwood Books Publishing

Book review by Mihir Shah

“The voices of thousands of wounded soldiers rose up from the ground in an eerie, harmonious chorus.”

In typical Hawkins fashion, the spirit of the battle, its highest highs and lowest lows, has been impeccably captured from the perspective of ordinary citizens turned soldiers. In this first volume of the Renegade Series, the author delivers an incredibly realistic experience for the audience. Readers not only get to read about the Civil War in an engaging manner, but they also get to feel the era come to life with the characters, their mannerisms, dialogue, and the tensions that tug at them as they are forced into difficult choices.

While history has already chronicled the Civil War, novels like this one truly embody the essence of the catalyst that led to bloodshed and the ensuing emotional turmoil. The novel opens up with the President of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis, declaring in no uncertain terms through a grand speech that war is inevitable. Just as jarring in the same opening scene, where morale is at an all-time high and dreams of glory are transcending reality, is the seemingly casual yet well-placed reference to “faithful slaves,” who were tending to the sprained ankle of a slave owner’s wife. From the onset, this historical novel sets the stage for what many future historians will likely perceive not as a battle between the Union and Confederacy but a fight for the nation’s identity, its soul.

Many storylines run concurrently, with the prequel shedding light on a young David Summers before he has become hardened by battle and softened by love. Characters like Hiram are beyond endearing, and one really is forced to wonder how many needless lives, how many broken homes, and how many unfinished stories stain the battlegrounds of the Civil War. While names like General Lee and Stonewall Jackson will certainly add an aura of familiarity for audiences, the ordinary lives of citizens like Hiram and Bud are the ones readers will root for because they are true reflections of unbiased humanity.

Whether in the budding relationship between David and his stallion, Renegade, or the innocence and purity of David learning to play the guitar, Hawkins has an uncanny knack for character development as she builds a backstory with the main characters that audiences of the other Renegade books will devour. Though David has yet to join the battlefield at this point, he represents the thousands of young men whose parents went to battle, leaving their sons to accelerate their coming-of-age stories and thrusting them into the role of protector and provider for their families.

Above all else, the narrative is based upon the prerequisite of placing each character out of his comfort zone. The result is seeing the indomitable human spirit rise in the face of the grimmest adversities. Although equipped with the same essential facts as one would find in a history book, Hawkins’s narrative stands out in its ability to bring these moments to life in a way that is universally relatable and evergreen. Free-flowing with intriguing character development against the backdrop of a bloody yet pivotal time in American history, this narrative is a compelling must-read.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

Another Five-Star Review for A Beckoning Hellfire

I’m so honored to have received another five-star review for my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire. This is the second book in the Renegade Series. Thank you so much, Pacific Book Reviews and Arthur Thares, for your amazing review!

Title: A Beckoning Hellfire 

Author: J.D.R. Hawkins 

Publisher: Westwood Books Publishing 

ISBN: 978-1-64803-077-2 

Genre: Historical Fiction 

Pages: 234 

Reviewed by: Arthur Thares 

Pacific Book Review  

To write good historical fiction book, you must be skilled at both  research and imaginative storytelling, which is a tall order. However, J.D.R. Hawkins seems 

to do both with ease as she paints a realistic picture of the Civil War era using characters  that were grown in her imagination. A Beckoning Hellfire is part of something special in the  Renegade series, but it deserves individual accolades. 

The story begins unassumingly with the main character, David, on his family farm in  Alabama. A visitor arrives to deliver devastating news that will forever change the course  of David’s life. Though he had already decided to join the Confederate army, a tragic  accident speeds up his timeline, and he leaves his home with not much more than his  horse and best friend Jake in tow. David is searching for retribution, but what he finds is  the horrors and sadness of war. The trials and tribulations may prove to be too much for  the young Southerner who is only trying to do what he thinks is the right thing. 

Some people are born with the gift of storytelling, which is true of J.D.R. Hawkins, but she  has taken it to another level by creating stories with the history she is passionate about.  Her writing style shows she has a deep and intimate knowledge of the Civil War, especially  the Confederate side. The small details in her writing lend a genuine authenticity to the  story you don’t always find in fiction. One of the most admirable attributes of Hawkins’  writing is that she is not afraid to make her characters human; they have their faults and  aren’t invincible. 

