Author: A.J. Marcus
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages
At a Glance: A.J. Marcus always does an incredible job and keeps me thoroughly interested in the story.
Reviewed By: Maryann
Blurb: Hugh Lafoux managed to survive the Civil War, but came out of it scarred for life and with an intricately crafted metal leg. Since the war ended, he’s wandered aimlessly, looking for the next card game and easy sex. He boards the Bayou Belle in Saint Louis, expecting a nice easy ride down to Memphis. But he runs afoul of Big Al Shank, the owner of the Belle, and ends up beaten and thrown overboard into the dark river.
Former slave Cotton Freeman spends most of his time hunting alligators along the Mississippi River near Memphis, Tennessee. While looking for larger gators north of town one night, Cotton unexpectedly fishes a man out of the water. As Cotton nurses Hugh back to health, they realize a mutual attraction, and their love grows. But when Big Al Shank returns to destroy them, love might not be enough to win the battle.
Review: A.J. Marcus creates a beautiful and sad story set in Memphis, Tennessee, after the Civil War, and slaves had been given their freedom. It’s also a time when many were not satisfied with the outcome of the war and the freeing of slaves. Marcus also shows us a time when some men of different ethnicity were willing to come together to modify and create inventions. The two main characters, Hugh and Cotton, come from different ways of life, but as they spend time together, their relationship grows to love. The sad part of this story is the murder, violence and hangings that takes place. Even in today’s world we are still seeing the similar violence that existed at this time.
Hugh Lafoux was a lieutenant who fought in the Civil War and lost his leg. After the damage from the war, he found nothing to go home for, so he traveled by paddleboat and became a gambler. His dream was to go West for a start at a new way of living, but he finds himself in hot water with Al Shank, the owner of the riverboat Bayou Belle, and is tossed over the side into the depths of the Mississippi.
Cotton Freeman lives his life as simple as possible, and away from people. He still is unsure where he fits in a world of coloreds and whites because he is mulatto. Growing up, his only friend was Timmy Birmingham, and both were abused while living on the plantation. Cotton is an alligator hunter on the Mississippi River, who has modified a raft and a spear to meet his needs for hunting. He rescues Hugh from the Mississippi, and with the help of Miss Cassandra, Cotton gets Hugh well and back on his feet.
Miss Cassandra is a mystery to all. She believes in the River and how it talks to her, and can change a person’s life. She is a help to all who need her. Her words of warning to many of the Negroes was to stay away from the Bayou Belle and Al Shank. Most of these characters have a tragic story to tell, all leading back to Al Shank, and they come together with a plan to sink the Bayou Belle and put an end to Shank.
Whether it’s a history lesson or facts about wildlife, I always find that A.J. Marcus does an incredible job and keeps me thoroughly interested in the story. I really liked the camaraderie and equality of the characters, and how Cotton had made his own modifications to fit his needs for the alligator hunting.
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