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The Last Heiress by Mary Ellis

When it comes to historical fiction, novels set around the Civil War will probably always be among my favorites. Both sides were so confident and passionate about what they were fighting for and there are such wonderful stories just waiting to be written from this conflict marring our nation’s history. Within those events, there were so many other things going on. Wealthy Southern families having to learn a new way of life, men finding opportunities  to create fortunes for themselves, and a people once enslaved learning what it meant to be free. It is always hard to guess what path a novel will travel when it is set in this time, and that is one of the reasons why I enjoy it so much. This particular book drew me in for it’s interesting and unique story that unfolds during the Civil War.

**I received a copy of this book from Harvest House Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.**

Bestselling author Mary Ellis (A Widow’s Hope) presents The Last Heiress, a new romantic standalone that intertwines the lives of a British manufacturing heiress and an American merchant caught in the turbulent time of the War Between the States.

Amanda Dunn set sail from England for Wilmington, North Carolina, hoping to somehow restore shipments of cotton for her family’s textile mills, which have been severely disrupted by the American Civil War. But when she meets Nathaniel Cooper, her desire to conduct business and quickly return to England changes.

Amanda’s family across the sea deems the hardworking merchant unsuitable for the lovey and accomplished heiress. And when Nate himself begins to draw away, Amanda has her own battle for a happy future on her hands.

As the War Between the States heats up, Nate’s brother, a Confederate officer, comes for a visit. Nate begins to think about joining up—not in support of slavery but to watch his brother’s back. Yet will this potentially life-changing decision put the union between him and Amanda she so wishes for in jeopardy?

“There’s no shame in not knowing. It’s only shameful to remain ignorant.”

-Nathaniel Cooper, The Last Heiress

Characters: Stubborn females seem to be a popular type of heroine in historical fiction, and Amanda Dunn is no exception to the rule. She is a genteel woman who has been thrust into an area that is typically handled by men. All of this during the era of the American Civil War. It is the stubborn streak that allows her to go against her brother-in-law’s wishes both in matters of business and in matters concerning her heart. Amanda is also witty and quite intelligent, making her a very likable heroine in this novel. Surrounding her are a whole array of characters. From freedmen, slaves, to her wealthy sister and brother-in-law, to the love interest, a shopkeeper. Each has a unique personality and an important role in this story.

Storyline: Most of this novel was pretty straightforward. Amanda’s goal is to restore shipping arrangements between the cotton plantations in the Confederacy and the mills back home in England. She travels to America to stay with her sister and brother-in-law. There are a number of complications that Amanda runs into, and even more complications when she is attracted to a shopkeeper who status-wise, is beneath her.

My Thoughts:  There were definitely things I really enjoyed about this novel and a couple of letdowns about it. First of all, the characters were fantastic. I loved getting to know all of them. Even the minor characters were pretty well developed. The novel also honed in on an interesting part of the Civil War: blockade runners. It was risky business and the novel captures that quite well. I also found the attention that Ellis brought to the comparisons between slavery and the working class of England at the time to be quite interesting. With that said, I wish there was a bit more tension in the novel. I felt that it was really missing that piece that really pushes a story forward. I continued to read the book because I wanted to see where the characters would end up, but I never truly feared that things might not end well for the main characters.

About the Author:
Mary Ellis has written twelve bestselling novels set in the Amish community, along with two romantic suspense set in Louisiana. Before “retiring” to write full-time, Mary taught middle school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate. She has enjoyed a lifelong passion for American history and is an active member of the local historical society. She has recently finished several romances set during the Civil War and is currently working on a series of mysteries, Secrets of the South. The Last Heiress is her latest release.

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