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.
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.
As you might know, Halloween was invented by the Irish. Originally called Samhain, which means summer’s end, the ancient Celts also invented pumpkin carving. They carved turnips and other root vegetables and inserted candles inside to scare away evil spirits. They also invented bonfires, which were originally called bone fires. This is because the Celts sacrificed animals and burned their bones in fires to also scare off evil spirits. Just a few interesting facts about how the holiday started.
Here is an excerpt from my novel, A Rebel Among Us, which is the third book in the Renegade Series. I hope you enjoy it. Stay safe this Halloween!
On October 31, Patrick arrived with a bottle of whiskey and invited David to partake with him. They stood shivering at the back door, passing the bottle between them.
“‘Tis Samhain tonight, lad. All Hallow’s Eve. Were ye aware of it?”
David nodded. “Where’d you git this whiskey?” he asked.
“Aye, ‘tis a grand thing the Meyers provide me with allowance for such an indulgence,” he replied. He pulled a pipe from his coat pocket and lit it. Puffing away, he shook his head and remarked, “Sure’n ‘tis a far cry from real tobacco.”
A thought crossed David’s mind. “I’ll be right back,” he said.
He went upstairs to his room, grabbed the pouch of tobacco, and brought it back down to his friend.
Patrick peeked inside before taking a deep whiff. “Ah!” he sighed, relishing the pungent aroma. “Might this be the Southern tobacco I’ve heard tell about?”
David grinned. “Jake brought it along for tradin’, and this here’s what’s left.”
Patrick loaded his pipe, relit it, and puffed euphorically, smiling all the while. “‘Tis a wee bit o’ Heaven, indeed.” He glanced at his friend. “Now, have ye any scary tales from the Southland that might have me skin crawlin’?”
David thought for a moment, “There’s a story from north Alabama about a place called the Red Bank.”
Raising his eyebrows, Patrick said, “Let’s see if ye might be tellin’ it frightfully enough to send a shiver up me spine!” He happily puffed away.
David grinned. He lowered his voice so it was a threatening grumble and delved into his story. Once he had completed the tale of an Indian maiden who had killed herself after losing her baby and had promptly turned into a ghost, he paused.
Patrick puffed silently on his pipe. “Well, now, I have a scarier one.” He puffed again, took a swig from the whiskey bottle, handed it to David, and said, “Tis an old tale from the motherland.”
The wind blew past them, whistling off through the barren fields. Both young men shivered, suddenly aware of the ominous darkness surrounding them.
David forced a nervous laugh before taking a swallow. “All right, Patrick. Let’s hear it.”
He took a puff and slowly exhaled. “There once lived a wealthy lady who was courted by two lords. One of the lords grew so jealous of the other that he plotted to kill his rival. So one night, he snuck into the unsuspectin’ lad’s bedchamber. But instead of choppin’ off his head—”
He said this with so much exhuberance David jumped.
“He accidentally chopped off his legs instead.”
A dog howled in the distance, adding to the nuance of Patrick’s eerie Irish story.
“His torso received a proper burial, but his legs were tossed into a hole in the castle garden and covered with dirt. The murderin’ lord deceived the lady by tellin’ her the other suitor had abandoned his proposal to her. She agreed to marriage. But on their weddin’ night, in walked the two bodyless legs.”
An owl hooted from somewhere off in the empty trees.
“The legs followed the bridegroom relentlessly until the day he died. It’s said the legs can still be seen walkin’ round by themselves. ‘Tis a true phuca.” Upon this conclusion, Patrick puffed on the pipe. Smoke billowed around his head like an apparition.
“What’s a phuca?” asked David.
“A ghost,” Patrick responded.
Raising a skeptical eyebrow, David snorted. “I reckon that’s the dumbest spook story I ever heard.”
A gate near the barn caught in the wind and slammed loudly against the fencepost. The two men jumped. They chuckled at their reaction, but immediately felt the terrible chill. Reasoning they would be more comfortable inside, they entered the kitchen, consumed the remainder of the whiskey, and bid each other goodnight. Patrick returned home, and David retired quietly upstairs, careful not to wake the others. Relieved the fireplace had been lit for him, he undressed.
Climbing into bed, he snickered at the thought of two legs unattached to a body, chasing after a rival. Once he’d fallen asleep, however, the thought invaded his dreams. The legs ran toward him. Right behind them rode the headless Union horseman. The torso raised its saber and swung it where its head should have been. Just as the blade came down, David jolted awake. He gasped to catch his breath, realizing, once again, his imagination had gotten the best of him. Slowly, he lay back. Unable to sleep, he listened to the wind rattle the shutters and shake through the skeleton-like tree limbs from outside the frosty, lace-covered windows.
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
Genre: Historical Fiction
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.
