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Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Most Precious Pearl by Piper Huguley

Published: September 8, 2015
Pages: 218
Publisher: Samhain
Diversity: AA
*I Received a Copy of This Book in Exchange for a Fair and Honest Review*

A Most Precious Pearl is a historical romance that takes place in the time period following WWI. It is the second book in the Migrations of the Heart series. A majority of the story takes place in a town named Winslow, which people who have read A Virtuous Ruby are familiar with. In fact, if you've read the series thus far you'll be familiar with not only the town, but also the Bledsoe Family and Paul Winslow, the founder of the town.  I highly recommend reading A Virtuous Ruby before starting A Most Precious Pearl. While it is possible to start out of order, there are many important events that take place in the first book. These events will deepen your understanding of what takes place in this story (Besides it's a darn good book!).

In a Most Precious Pearl we have the story of Margaret "Mags"  Bledsoe. Mags is the sister of Ruby (the main character in A Virtuous Ruby) and she works at the Winslow mill. In fact, she's so good at the mill that she's been elevated to a position that allows her to manage it. As a result, she is able to make extra money that she uses to help support her parents and sisters. Paul Winslow is dependent on Mags for several reasons (can't say without giving up info on book I!) in addition to the fact that her work at the mill has significantly raised his profits.The problem is Mags hates Winslow for the many things that he's done to her family, herself, and the people in the town.

Asa Caldwell is a well-known and respected black journalist who joined the military to get the story on African-Americans fighting the war. During his time overseas he loses a leg and a fiancee. His loss of a limb, more than anything, leaves him feeling useless and less like a man. Ruby isn't about to let Asa wither away. She needs him to go to Winslow to get Mags so that she can help her with her impending birth. Staying true to form, Ruby also wants Asa to get the story on what's happening in Winslow as well. When Asa meets Mags he's attracted to her from the start, but his journalistic curiosity is also stirred back to life. The question is, can he convince Mags to leave with him once his time in Winslow is over? Will they both be able to move beyond their fears and the past events that are imprisoning them?

I'm going to stop right there because this story is so much more than that. There's so many layers, all of them handled in a way that gave them the weight that they deserve, but in a way that wasn't overwhelming and that didn't drown out the beautiful aspects of the story.

What I Liked
Mags is a very strong and likable character and I really cheered for her. She is similar to her sister Ruby in that she's determined and a bit hard-headed in her desire to make things right and just. Where where Ruby charged straight ahead often without consideration of the consequences, Mags was more thoughtful and dependable. Yes, she was driven, and wanted to get revenge on Mr. Winslow for many of the cruelties that he's inflicted (and that have affected her life and family personally), but she didn't make any hasty moves. For me I think she was a wonderful representation of what black women had to be during that time period. She had to be capable in  all things and you could see that no matter what Mags would find a way to handle whatever life would throw her way.

As much as I loved Mags, I adored the character of Asa. We meet him at perhaps the lowest point of his life (a very strong scene). He feels his disfigurement has destroyed his ability to do many of the things that he'd done in the past and has let it cripple him emotionally so that he feels that he can no longer write or be of any real use to anyone. When he is sent down South by Ruby, he discovers a world that vastly differs from the one that he lives in up North. Between his rising feelings for Mags and the injustices that he both hears tales of and witnesses, he slowly begins to find purpose again. During his time there you see him come back to life. He's like a wilted and dying plant and Mags is the water that slowly begins to revive him. I loved how he and Mags began to form this perfect team after awhile. They complemented each other so well and as a reader I never doubted the fact that they fell in love with one another.

Paul Winslow is another character that is wonderfully written. Although I despised the man with a passion, the author manages to create fleeting moments of sympathy for him as well. It is a testament to her writing skill that she was able to make that happen so effortlessly - it's no small feat to make readers feel any sort of sympathy for a man so loathsome. He's developed a sort of dependency on Mags that is frightening yet satisfying because it gives her a small bit of control that he probably didn't realize himself.

What I Was a Little Disappointed In
The story also touches on colorism within the African-American community. I was a bit disappointed in this, not because it was poorly written, but only because I thought there would be more of it. This was and continues to be a serious issue in the community and I wish it hadn't been resolved so quickly. That said, I wouldn't have wanted to lose any of the story that the author wrote in order to accommodate that one, so I'm not holding that against the writer, nor does it affect my scoring.
What I Disliked
Believe it or not, I liked the entire book. It was that good in my opinion!

My Final Thoughts
A Most Precious Pearl successfully portrays the changes following WWI in terms of ever increasing violence against blacks and the growing efforts towards equality. It does this without losing sight of the beautiful love story between Mags and Asa. Piper Huguely is a wonderful author that I recommend without hesitation. Her writing flows in a descriptively beautiful, yet powerful way. While I read A Most Precious Pearl I was transported through time and it felt like I had a front row seat to this highly believable historical romance. I laughed, cried, and raged with this book. There's so much of the story that I didn't touch on because I want you to read this book! As you can probably guess I'm giving A Most Precious Pearl a 5 out of 5 rating! I can't wait for the third installation to this series.

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