14 April 2010


Reading Diary: Violet (Seven Brides) by Leigh Greenwood

"If you want Jeff to be truly happy, you'll have to go to Virginia."

"That's the last place I want to go."

"The part of Jeff that's missing is there. He'll never find it anywhere else."

"I don't understand."

"Jeff's bitterness over his arm is only part of what was wrong with him. He could have stood the losses of the war if there had been anything to go back to. But the South he loved was destroyed. Not the plantations, but the idealism, the chivalry. It wasn't a perfect world. Some of us can live without it, but others would rather die than try. . . Something died during those four years that can never be replaced . . ."

(Please don't ask me why the title is Violet but the cover is green. LOL! But I do have some funny trivia on the cover model for this book, if you're interested in some cover chat in the combox.)

I always knew I'd get to feature a Leigh Greenwood novel someday. It was just a matter of finding one that was good enough to keep me from being embarrassed to share the cover. And, though I didn't realise it until I was drafting this post, also a matter of finding one that wasn't about ranches and cows. Cattle just don't do it for me. (I'm sorry, Christopher!)

It must be said that characters aren't Greenwood's strongest point. I'd have to start a serious rereading project to be sure, but I believe that the same character plays his hero in about five different books. On the other hand, I didn't think that about the hero of this book at all. And I think what makes the difference is that Jeff Randolph lost an arm during the war--and Greenwood makes that a cornerstone of his character, who is in turn the centre of gravity for the entire novel.

Which takes care of another problem I occasionally have with Greenwood: that his novels sometimes lack a unifying theme and are "just" stories. Not so Violet! All the elements here rally together for the redemption of a man who will never be able to regain his lost arm, but who can still restore something else in his life.

Take the characters. Of course Jeff would fall in love with a "damn Yankee"! And of course his huge extended family would clutter up his book, while they keep a respectful distance from each other in the rest of the series. For another loss Jeff has never got over is that of his family's Virginia home: fourteen years after the war, he remains determined to restore their name and their fortunes. It is bad enough that nobody else seems to care about returning to Virginia; but several of his brothers have also added insult to injury by marrying Yankee and Jayhawk women. And yes, they all get into his hair, complicate his life, and being women, make a reasonable case for it being all his fault.

Then there are the settings. As I've hinted, Greenwood usually lets his plots unfold in "wide, open spaces": Violet stands out because about a third of the action unfolds while our leads are quarantined in a small boarding school. The climax itself takes place in the famous (or so I take it) silver mines of Leadville, Colorado--another confined space that more than underlines the fact that Jeff has been trapped in a prison of his own making for far too long . . . and that he's the only one who can break himself out.

Finally, take the ending, which is necessarily bittersweet, as is any peaceful life one manages to build after a war . . . "No matter where we go, there will always be ghosts" . . . "Okay, you can have a little one, but the rest are going to have to haunt somebody else, or I'll sic a New England witch on them."

Which is a long-winded way of saying that the title of this book should really be Jeff--LOL!

A final note: I don't usually rate books, but this time I will . . .

ConfederateFlag ConfederateFlag ConfederateFlag ConfederateFlag

Four out of Five Confederate Battle Flags!

Image Sources: a) Seven Brides: Violet by Leigh Greenwood, b) Confederate battle flag

(Note: This is now also an entry in the latest Book Review Party at Cym Lowell's blog.)


christopher said...

Hey, no offense. Cows find me, I don't seek them out, trust me :)

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, you cow magnet, you . . .

David said...

Of absolutely no importance:

One of my college professors used to be a model for romance novel covers. At least, we all believed it, even if it was a lie. He looked like one, with his hippie hair and earring, and he was jacked, too.

- Dauvit (clearly failing at anonymity)

Enbrethiliel said...


! ! !

Keep leaving comments like that, Dauvit, and you can call yourself whatever you like! Now that's a funny story!

Did he say he had modeled for the covers, or was it a story handed on from graduating class to graduating class? (Either way, it's great!)

