Have you ever had a book catch you by surprise? I mean, you read the back of the book, so you know what the story is about. And yet, the author still manages to totally surprise you. That’s what happened to me and Where Dandelions Bloom. I love Tara’s writing, but this book? It kind of blew me away.
Cassie Kendrick is on the run. Her abusive father arranged her marriage to a despicable man, but she’s discovered an escape. Disguised as a man, Cassie enlists in the Union army, taking the name Thomas Turner. On the battlefields of the Civil War, keeping her identity a secret is only the beginning of her problems, especially after she meets Gabriel Avery, a handsome young photographer.
Anxious to make his mark on the world and to erase the darkness and guilt lurking from his past, Gabriel works with renowned photographer Matthew Brady to capture images from the front lines of the war. As Gabriel forges friendships with many of the men he encounters, he wonders what the courageous, unpredictable Thomas Turner is hiding.
Battling betrayal, their own personal demons, and a country torn apart by war, can Cassie and Gabriel learn to forgive themselves and trust their futures to the God who births hope and healing in the darkest places?
Johnson gives readers a glimpse of a whole other side of the Civil War in Where Dandelions Bloom. It’s more than just a girl playing the part of a soldier. It’s more than a photographer capturing the images of war. It’s even more than the story of two people coming together in unfortunate circumstances, and yet having to learn how to let their guards down and feel something. This is a story of forgiveness. It’s a story of putting your past behind you, and moving forward. It’s a story of learning to lean on the Creator for everything that life throws at you. It’s a story that will touch your heart, and have you reaching for the tissues every now and then.
I’m not even sure where to begin. How about my favorite characters? Believe it or not, they happen to be secondary characters. First is Cassie’s grandmother. She imparts such wisdom to Cassie, even during the difficult situations. She reminds me of the kind of grandmother I want to be. One who can effortlessly offer sound, Godly advice. One who is comforting, and always has an open door. Then there was sweet Jonah. His enthusiasm just brought a smile to my face. He fit right in with Cassie and Gabe, kind of like a family of their own. Each time he entered the scene, I knew he was either going to make me chuckle or smile. Don’t get me wrong – Cassie and Gabe are wonderful main characters. They had strengths, weaknesses, growth, maturity, and everything I wanted them to have. But it was truly the secondary ones that stole my heart. That right there is what good authors do – make the secondary characters so wonderful and memorable, that they don’t really feel like secondary characters at all!
Not only does Johnson bring her characters to life, she also brings the setting to life. Without being grotesque at all, she manages to write the details of the war, the Whatsit, and Cassie’s home so vividly that I could see it playing out in my head like a movie. And what a wonderful date night movie that would be! Although I already know the movie would never do the book justice – it just wouldn’t capture the essence of the war the way Johnson did. Yes there was pain and suffering, but she somehow managed to make me almost forget that and instead focus on the excitement, the spying, the chase, and the frustrations that the soldiers felt. She made me focus on the hope that these soldiers were there to fight for the good guys, and the “brotherhood” they had that couldn’t be broken. It was inspiring to read.
Historical fiction fans will find themselves engrossed in this novel until they reach the very end, and even then finding themselves wanting more. I highly recommend this wonderfully written novel! I received a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write a favorable review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Tara Johnson is a writer, singer, speaker and passionate lover of stories. She makes her home in Arkansas with her husband and three children.
Connect with Tara online at her website (TaraJohnsonStories.com) or on any of these social media platforms:
“Wherever dandelions bloom in mortar, it reminds us hope is still alive.”
“Joy comes from forgiving and being forgiven.”