In Plain Sight by Sephira Allen

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MWSA Review

The Romance genre novel, In Plain Sight, takes place in Virginia during the Civil War years of 1963 to 1865. Its underlying theme is in the ways families and other loved ones are torn apart and virtually kept separate by this war and, by extension, any war of domestic import.

While the book’s references to the details of the Virginia war during these years are indefinite, they don’t seem inaccurate, and this vagueness is appropriate to the book’s assigned genre. Instead, the book’s details center about Rylee James, a young woman who dons men’s clothing and identity to rescue her Confederate brother Matt, who has been captured by Union forces in Virginia. Rylee’s disguise and role as a doctor prove successful in gaining her access to Matt — until she becomes enthralled with Union Captain Eli Webb, and her guise becomes threadbare. Ry springs her brother Matt from his military prison, is wounded, and falls unconscious. As Eli tends to her wound, he discovers her gender and he realizes why he’s been attracted to this faux-male doctor. The two become lovers and face complications that could very well mean execution for both.

The story has many unexpected twists prior to war’s end that are indicative of the “fog of war” and of the best of human nature, and these traits kept this reader turning pages. The characters, while somewhat skin-deep, are true to human nature and appropriate to this genre. The book was written in an omniscient third person point of view that often set this reader apart from the characters’ emotional dynamics. While a wartime story depicting such emotional conflicts should show the interior thoughts and motivations that both draw similar characters together and keep them apart, it may have been better to write the story in a series of “close” third person points of view that would have increased the intimacy between character and reader. Because of this choice, the author too often chooses to explain the motives of the characters to the reader in narrative. Too, narrative could have used more scenic description, but this doesn’t seem as important in a book genre primarily preoccupied  with character emotions and related activities. The love interest between Ry and Eli doesn’t gain steam until some one hundred pages in, and toward the story’s end Ry’s attention is often on her brother and the family home. For this reason, the book may have been a stronger candidate in a Historical Fiction genre.

Clearly, the writer has put much thought into placing her characters into the book’s wartime background, and there is much storytelling talent here.

 Review by Bob Mustin (April 2019)

Author's Synopsis

 What wouldn’t you do for love? No damsel in distress, 20 year old Rylee James hides in plain sight of the enemy, hoping to rescue her brother - a Confederate soldier captured by Union forces. Disguised as a man, she's counting on her skills as a doctor to see her through while she risks it all to save the only family she has left. But even the best laid plans can go awry when love is at stake, and all too soon she is faced with the reality that life's choices aren't always easy. Love of family, love of country, or love of a good man - agonizing decisions to be made when she finds that setting her brother free has left her a prisoner of the heart. A historical romance set in the midst of the American Civil War, In Plain Sight intrigues right from the start, taking you on a wild and perilous ride through the war-torn Virginia countryside. An emotional journey of courage, daring and love, that keeps you enthralled right to the very end.

ISBN/ASIN: B07F5XVF8K, 1983392502, B07KYWJTS9
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Review Genre: Fiction—Romance
Number of Pages: 332