David said...

I heard it from other students, but the photo here might support the idea.

-Maister Dauvit Balfour

Enbrethiliel said...


I suppose I recognise his abs (!!!), but his face doesn't look familiar at all. =P

Laura Hartness said...

That is strange, that the cover is green but the title is Violet!

Thanks for stopping by my blog through Cym's party!

Laura Hartness
The Calico Critic

paul bowman said...

I wonder if you're aware of the flap over recent proclamation that April shall be Confederate History Month in Virginia? If not, your post is a nice coincidence.

I have Virginia roots. Grew up with some strong feeling about this once-upon-a-time of the idealistic, chivalrous South, mainly via my mother. (My mom!, who is frank about disliking history as subject in reading or more than light conversation.) Some of my Richmond cousins carry on quite vocally, today, that attachment to a past far removed from their suburban existences, their cable TV & shiny pickup trucks. (Certainly they're vocal about it on FB these days.)

The conservative Presbyterians I was in church with for some years — in Virginia again, the D.C. suburbs — invoke an idea of Southern honor & happy social order, too, in a more nuanced way. They are generally pretty serious about being the sort of people who like history, it should be said. But qualified glorifying of what became the Confederacy is the sort of history that works well for Presbyterianism.

For me, there's curiousity, but little appeal to the heart in it anymore. Not that I would set apart our storied South for special dishonor. In any part of the U.S. past (let alone present), hard for me to find much of glory or romance. There are great moments, of course. But so much in this past now — increasingly the older I get — appears to me brutality & ignorance.

Enbrethiliel said...


Laura: Yes, it is an oddity! I just checked the rest of the books in the series and saw that four others got purplish covers! Those would be Rose, Iris, Daisy, and Lily.

Daisy could have been the green book, I think, or Fern!

Paul: Did you drop Presbyterians into your comment on purpose??? You must know that when it comes to Calvinists, I am tolerantly of the Blind Hog and Acorn school! =)

And I don't know about history and the heart, especially since my own problem with converts (if you recall) is that they've put their hearts where their history isn't. I'd be more inclined to side with those who put their hearts where their history is.

paul bowman said...

In general, of course, a thoughtful Presbyterian will hav the same enlightened view of you. : )

Maybe this ground has been well covered, but such a sweeping doubt of converts' position might leave you wondering what to think about even the first Christians. (No wish to plunge you back into old difficult discussion. I won't press.)

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, don't worry about the first Christians! I have them covered. =)

paul bowman said...

A pretty sidestep. : )

Enbrethiliel said...


Exactly the kind of sidestep a non-religious blog needs!

Jessica said...

Why is Steve Carell putting on a blond wig and posing for book covers? It DOES look like him doesn't it?

Enbrethiliel said...


Jessica, I am ROFLMAO at your comment!!!

Yes, Jeff does look like Steve Carell, doesn't he? =P An unusually muscular Steve Carell! LOL! (How could I not have noticed before this???)

In case you want to look him up, the real cover model is John DeSalvo (aka "The Cover King") and yet he doesn't look at all like either Steve Carell or Jeff Randolph!

Suburbanbanshee said...

Homer Hickam apparently wrote a romance. It was about some New Yawk lady who fell in love with a West Virginia coal mine manager, married him in a whirlwind romance, and then had to figure out what to do next. It's called Red Helmet.

I'm still trying to figure out what genre Homer Hickam won't write. Apparently he is engaged in proving that West Virginia or Pennsylvania fits into every genre ever. :)

Suburbanbanshee said...

I was trying to segue into this country romance theme... anyway...

I thought they weren't allowed to show women's face on covers, these days. Is that an older romance novel?

Enbrethiliel said...


Well, if New York can fit into any genre whatsoever . . .

I don't think I've heard of Hickam before, but I have a soft spot for men who write genre Romance--if that is what he's doing. =)

Yes, this cover is a little over ten years old. I think we'll start seeing women's faces making a comeback on Romance covers soon.