Book Review: NC Author’s Latest Novel Spans a Century | Lifestyles

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What could be better than a new novel from Kristy Woodson Harvey, the NC writer who, since 2015, has been gaining fans and accolades?

Support me, and I’ll tell you.

Her previous eight novels established her reputation as “a major new voice in Southern fiction”. A common thread running through her novels – four standalone and four in the popular Peachtree Bluff series – is her strong belief in and understanding of the importance of family and relationships between women, especially across generations. Another constant is his talent.

If anyone deems it necessary to categorize Harvey’s works, she is generally classified as a female fiction writer. It would be a mistake, however, to dismiss them as mere fluff, good for reading on the beach or on a plane but lacking in depth.

Her books are women’s fiction, of course, because they tell stories of strong women living complex lives, and, I guess, because women like to read them. While entertaining and compelling to read, they also have depth and they work in some ideas that will stick with you.

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And they’re very well-written, putting her honed skills as a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism to good use. She also earned a master’s degree in English from East Carolina University.

As a bonus for those of us who live in or have ties to North Carolina, Woodson Harvey is a total Tar Heel. She grew up in Salisbury and lived in Kinston for a time before she and her husband moved to Beaufort. She has staged novels in all of these places, even though some places have fictitious names. His popular Peachtree Bluff series is apparently set on the Georgian coast because his editors thought it was a good idea, but his North Carolina readers know the truth…

So, what could be better than another beautiful novel by this talented author?

The answer is “The Wedding Veil,” a new novel that not only continues the fine work that crossed the New York Times bestseller list, but also represents another leap forward in his fiction writing. This time, Harvey does a masterful job of combining a well-researched historical novel — again, putting his journalism training to good use — with the kind of contemporary story that established his reputation.

The historical part of the novel is based on the true story of the Vanderbilt women, who managed to keep the Biltmore estate, the largest private home in the United States, despite many challenges, including widowhood, social pressure and the Great Depression. Harvey was intrigued to learn that the pretty wedding veil worn by Edith Vanderbilt, her mother, sisters and daughter Cornelia, went missing years ago.

The contemporary side of the story is that of Julia Baxter, who is about to get married wearing the family veil that dates back to her great-grandmother when she decides she cannot marry. As Julia tries to pick up the pieces of her derailed life – and perhaps find love again – she is helped by her grandmother, Babs. Still reeling from the death of her beloved husband, Babs makes major changes in her own life when she unexpectedly meets the man she nearly married 60 years earlier.

Harvey deftly moves through time and among four viewpoints – Julia and Babs in first person in the present, and Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt in third person in the past.

What she creates is a gripping story spanning a century of women making important life choices, as well as a possible answer to the mystery of what happened to the Vanderbilt wedding veil.

Linda Carter Brinson writes a book blog, Briar Patch Books, at http://lindabrinson.com.


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