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My name is Chelsey and I am the creator of Charming Chelsey's! I read and review anything and everything that I find to be "charming." I accept ARCs or already released books for review, and I'm also available to participate in any blog tours or book reveals too. If anything, please don't hesitate to email me any time for any reason at: charmingchelseys(at)gmail(dot)com

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Book Review: The Underground River

The Underground RiverAuthor: Martha Conway
Publication: June 20, 2017
Publisher: Touchstone


Set aboard a nineteenth century riverboat theater, this is the moving, page-turning story of a charmingly frank and naive seamstress who is blackmailed into saving runaways on the Underground Railroad, jeopardizing her freedom, her livelihood, and a new love.

It’s 1838, and May Bedloe works as a seamstress for her cousin, the famous actress Comfort Vertue—until their steamboat sinks on the Ohio River. Though they both survive, both must find new employment. Comfort is hired to give lectures by noted abolitionist, Flora Howard, and May finds work on a small flatboat, Hugo and Helena’s Floating Theatre, as it cruises the border between the northern states and the southern slave-holding states.

May becomes indispensable to Hugo and his troupe, and all goes well until she sees her cousin again. Comfort and Mrs. Howard are also traveling down the Ohio River, speaking out against slavery at the many riverside towns. May owes Mrs. Howard a debt she cannot repay, and Mrs. Howard uses the opportunity to enlist May in her network of shadowy characters who ferry babies given up by their slave mothers across the river to freedom. Lying has never come easy to May, but now she is compelled to break the law, deceive all her new-found friends, and deflect the rising suspicions of Dr. Early who captures runaways and sells them back to their southern masters.

As May’s secrets become more tangled and harder to keep, the Floating Theatre readies for its biggest performance yet. May’s predicament could mean doom for all her friends on board, including her beloved Hugo, unless she can figure out a way to trap those who know her best.
Sometimes now I wonder whether, like swimming, when you first submerge yourself in a new environment you lose some of the power of your senses – your ears clog, you shut your eyes – as you try to get used to it.

When a man gives me money and I give him a ticket, we’ve made ourselves a deal: I will try to make him believe something that is not true, and he will try to believe it.

I loved to swim. I liked feeling the slight pressure of the water like an eggshell around me, and I liked being at a distance from everyone else.
The Ohio River was the literal, physical separation line that divided free and slave states in the United States. The author, Martha Conway, takes readers back to the 1830’s when slavery was prominent in the Southern states and many slaves were trying to escape to the free North. Through the main character May, readers are taken on a traveling steamboat theater called The Floating Theatre where May serves as a seamstress among other things and eventually gets swept into an intriguing and dangerous life of transporting slaves to freedom. May is a timid girl who finds herself, so to speak, during her time on the traveling theater. She develops as the story progresses, which I absolutely love. I adored seeing her go from a girl who could not or would not speak up for herself, to a girl who was bold and brave and did daring, courageous things that no one would even consider doing.

My issue with this novel is that the meat, or the actual adventure of May traveling down the Ohio River transporting slaves, does not happen until more than halfway through the book. I kept looking at the page numbers and wondering when we were going to get to the angst and danger. I really wanted the story to be more action-packed because the topic is so interesting and needs to be written about, but I was often bored at certain points during the book. The author spent a lot of time building the world and May’s time meeting all of the people who would be important in her upcoming “adventures”, but I don’t think all of it was absolutely necessary. I also wanted the journeys she took transporting slaves to be more exciting, but they fell flat for me as well. However, as I stated earlier, May’s character was phenomenal and I loved seeing her become so invested in something so important.

***A free copy of this novel was provided to me by the publishers at Touchstone in exchange for my honest review***



1 comments:

A Belle’s Tales said...

May sounds like an incredible character! I'm sorry this fell a bit flat for you as far as action and angst, but I'm glad you were still able to enjoy it. Thanks for putting this one on our radar! Lovely review! Thanks so much for stopping by to see us :)

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