Friday, April 19, 2013

Book Tour for Reconstructing Jackson by Holly Bush (Review & GIVEAWAY)

Today on my site I'm featuring Reconstructing Jackson by Holly Bush, an emotionally intense historical read dealing with issues of slavery, abuse, and disabilities.  Keep reading to learn more about this gutwrenching read through my review and snippets of it and make sure to leave a comment for your chance to win an Amazon gift card.

1867 . . . Southern lawyer and Civil War veteran, Reed Jackson, returns to his family’s plantation in a wheelchair. His father deems him unfit, and deeds the Jackson holdings, including his intended bride, to a younger brother. Angry and bitter, Reed moves west to Fenton, Missouri, home to a cousin with a successful business, intending to start over.
Belle Richards, a dirt poor farm girl aching to learn how to read, cleans, cooks and holds together her family’s meager property. A violent brother and a drunken father plot to marry her off, and gain a new horse in the bargain. But Belle’s got other plans, and risks her life to reach them.
Reed is captivated by Belle from their first meeting, but wheelchair bound, is unable to protect her from violence. Bleak times will challenge Reed and Belle's courage and dreams as they forge a new beginning from the ashes of war and ignorance.


Reed awoke from a troublesome sleep that night to crying and moaning outside of his window. There was no moon and Reed could not see the source of the noise, but heard movement in the hallway. He pulled pants on and lowered himself into his chair as he wiped the night from his face. On the porch, Reed heard Beulah’s voice, low and comforting in the still air. “Miss Beulah,” he whispered.
“Go back to bed, Mr. Jackson.”
Reed heard a moan and Beulah’s pleas to someone. “What is it?” he asked.
Beulah rose from the walk and Reed saw her eyes, angry, through the spindles of the porch. “None of your concern.”
“For God’s sakes, woman, tell me who cries so piteously.” Reed realized the moaning had stopped.
Beulah looked down and back to Reed. “She needs no more of your help, Mr. Jackson.”
Reed froze and the blood drained from his face. He wheeled down the ramp and to where Beulah held Belle Richards in her arms. “What happened?” he asked.
“I don’t know. She fainted or . . . died before she could she say.”
A lump of terror balled in his throat for a woman he barely knew. He forced words from his mouth. “Check her pulse.”
“Faint. But there.”
“Then hurry, Beulah,” Reed rushed on. “Can you lift her?”
“I was a slave, Mr. Jackson. I carried baled cotton on my back . . .”
“Enough with the lecture on the evils of slavery. She may die as we speak,” Reed hissed.



Reconstructing Jackson by Holly Bush is an intensely emotional historical read dealing with many hot button issues such as slavery, abuse, and disabilities.  From the very start Ms. Bush presents a story that pulls no punches in its frank use of language in addressing the issue of slavery.  This use of language reflects the time period and lends credibility to the story even as it's hard to hear those terms being bandied about.  Seeing the physical implications of slavery, and the aftermath of the abolishment of slavery, add an extra layer of intensity that makes this story even more gutwrenching.

Belle has led a poor and dismal life with her only purpose cooking and cleaning for her drunken father and brothers.  They see her as a commodity waiting to be sold to the highest bidder.  She longs for more though and goes against convention by learning to read and write from former slaves.  She feels a sense of hope and freedom through her newfound knowledge that sustains her dreams as she's physically and mentally beaten down by those who are supposed to protect her. After a beating almost kills her her only option to stay safe is to marry the bitter yet honorable disabled attorney, Reed.  She sees him as her savior whose disability means nothing to her.  Her brightness is contagious and helps him see life in a different way.  She opens his eyes to the future and forces him to act for what's right and no longer sit back waiting for change to happen.  She becomes stronger as Reed's wife and is no longer the scared young girl she once was.  When tragedy befalls one of her few friends she puts her life on the line to make the guilty pay.

Reed's life as a Southerner was one of money growing up, but losing a leg and maiming another in the war has left him bitter and morose. Coming to the North has him wanting to be a different man, a man more accepting of former slaves and more open-minded about his future.  He sees himself as undesirable and unable to live up to the stereotype of what makes a man.  The night Belle lands on his doorstep bloody and broken forces him into an act that changes his future completely and gives him everything he thought he'd never have.  He too has been beaten down by a father who saw him as half a man and took his birthright away.  Belle's support and encouragement have him trying to better himself through exercise and protecting his newfound family through any means necessary.