It was announced last week that over 1,000 military installations will have their names changed. This is because the current defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, believes the names “honor” the Confederacy. Austin has concurred with all of the naming commission’s recommendations “and is committed to implementing them as soon as possible.” Once implemented, the commission’s plan “will give proud new names that are rooted in their local communities and that honor American heroes whose valor, courage, and patriotism exemplify the very best of the United States military,” Austin wrote. Proud new names? What does that even mean? And here’s the kicker: it will cost the Pentagon an estimated $62.5 million to implement the recommendations from the final report, according to the commission. So is that taxpayers’ money implementing the name changes? If so, then why aren’t we allowed to vote on this?
It seems Austin has taken this political correctness thing way too far. Changes will include new names for two Navy ships and several streets and buildings on bases. Congress has mandated that the defense secretary implement the changes by Jan. 1, 2024. One thing they fail to remember: erasing history only guarantees that it will be repeated.
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.
I’m very excited and happy to announce that my new novel, Double-Edged Sword, has received the Indie B.R.A.G. Medallion! This is the fourth book in the Renegade Series, and now all four books have received this distinguished award!
According to their website, “BRAGMedallion.com is owned and operated by indieBRAG, LLC, a privately held organization that has brought together a large group of readers, both individuals and members of book clubs, located throughout the United States and in ten other countries around the globe. The word “indie” refers to self-published books, while B.R.A.G. is an acronym for Book Readers Appreciation Group. The name “indieBRAG” and the B.R.A.G. logos are trademarks of indieBRAG, LLC. The B.R.A.G. Medallion is a certification trademark owned and controlled by indieBRAG, LLC.”
I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to receive this award! Thank you, indieBRAG, for giving my book the distinction it deserves!
I am frequently asked how I came up with the title for my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie (the first book in the Renegade Series). I derived it from this wonderful quote, which a Confederate soldier wrote in his journal.
“For it was the first Field of Glory I had seen in my May of life, and the first time that Glory sickened me with its repulsive aspect, and made me suspect it was all a glittering lie.” – Henry Morton Stanley, C.S.A.
It is difficult to imagine what went through the young soldiers’ minds when they finally “saw the elephant” – horrifying, no doubt, and exhilarating at the same time. But soldiers weren’t the only ones who experienced such terror. This excerpt describes how their loved ones must have felt. Some of them never received word of what had happened to their brave soldiers. War always involves tragedy, but I think not knowing would be the worst part.
Word of the battle quickly spread to Huntsville, and within days, filtered down into Morgan County. Caroline had mentally prepared herself for what she anticipated would happen, but when the first battle finally did take place, she found herself ill-equipped. She did her best to shelter her brood, but realized it was just a matter of time before they learned of the event.
The following week, she found out that a list of fatalities had been posted, and knew she had to drive to Ben Johnson’s mercantile to have a look, but all the while, her heart felt as though it was breaking. She dreaded the list, dreaded the result of the terrible fighting, and especially, dreaded what the war might be doing to her home. Going alone, she reached her destination, climbed down from the wagon, hitched her draft horse, and approached the two-story wooden structure, her ankle boots clunking up the wooden steps and across the porch’s floorboards as she walked. She pulled the front door open, and a tiny bell above it announced her arrival. As she entered, she saw several others gathered around a notice that had been tacked to the wall. Ben Johnson nodded. He threw a glance toward the posted list. She knew what it meant.
Slowly, feeling as though she was floating, she passed by the dry goods, glass cases displaying pottery, clothing and sewing notions, and under farm equipment hanging from the ceiling rafters, approaching the others. Some of the women were sobbing, covering their faces with handkerchiefs, while others turned away and stared at her with vacant eyes. As they drifted off, she stepped toward the ominous poster, held her breath, and forced herself to gaze upon the names. When she had reached the bottom, she breathed a sigh of relief. Hiram’s name wasn’t on the list, although she recognized one who was. Turning toward the counter, she wiped a trickling tear from her cheek as she walked over, and requested a copy of the Southern Advocate.
Initially at a loss for words, Ben cleared his throat. “I reckon Hiram’s name ain’t on there,” he finally said.
The revelation had started sinking in. Caroline smiled. “No, thankfully not.”
Ben returned the smile. “Right glad to hear it.” He handed her a newspaper. “The editor of this paper, Mr. William Figures, has a son who’s with your husband’s regiment.”
“Oh?” she replied cordially. “He’s all right ain’t he? I mean, I didn’t see …”
“Yes ma’am, far as I can tell.”
“That’s mighty fine. Well, I’ll be on my way. Good day, Mr. Johnson.”
She turned to leave, and as she opened the paned-glass door, Ben called out, “When you write to that man of yours, tell him I said hello.”
“I surely will,” she replied. Walking out to the wagon, she untied Joe Boy, climbed aboard, and slapped the reins. She drove out of view from the mercantile, and pulled the vehicle to a stop. Uncontrollably, she burst into tears, sobbing convulsively until the ache in her heart finally subsided. She couldn’t show her weakness to her children: for them she had to be strong. After wiping her eyes with her handkerchief, she drove on toward home.
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!
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.
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.
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.