Reviewed by Vera Pereskokova (Luxury Reading)
Kate Winter is beautiful and intelligent and is poised to graduate with honors from Otterbein College. Unfortunately, she is also painfully shy and her first attempt at the required oration ends with a panic attack and a swift flight from the classroom.
Kate’s home situation does not help the matters – her mother is void of any emotion and is only concerned with securing advantageous marriages for her daughters, and her father is a violent drunk who often embarrasses him family in public. But it is her mother’s forceful suggestion that she learn to speak in public – or else – that places Kate in Ben Hanby’s path.
Musically talented, Ben Hanby is putting on a musicale at the College, and is entranced when he hears Kate sing. He convinces her to take the solo, and at first, Kate only plans to use the musicale as a cover while she plans to run away from the home she despises. One thing leads to another and Kate finds herself inexplicably involved in the Hanby family’s activities with the Underground Railroad. She postpones her own escape in order to help others escape to freedom, but it is her growing affection for Ben that has equal power to make her stay…
Sweeter than Birdsong is the second book in Rosslyn Elliott’s A Saddler’s Legacy series, – Fairer than Morning was the first – but either book can be easily read on its own. Fairer than Morning tells the story of Ann Miller and Will Hanby, and Sweeter than Birdsong picks up many years later with their grown son, Ben Hanby, and his friends at Otterbein College.
The book does have a somewhat slow start, but gains momentum quickly with Kate’s first mission to rescue a family of slaves. What I enjoyed most about Sweeter than Birdsong was the history behind the story. Kate Winter was actually one of the first two graduates of Ottorbein College (read more here) and she was described to be as shy in real life as she was in the book. The Hanby family (see the family bios here) was well known in Ohio and aided former slaves as part of the Underground Railroad. Will Hanby actually helped found Ottorbein College in 1847. Ben Hanby’s song “Darling Nelly Gray”, which figures heavily in the book, became a sort of a national anthem against slavery in 1856; his Christmas song “Up on the Housetop” is still sung today.
Although Sweeter than Birdsong is categorized as Christian fiction and religion is part of the story, – after all, Ben Hanby has plans to become a Bishop – it is not the central focus and does not detract from the overall plot. The sweetness of the romance between Kate and Ben was particularly appealing to me and was so different from the explicit romances that fill contemporary fiction. Books today can be so obviously and unnecessarily sexual, and it was nice to read about a more innocent time.
With Sweeter than Birdsong, Elliott once again does an excellent job of marrying facts with very readable fiction. A highly enjoyable read!
More from Rosslyn Elliott: Fairer Than Morning
In this second in the award-winning Saddler’s Legacy series, Rosslyn Elliott has written a stirring novel of hope and faith inspired by real historical people and events. With Ben Hanby, a genius composer, Kate Winter, one of the first female college graduates in America, and John Parker, an ex-slave who risked his life time and again to help fugitive slaves, Sweeter than Birdsong is full of real heroes to inspire us. “I hope readers will find a renewed sense of strength in their own lives,” says Elliott, “knowing that change is possible, and our efforts matter. I want them to remember these unique, brave people in history who left us a shining example of what it means to live out one’s beliefs with passion and commitment.”
So to celebrate the music in all of us, Rosslyn and Thomas Nelson are hosting this “sweet giveaway”.
One fortunate winner will receive:
A Brand new iPod Nano (Winner’s choice of color!)
Fairer than Morning by Rosslyn Elliott
Sweeter than Birdsong by Rosslyn Elliott
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on February 28th. Winner will be announced at Sweeter than Birdsong Author Chat Facebook Party on 2/28. Rosslyn will be chatting with guests, sharing a sneak peek of the next book in the series, hosting a trivia contest, and more! She’ll also be giving away some GREAT prizes: gift certificates, books, season 1 of Downton Abbey, and a book club prize pack! (Ten copies of the book for your small group or book club AND a LIVE Author Chat for your group with Rosslyn.)
So grab your copy of Sweeter than Birdsong and join Rosslyn and friends on the evening of the 28th for an evening of fun.