I have a lot of mixed feelings about Forsaken Dreams. While some parts of the story were well done, others made me feel uncomfortable.
It is 1866, and the Civil War is over. The United States is devastated by the sheer amount of destruction and loss, and many Southerners are feeling the vengeance of the North. Colonel Blake Wallace of the Confederate Army is a wanted war criminal, so he arranges a ship to take a group of Southern refugees to Brazil to start a new colony. Among his passengers is Mrs. Eliza Crawford, a war widow and nurse to whom he feels an instant attraction. However, it is just as their relationship is beginning to grow that Eliza’s secret is revealed: her deceased husband was a general for the Union.
Though a born-and-bred Southern girl at the core, Eliza married General Watts before the war to escape her controlling father. Her marriage was extremely brief, as the war started almost immediately after the nuptials, but the damage was done: she was disowned by her family, and banished by her husband’s family. She has no one, and just wants a fresh start – just like everyone else on that ship. But she’s a “Yankee traitor,” forever tied to the actions of her husband.
Blake is entirely unforgiving. He lost everything in the war, and is haunted by the deaths of his family, particularly his brother who was killed in action at Antietam. He could never, ever associate himself with anyone tied to the Union. While he doesn’t want to toss Eliza into the sea, like some of the other passengers, he does forbid her from even stepping foot in Rio de Janiero, and plans to send her right back to the States. He drove me crazy. While he and Eliza started out with great chemistry and a strong foundation for a relationship, he spends most of the book whining about her being a traitor and generally being hypocritical.
In general, the attitude of nearly all the characters made me a bit uncomfortable. Horrific things happened during the Civil War, and I understand that there would be a lot of healing necessary. But if you were to believe this book, the South had been a completely innocent victim of the Evil North. (Historical note: that’s not true.) Yes, the Union was brutal; but so was the Confederacy, and for all the pages dedicated to spurning the cruelty of the Union soldiers, there is only one throwaway line that acknowledges the potential for any hypocrisy. One character even says, “[Without freewill] we would be nothing but puppets in [God’s] hand with no will of our own. No choices to make. Like the North inflicting their will on us, telling us how to live our lives, stripping us of our power, our freedom to decide.” Sounds an awful lot like, oh, I don’t know, slavery.
For the most part, the spiritual development of the characters was well done; however, I’ve never read an Inspirational romance that read so much like a Paranormal. Demonic illnesses, mysterious dark clouds, ominous chanting in the middle of the night are not what I’m looking for in an Inspirational Romance.
Eliza was the saving grace for this story. While she may be a bit too sweet for some who like feistier heroines, I thought she was strong, realistic, and a genuinely good person. Unfortunately, one interesting character does not make a story. Had the author painted a more balanced portrait of the Civil War, or made Blake a bit more reasonable, or toned down the demonic subplot, this book probably would have been a solid B. However, the combination of these things made this a disappointing read that I can’t bring myself to recommend.