Title: A Heart Divided
Author: J.M. Snyder
Publisher: JMS Books LLC
Pages: 126 (.pdf)
Characters: Anderson Blank, Samuel Talley
POV: 3rd person
Sub-Genre: Historical Romance
Confederate Lieutenant Anderson Blanks has grllown weary of the War Between the States. He is all too aware of the tenuous thread that ties him to this earth — as he writes a letter home to his sister, he realizes he may be among the dead by the time she receives the missive. His melancholy mood is shared by other soldiers in the campsite; in the cool Virginia night, the pickets claim to hear ghosts in the woods, and their own talk spooks them.
Andy knows the “ghost” is nothing more than a wounded soldier left on the battlefield, dying in the darkness. With compassion, Andy takes the picket’s lantern and canteen in the hopes of easing the soldier’s pain. After a tense confrontation with the soldier, Andy is shocked to discover none other than Samuel Talley, a young man Andy’s father had chased from their plantation when the romantic relationship between the two boys came to light. The last time the two had seen each other, Sam had been heading west to seek his fortune, and had promised to send for Andy when he could.
Then the war broke out, and Andy had enlisted in the Confederate Army to help ease the financial burden at home. Apparently Sam had similar ideas — he now wears the blue coat of a Union solider.
Sam is severely wounded and infection has begun to set in. Andy can’t sneak him into his own camp for treatment because all Union soldiers are taken prisoner. But Andy’s Confederate uniform prevents him from seeking help from the nearby Union camp, as well. It’s up to Andy to tend his lover’s wound and get Sam the help he needs before it’s too late … and before Andy’s compatriots discover Sam’s presence.
Set against the backdrop of the War Between the States, A Heart Divided is a touching and romantic story laced with the raw emotional element of a love that may have been displaced by time, distance, and the intolerance of others, but never was it muted by the forced separation that, for years, kept Andy Blank and Sam Talley apart.
Falling deeply in love during a time of carefree innocence, before the South thought to demand its independence for the Union, the country torn apart by war, Andy and Sam’s days and nights were punctuated by stolen moments together, moments of discovery and desire that served to form an unbreakable bond between the two boys. Surprised by Andy’s father, in a moment of youthful passion, Sam is dismissed from the Blank family employ, his reputation quickly in tatters after Mr. Blank exposes Sam’s sexuality to the community, condemning Sam as a pariah. He has no choice but to flee, heading West in the hopes he can one day save enough money to send for Andy so they can begin a new life together, one where no one knows them or their secret.
But innocence, like the promise of paradise, is lost in the instant the North and the South declared war. One brief letter from Sam, sent from St. Louis early on, is all Andy has left to cling to as the months—and soon years—go by, those years spent fighting a battle in which there can be a victor, but no true winner.
Lieutenant Anderson Blank is encamped in a remote area of Virginia, his regiment having just forced a Union retreat. In his possession are a few remembrances of his home—a pocket watch, a lock of his sister’s hair—and the single letter Samuel had sent years before, fragile from the many times it’s been touched and read and held dear by Andy, with the hope that one day the two may be reunited. It’s a dream that seems more unlikely with each passing day, with each engagement with the enemy likely numbering the days Andy has left on earth. Hope becomes more and more difficult to embrace, when violence, bloodshed, and death are forever grasping at his soul.
But a single act of fate, chance, divine intervention, whatever one chooses to call it—in a moment when the impossible and the unlikely become attainable, a voice sounds in the distance, calling out to Andy’s empathy and conscience, luring him away from camp and toward a place that, for Andy, will become a lot like toeing a fine line between heaven and hell.
J.M. Snyder offers a terrific story for fans of historical romance, which captures the turmoil of a time when brother fought against brother, friend against friend. The story is one of belief that the bitter reality and harsh truths of war hold no sway over the power of love, compassion, and simple human kindness, regardless of where political or social loyalties lie.
A Heart Divided might leave you believing in destiny. If nothing else, it’ll leave you believing in a union of heart, body, and spirit that has the strength to overcome the whims of mankind.
Reviewed By: Lisa