Reed's disability is addressed in a brutally realistic way to make his frustration understandable.  Some of the people in the town treat him as a child, but thankfully most take him at face value.  He's still able to be seen as the hero, cleverly getting around the town's inaccessibilities.  Though some have jobs, former slaves are still seen as second class citizens by some in the town which places their lives on the line.  A particularly heartwrenching scene shows that emancipation was still a work in progress and that the effects of The Civil War didn't end when the South surrendered.  These issues were nicely balanced within the developing romance and added a life and death urgency to their relationship.  There were moments of joy mingled with pain that kept your heart pounding while constantly rooting for Reed and Belle's HEA.  Ms. Bush has created a memorable story that's both tearful and inspiring and I greatly look forward to her next work of art.

My rating for this is an A.

*I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.


Holly Bush was born in western Pennsylvania to two avid readers. There was not a room in her home that did not hold a full bookcase. She worked in the hospitality industry, owning a restaurant for twenty years and recently worked as the sales and marketing director in the hospitality/tourism industry and is credited with building traffic to capacity for a local farm tour, bringing guests from twenty-two states, booked two years out.  Holly has been a marketing consultant to start-up businesses and has done public speaking on the subject.
Holly has been writing all of her life and is a voracious reader of a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction, particularly political and historical works. She has written four romance novels, all set in the U.S. West in the mid 1800’s. She frequently attends writing conferences, and has always been a member of a writer’s group.
Holly is a gardener, a news junkie, has been an active member of her local library board and loves to spend time near the ocean. She is the proud mother of two daughters and the wife of a man more than a few years her junior.


Holly will be awarding a $25 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.

-To be entered, leave a comment, along with your email addy.
-Winner will be chosen randomly from all comments made throughout the tour, so the more you comment the greater your chances of winning.  A list of all participating blogs can be found here.
-Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM CST on 4/26.


  1. Thank you for your impressions. I just know I'm going to love this book.


  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, your review really helped me see the bigger picture of the story. I am always interested in historicals about and around the civil war. Something about being half of an interracial couple maybe? It pains me to read some of the stuff, but that was reality. I think I will enjoy RJ a lot!

    andralynn7 AT gmail DOT com

  3. Good morning Mary, Andra Lyn and the Scarf Princess!

    This is a terrific and detailed review. Thank you. When I wrote the book, I wasn't focused on Reed's disability, but many readers have said they found that to be a very interesting or unique piece of the story. What do you think? Are there many romances that feature a disabled hero or heroine?

    1. I'm a quadriplegic myself Holly so I purposely seek out stories with disabled characters. I found Reed to be believable and liked how you incorporated his getting around into the story. There are many good books out there dealing with disabilities but those that remarkably heal the character, making way for a HEA, disappoint me greatly.

      Thanks for your realistic representations!

      The Scarf Princess

    2. Joder,
      I'm glad you felt Reed was believable. There was no miraculous recovery for Reed but there was some progress. SPOILER I'm partial to the scene in the book where Belle fits his wooden leg. It made me cry when I wrote it and I'm not sure why. :) SPOILER

  4. An A--Nice review! As a librarian, I appreciate a thorough and thoughtful review.
    catherinelee100 at gmail dot com

  5. Thank you for the review. Sounds like a very emotional read.


  6. End of the first week of your tour Holly, and I have to say, it's been a lot of fun. Looking forward to next week.

    I've read, and enjoyed, several books where either the hero or the heroine had some sort of disability or (major) flaw. In Blind Fortune by Joanne Waugh, her heroine was blind since birth and in another book the hero was blind as a result of accident/war (?) but for the life of me, I can't remember the title or the author. Michele Ann Young/Ann Lethbridge writes some good heroines who don't necessarily fit the ideal female mold of the day. All of these books are Regency based. I like to read books like this. It shows that not everyone is a facially perfect and beautiful person and that real beauty is in the soul and heart.

    kareninnc at gmail dot com

    1. It has been a whirlwind week in a good way, Karen. I've met some new readers and had some great reviews. But, boy, am I glad it's Friday!

      I really liked Mary Balogh's book about the woman that has a very pronounced limp from a riding accident, The Proposal. I have not read the ones you've mentioned but will take a look.

  7. As you said it sounds like this story pulls no punches but what was created was an amazing story of two people who've had to face unimaginable events. Thanks for sharing it with us

    fencingromein at hotmail dot com

  8. I'm looking forward to reading this book like whoa! Great review!


  9. sounds like a great book! thank you for the review and giveaway!! qtksjkmommy at gmail dot com


  11. What an interesting book! Great excerpt and review. Thanks for sharing.