A Beckoning Hellfire is a little difficult to read, not because of the book’s quality, but  because you know this fictional telling is not far off from the reality of the Civil War.  Although the content can sometimes be questionable, this book would be an excellent  story to introduce to older middle schoolers and above. It is a reminder of one of the worst  times in our nation and the sacrifices that were made, but being a work of fiction takes the  edge off of a harsh reality. Once you have read this book, there is no doubt you will want  to read the other books in Hawkins’ Renegade series.

Excellent Review for A Beckoning Hellfire

I received this flattering review from Hollywood Book Reviews for my novel, A Beckoning Hellfire. It is the second book in the Renegade Series. Thank you so much, Mr. Jack Chambers, for your awesome review!

Title: A Beckoning Hellfire: A Novel of the Civil War (The Renegade Series)
Author: J.D.R. Hawkins
Publisher: Westwood Books Publishing
ISBN: 978-1648030772
Pages: 249
Genre: Military Historical Fiction
Reviewed by: Jack Chambers


Hollywood Book Reviews
The realities of war are often far more brutal and harsher than the stories and imagery the governments of a nation will make it out to be. The search for glory and heroism will often outshine everything else, but those who find themselves in the midst of war will find more cruelty, fear, and bloodshed than any sense of glory they were promised. To find a means of preparing for war is far less likely the more one focuses on the morality of our world. As Sophocles once said, “War never takes a wicked man by chance, the good man always.”


In author J.D.R. Hawkins’s A Beckoning Hellfire: A Novel of the Civil War, the second book in The Renegade Series, the author takes readers into the dark realities of war and vengeance through the eyes of David Summers. The story finds David thrust from his farm in Northern Alabama and into the heart of the American Civil War on the battlefields in Virginia and Pennsylvania. The news of his father’s death in the Battle of Fredericksburg rocks David to his core, and he goes in search of vengeance against the people he blames for his passing. Yet as time goes on and the war looms large over him, he begins to lose the bloodlust that drove him forward as the battles wear on him physically and mentally, leading to a haunted look at the human cost of the American Civil War.


As a reader who has had the pleasure of reading several books in this historical fiction series, I was immediately drawn into the author’s familiar yet always engaging focus on historical accuracy and cinematic writing style. The emotional and psychological weight of the Civil War has never felt more profound, as the author does an excellent job of showcasing both sides of the war and the many different realities of those fighting on the frontlines of battle. The atmosphere was definitely heavy, and the haunting tone the author’s writing struck was a great way of highlighting the plight of the common man who fought in this war, rather than focusing on the historical figures or wealthy landowners who fueled the war behind the scenes.


This is the perfect book for those who enjoy historical fiction reads, especially those that enjoy historical fiction that focuses on American History, in particular the American Civil War. The balance the author found between the historical accuracy and the rich character development was great to see, as David’s evolution throughout the narrative was the heart and soul of this narrative. The reader gets a true sense of the horrors and weariness that overcame the average soldier during the war, and made for a wellrounded reading experience.


Thought-provoking, adrenaline-fueled, and historically entertaining, author J.D.R. Hawkins’s A Beckoning Hellfire: A Novel of the Civil War is a must-read historical fiction novel and a great entry into the author’s The Renegade Series. The haunting imagery and detailed accuracy of the battles and death that many soldiers experienced during that time puts a real human element into this fictional story, and will leave fans eager for more of the author’s incredible work.

Two More Five-Star Reviews for Double-Edged Sword

My new novel, Double-Edged Sword, received two more five-star reviews! This book is the fourth one in the Renegade Series, and tells the story of a family torn apart by the Civil War. Thank you so much, Evelyn and Chelsey McQuitty, for your awesome reviews!

Evelyn

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!!

