With tremendous attention to detail, Judge Gayden does an incredible job of transporting the reader back in time to the late 1800s when young Christian camp counselor, Walter Dotson, first meets young Miss Anna Dennis, a pastor's daughter, and the two set upon a course that will later shape history.
While the book is basically historical fiction, it is based on actual events, and Judge Gayden artfully weaves a tale based on newspaper clippings (included in the book), and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to find that his rendition was exactly how events transpired. He does such an excellent job developing his characters that their actions come as no surprise, and we love and loathe them as he'd planned.
The main characters are Anna (Dennis) Dotson and her husband, Dr. Walter Dotson, both pillars of their community. They had been madly in love and wildly happy until Anna has a miscarriage, causing Walter's attentions to wane. The book is an excellent study on the human condition and how a family that appears on the surface to have everything can be hiding all sorts of secrets. There were many times during the story, however, that Dr. Dotson had it within his power to change the course of events had he only been a bit less self-centered and actually taken the time to listen to his wife. Judge Gayden does an excellent job of garnering the reader's sympathies for Anna and also making the reader feel as if her husband owes her. He also does a wonderful job of painting Charlie Cobb as a contemptible cad who isn't about to let Anna go once getting his clutches on her. Shades of a Victorian Basic Instinct, if you will.
Even more exciting than the human aspects of the story, is the legal wrangling that takes place. The reader gets a front-row seat and even a peek inside the minds of some of those present during the trial. And while there is no indication that Anna Dotson herself played a role in the suffrage movement, her trial and the resulting verdict has EVERYTHING to do with it.
I commend Judge Gayden for bringing the subject of legal inequality to light - especially at a time when our society is grappling with such things as same-sex marriage. Right now it is hard to believe that there was ever a time in our country's history when women didn't have the right to vote and that interracial marriage was illegal, but both of these used to be the case. Perhaps it's time for society to move on to correct another injustice.
Carol Ann Hopkins 3/5/2008
I needed something out of my norm...but had to have something that was a bit mysterious that took place in the South and decided on this Victorian novel written by a real Judge in Nashville Tenn. Based on an actual case this novel explores the gender ramifications of a passion based murder that happened during the women's suffrage movement. Although 327 pages, it was so interesting i read it in a day and an evening. It really was hard to put down. Richly written this author has a knowledge of the case and a beautiful way with words. It is not overly wordy and was never boring, there is no court procedings drawn out to read thru. Because of the era and the "class" of the author this story does not contain x rated sex ..just the story told with wonderful era history. The ending was a total surprise...i have read alot of books and have never heard of this case so it totally blew me away...i never saw it coming not once even thought it would end this way. Excellent read.
Since I live near Gallatin TN, in Nashville, I was fascinated by the references to this area and to downtown Nashville. Kip Gayden researched and wrote this book for a story that needed to be told.