Ella Corrigan has long carried great responsibility. After her mother's horrific accident, her father turned to alcohol, leaving Ella to manage Greenpole, the family's Savannah plantation. While a good and fair mistress, romance has eluded her, and at twenty-four, she is on the urge of becoming a spinster.
When Gentry Garland, with eyes black as night, rides into Savannah from Texas, Ella's life brightens. Ella falls in love with the dashing horse rancher, but is brokenhearted when Gentry disappears without a trace. Chiding herself for her foolishness, Ella hastily marries Victor Faircloth, a man many years her senior, whose proposals she swore she would never accept.
Life at Faircloth plantation is hard on Ella and the many servants who sullenly work for Victor. While Ella's family has owned slaves for generations, for the first time, Ella begins to question the institution that is placed in jeopardy by the growing rumblings of civil war. As Victor's servants began to escape and mysteriously disappear through Corrigan's Pool, his anger rises.
As the years pass, Ella is forced to endure the deep sadness brought on by her hasty decision to marry Victor. Struggling against her husband's dictates and blackmail, and with memories of Gentry still taunting her, the war is just another reason to feel despondent over the future.
When Sherman's Union troops burn their way across Georgia and swarm onto her property, Ella musters her strength in the hopes of saving herself and those who depend on her. But what will she do when the past she has long blamed for her fate steps unexpectedly out of the darkness to face her?
An excellent debut release from Dot Ryan, Corrigans' Pool will leave you breathless and begging for a sequel. Ryan has created a story that perfectly mixes history and romance. The strength of this novel is certainly found in its many captivating characters: Ella, her sister Honor, her grandmother Beatrice Corrigan, Ella's father Adam, Gentry Garland, and the many servants whose names and stories will capture you.
While admittedly it took me a few chapters to be totally immersed in this story, once that happened, I never wanted to stop reading. So involved was I in Ella's story, and those of the people around her, that it took me only a few days to make my way to the final page. That one woman had to deal with so much responsibility, so much heartache, so much pain, made Ella a sympathetic character from the start. But that inner strength in Ella shines through all of it, and once she pulls herself together to do what must be done to save her family, there isn't any stopping her.
Outside of Ella, my favorite character would have to be Beatrice Corrigan. In some ways she reminds me of Aunt Jo from Anne of Green Gables, a woman whose rough exterior hides much warmth underneath.
The one question I would love to ask the author is how she created a dastardly character such as Victor. Actually, dastardly is too nice a word. Victor was pure evil. It never ceases to amaze me when an author can develop a character that you despise so much, and Ryan excelled in her creation of Victor.
If my "to be read" pile wasn't so high I would certainly read this book all over again. The last few chapters were superb, and the ending, out of this world.
According to the biography of Ryan featured on the back cover, she is hard at work on her next two books. I can't wait!
Title: Corrigans' Pool
Author: Dot Ryan
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc.
SRP: $22.95 (U.S.)