Reviewed in the United States on July 1, 2022

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It’s a suspenseful book that had me gripped, especially in the second half. I’ve always felt attracted by history. In this novel, the Civil war’s period is perfectly represented and this was an extra point, in my opinion.
The plot is interesting and richly descriptive. The settings are portrayed in such a good way that I could feel inside the book in more than one opportunity. The flow just worked nicely.
The characters surprised me from the very beginning. I had estimated a guess at which was the ending of the book and I was completely wrong; it was a real shock!!
I’m already looking for another piece of work from this author.


Chelsey McQuitty

5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommend this series!

Reviewed in the United States on July 12, 2022

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I’ve always been intrigued by this period in history, which is why I picked up the book. I went into the story thinking that it was going to be like most of the other books that I’ve read before. That is, bits of war mixed in with a few details that have been stretched to suit the narrative. Not the case here. The author creates a wonderful story with characters that are so real that they grow on you. I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a series that will make you want to binge read.

Another Outstanding Review for Double-Edged Sword

I received another review for my new novel, Double-Edged Sword. This is the fourth book in the Renegade Series. Thank you so much, Pacific Book Reviews and Arthur Thares, for your flattering review!

J.D.R. Hawkins has done it again with the next chapter into David and Anna’s lives. There is always a worry that bringing back established characters will not have the same spark as their first story, but that was never going to be the case for as gifted a writer as Hawkins. Instead, we get a direct sequel (and fourth in a series) to her fantastic novel A Rebel Among Us.


After a rocky start to their lives together, David and Anna leave the North to stay with David’s family in Alabama, but the couple soon finds that living in the South won’t be any easier. Just making it to David’s family is harrowing enough, but the challenges continue. With the turmoil of southern reconstruction after the Civil War, David and Anna eventually make their way back North, but not everyone is happy about their return. The two struggle to fight for each other while battling the outside world, but even their love may not be enough to protect them.


J.D.R. Hawkins is a gifted writer who creates compelling characters which feel real. It isn’t the more prominent aspects of their personality which make her characters unique; it is the subtle gestures that make them seem like complete beings. Something else she does remarkably well is sliding in historical references wherever they fit without making it feel forced. Her knowledge of the period shows not only with her historical references but the speech and actions of her characters. It is genuinely fun to follow David and Anna throughout their story, even if it is not always a pleasant one.


One of the strongest characteristics of this book is how it toes the line of multiple genres, opening it up to a broader audience. While there is plenty of romance, it isn’t a “romance novel,” and the balanced addition of action and humor places it in its own category. Hawkins touches on plenty of mature subjects but does so in a way that does not make the book too mature for younger readers. There is some language in the book that is not socially acceptable, but it was unfortunately commonplace during the period this book takes place.


Hopefully, this book is not the end of David and Anna’s story, as these characters have so much more life. J.D.R. Hawkins is an exceptional writer, and her talent should be appreciated no matter what genres of books a reader usually gravitates toward. It would be hard for anyone to read this book from cover to cover and not fall in love with the characters and the author that brings them to life.

Double-Edged Sword Receives Another Stellar Review

My new novel, Double-Edged Sword, has received a review from US Review of Books. This is the fourth book in the Renegade Series. Thank you so much, Gretchen Hansen, for your marvelous review!

Double-Edged Sword: A Novel of Reconstruction – Book Four of the Renegade Series
by J.D.R. Hawkins
Book review by Gretchen Hansen

“All of his ideas, however, ended the same, with him being tried, convicted and strung up for murder.”

The U.S. Civil War’s aftermath and the painful period known as the Reconstruction era are at the center of the narrative in this fourth installment of the author’s sweeping saga. David Summers brings home his bride, Anna. He also carries with him scars —physical and mental— from his years fighting in the war. As their train travels deeper into the South towards his native Alabama, the visible destruction of his birthplace begins to weigh him down. The newlyweds hope to start a new life together and create something beautiful out of the horrors they have survived.

Anna, originally from Pennsylvania, is excited to meet her new family and start one of her own. David’s mom and sisters welcome her, incorporating her into the household. To the rest of the community, she is a constant reminder of their devastation at the hands of the North. Being an intelligent young woman full of Moxie, she contributes to the family finances by selling pies to the soldiers at the fort.

