3 out of 4 stars
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Hallowed Ground by Cindy Ziperman is a light, engaging read. While the cover made me wonder if this may be a ghost story, it’s not. It is a fast-moving, conflict-filled book with interesting characters and surprising plot twists. Even though this book is in the crime and mystery category, interested readers may want to know that there is also a lot of romance. The two main characters are, of course, gorgeous, smart, and single. And, we know where that generally leads. However, while these characters start in a set mold, they do develop somewhat throughout the story.
The book starts with lots of action, lots of questions, and lots of drama. We get to meet our heroine, Samantha, quickly. She is a nurse of high regard who has lost her temper with one of her coworkers. She gets fired for confronting an arrogant, incompetent doctor whose inattention caused a patient to die. Samantha finds herself in a seemingly impossible situation, but she stands up for herself. She is a strong female character who, among other things, has a nasty relationship with her mother and a difficult time trusting people. I like that she is grounded and not aloof. Some of her actions and responses actually made me belly laugh. After losing her job, Sam packs up and heads for Tennessee to live with her aunt and uncle. She's not there long before she meets T.J.
T.J. is a college history professor specializing in womanizing and in the U.S. Civil War. He also serves as the head of The Western Theater Battlefield Preservation Association, an organization dedicated to the preservation of U.S. Civil War sites. While trying to preserve the battlefield near Franklin, Tennessee, T.J. finds himself up against wealthy corporations who want to build a shopping center. They don’t want to compromise, and they don’t play nice. Undeterred, T.J. remains a champion for preservation.
Ziperman includes excellent descriptions along the way, like this one of a peaceful night in a farmhouse. “Then, lying on her bed at night, she would feel the soft warm breeze blowing in the window, carrying with it the sound of the bullfrogs from the pond and the smells from the fields.” (Loc 1094) She also does a great job including little details in facial expressions, like this description after a fight, “T.J. managed a full smile. It was lopsided, but it was definitely a smile.” (Loc 2783)
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. I am taking a star for punctuation errors, most of which concern commas. The story could be considered somewhat predictable, but I think the author put in enough twists to keep it fresh. Prospective readers should know there are instances of adult language, violence, and vividly described sexual encounters. I skimmed over the sexual situations until I got back to the plot.
There is one negative thing I could not overlook, and that is the inclusion of stereotypical dirty, dumb rednecks. The Walkers are described as big, fat, toothless school dropouts. All they are missing is a banjo. Since the author did such a good job with other characters, I was surprised she relied on stereotypes for these two brothers.
Again, while Hallowed Ground carries a crime and mystery label, it would also be interesting to readers of romance and American Civil War history. Readers looking for historical fiction, however, would probably not find their fix in this title since it is set in this century. I also would not recommend it to younger readers because of the sex scenes.
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