As beautiful and idyllic as the countryside seems, the harsh reality sets in. The war brought absolute destruction to the South’s infrastructure, economy, and society. It would obviously take decades to recover. Many people simply walked away, either starving or having lost their families. To add salt to the wounds, Union troops remained in Alabama.

With all this turmoil, David is desperate to help his community regain s ome of its splendor. He joins a group of men who intend to push back. At first, the intent is to scare people, primarily the freed slaves. However, it quickly morphs into something frighteningly violent. His participation will have consequences. Events are happening too fast. David must find a way to heal himself and keep his family intact.

Hawkins had a tremendous challenge in crafting a novel that carries the story forward with the same level of excellence found in the other volumes. However, she has acco mplished this and has written a book that could easily stand alone. The narrative is fully formed and engrossing, showcasing the author’s poetic, colorful writing style.

The endearing, true-to-life characters provide a unique perspective into a side of the Civil War story that is usually disregarded. Hawkins does not shy away from the heartbreaking truth or pain of the people experiencing the ruin. Rather, she treats these with honesty and emotional intelligence. The result is neither a plea for pity nor a glorification.

Hawkins is an award-winning author with several best-selling volumes focusing on the Civil War and Reconstruction period. Her works have been well received by critics and readers alike. They have a particularly unique role in modern culture, balancing the narrative about U.S. History. These works remind readers that those who lived in and fought for either the South or the North were not as different as one might want to believe. One simple yet profound example from the book is the immense joy apple pies brings to the soldiers. The author’s deep knowledge of history and passion make this book an exceptional pleasure to read. It is certain that fans who have been anxiously awaiting this newest volume will be delighted and that it will also undoubtedly appeal to many new readers.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

Double-Edged Sword Receives New Review

I received another wonderful review from Hollywood Book Reviews for my new novel, Double-Edged Sword. This is the fourth book in the Renegade Series, and tells the story of a family from Alabama who experience the horrors of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Thank you, Manik Chaturmutha, for your review!


J.D.R. Hawkins’ historical fiction Double-Edged Sword: A Novel of Reconstruction delves into the American Civil War which has destroyed cities and livelihoods. Amidst the tense atmosphere of conflict, a family attempts to recover socially and emotionally. However, the post-war continues to affect the many relations within the family; also, the external forces threaten to complicate their relationships even more. The prologue introduces the novel’s background and is ominous about the tangled story that lies ahead.

David Summers is an ex-confederate soldier who fought against the government, the Yankees, for his state of Alabama in the war. Recently released from prison, he travels home with his newly-wedded and pregnant wife, Anna. When he meets his family after a long time, he hopes it will provide him with some much-needed respite from the trauma of war, but not quite. David’s mother is disappointed that he ran away to the north to fight, leaving his family behind. Moreover, he married Anna, a Yankee. As his familial relations get strained, so does his marriage. Anna is desperate to return to her home as she faces a gruelling pregnancy, making her resent David. Furthermore, a sort of love quadrangle between David, Anna and their former suitors/friends threatens to crack their marriage.

Anna’s close friend Stephen is envious of David for having married her. David’s friend, Callie, is heartbroken since she assumed they would be married. Callie’s friendship with David causes a rift in his marriage, prompting Anna to leave for home. However, when David joins Anna in the north, he has a violent falling out with Stephen. This lands him in jail and the midst of a precarious court case. Will David be able to prove himself and live a life with his family? This is what remains to be found out.

Hawkins’ world-building through her vivid, imagery-filled text is sublime and compelling. She evokes a sense of nostalgia for a world that had been built before the war, and regrets for the way it exists after. The narrative consists of many strands–the post-war recovery of David and his family, marriage troubles with his wife and suspense regarding his future when he is jailed. Likewise, enough space is provided to fully imbibe the impact of all the unfolding plot themes. The characters of David and Anna are well-fleshed out, and their relationship is honestly written. The dialogues have been reported in the typical Southern-American dialect, thus providing a remarkable genuineness. It is a fascinating read. Readers of historical fiction with a dash of war drama, romance and suspense will enjoy this book.

Double-Edged Sword Receives Another Five-Star Review

I recently received another five-star review for my new novel, Double-Edged Sword. This is the fourth book in the Renegade Series. Thank you so much, Grady Harp, for your flattering review!

Grady HarpTop Contributor: Children’s Books

HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER

5.0 out of 5 stars The aftermath and scars of the Civil War

Reviewed in the United States on July 9, 2022

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Author/singer/songwriter JDR Hawkins writes novels and articles for newspapers, magazines, e-zines and blogs about the Civil War from the Confederate perspective. Her RENEGADE Series is rapidly winning multiple awards and there are four volumes – A REBEL AMONG US, A BEAUTIFUL GLITTERING LIE, A BECKONING HELLFIRE, and this volume DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD. These novels relate the story of a family from northern Alabama who experience immeasurable pain when their lives are dramatically changed by the war.

Though a novel of the past, at this particular time in our history, when questions are being raised about the validity of statues and memorabilia of the Civil War, creating heated discussions and confrontations, this book offers a fresh view of the Civil War from the Southern, and Confederate, stance. Hawkins makes this revisit to the Confederate South lively with her eloquent prose as she opens this volume four: ‘ The constant ric-atata, ric-atata of the wheels rolling against the rails lulled him. Sweat beaded on his forehead, and he found it difficult to breathe in the warm, humid, almost unbearable air. The soft whispering breeze of his wife’s handheld fan gently whispered against his cheek. His mind eased. Voices seeped into his conscience, growing louder as they neared him. ‘Over here!” a man yelled. “Bring that torch!” A flame came into view. It quickly exploded into a fury of fire against the night sky. What appeared to be phantoms floated around burning buildings…’The scene established, the novel begins.

The plot is outlined as follows: ‘The Civil War has ended. Confederate cavalryman, David Summers, returns home to Alabama, taking his new wife, Anna, with him. Upon arrival, he understands how much the war has changed him and has scarred his homeland. Faced with challenges of transition, he learns how to navigate his new world, along with the pain and trauma of his past. He is also forced to confront his foes, including Stephen Montgomery. Their hatred for one another inevitably boils over into a fierce confrontation, whereby David is arrested. Will the jury believe his side of the story, even though he is an ex-Confederate? Or will he be hung for his crime?’

This is a timely novel that will hopefully add new dimensions of thinking about the Civil War and its persistent scars. Grady Harp, July 22

Five-Star Review for Double-Edged Sword from Readers’ Favorite

I received another five-star review for my new novel, Double-Edged Sword. This is the fourth book in the Renegade Series. Thank you so much, Readers’ Favorite, for the wonderful review!

Reviewed by: Romuald Dzemo

Review Rating: 5 Stars – Congratulations on your 5-star review!


Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers’ Favorite

Double-Edged Sword: A Novel of Reconstruction by J.D.R. Hawkins is a mesmerizing historical novel set against the backdrop of the years following the Civil War in Alabama. The protagonist is a Confederate cavalryman, David Summers, who returned home to Alabama after the war as a broken man. While his past and the horrors of the war still haunt him, he also has a broken land before him. As he struggles to fit into the new reality, he quickly understands that he still has many enemies to face. A confrontation between David and his long-time arch enemy, Stephen Montgomery, leads to David’s arrest. When he faces the jury, will he find favor with them or will they hang him?

J.D.R. Hawkins’ evocative writing and a strong sense of imagery are two elements in this narrative that help to paint a fascinating, credible picture of Alabama following the Civil War. The author shows readers compelling glimpses of the effects of the war, writing beautifully about the relationships and family dynamics. Characters like Kit are appealing and the author uses Kit to redefine friendship. I loved the beautifully crafted dialogue and Hawkins’ deft handling of conflict. Another character who will instantly gain the interest of readers is Anna, who accompanies David to Alabama. While they are in love, she is conflicted as she is from the north and her apprehension shines through the narrative. Double-Edged Sword is a brilliantly conceived novel that examines the challenges during the reconstruction period after the war. It is a formidable tour de force and a gem for fans of historical novels set around the time of the Civil War.

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