Friday Reads – The Knotted Ring

So happy to start the New Year with a review of this wonderful historical novel.

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Next Chapter Publishing
Publication date ‏ : ‎ December 6, 2023
404 pages
Historical Fiction

Susannah Mobley, expecting her slave lover’s baby, submits to an arranged marriage to Hezekiah James, who is headed to Texas to claim a land grant.

Caught in a series of lies about her pregnancy, as well as the beautiful ring woven from her red hair, Susannah embarks on the harsh trip to Texas, grieving for her lost love and determined to control her destiny.

On the wagon train journey, Hezekiah’s beliefs and strength are tested by Native Americans and the strange Madstone. Soon, Susannah will have to decide if she can live with the consequences of her lies and open herself to the man who shows every form of contrition, or if she will allow longing for the child to destroy her life.

“Readers will be drawn in by McILvain’s characters, who are richly developed with powerful voices. The tension crafted between Susannah’s past and present is palpable throughout, and McILvain skillfully depicts her warring emotions” –BookLife Review-


What a wonderful telling of a a segment of family history. The author brings authenticity to this fictionalized version of a segment of her family history going back to 1823.

Susanna, the central character, is immediately real on the page, as are all the other characters. Nobody was in the story that didn’t have to be, and each played such an important role, even the Indian woman who brought her injured son to be healed and gave Susanna and Hezekiah moccasins.

The other people who traveled west with Susanna and Hezekiah were also integral to elements of the story, even Mary Crawford, who wasn’t very likable because of her prejudice. But in the wilderness one finds friendship where she can, and it was a nice touch that Susanna didn’t challenge Mary openly. That was a time period when one didn’t do that, choosing to keep judgements to themselves and respect the privacy of others, even when not agreeing with them.

Susanna and Hezekiah have such great character arcs as the story progresses, and I loved them both while also not always agreeing with the choices they made or the things they did. Susanna has to first come to love her husband after losing the man she so desperately loved, and Hezekiah shows great patience with her. But then he does a rash and hurtful thing that comes close to destroying their relationship.

How they rebuild trust, and start to care for each other, doesn’t come easily, or quickly, but their strength and resilience in personal matters, as well as in building a home in the wilderness, serves them well. A good character is always redeemed in some way, and each of them are after both making the mistakes that pushed them apart.

The narrative is presented in wordage that is rich in details that set the scenes so vividly. I enjoyed so many of the unique and clever ways of describing a place or a person, like this description of a housemaid at a wealthy plantation owners home, “she was the color of a ball of caramel and just as round.”

A big part of this story had to do with the settlers coming to Texas under the promise of Spanish land grants and setting up communities along the Brazos river. That historical aspect has been obviously well researched by the author, and the ensuing challenges by Mexico and then the eventual plan to establish the state of Texas add quite a bit of the drama to the story.

Another plot thread focuses on slavery and how different plantation owners treated the slaves that they had. In reading this book it reminded me of the author’s, Waters Plantation, that also deals with the relationship between men and women of servitude and the people who own them. Like Amelia in Waters Plantation, Susanna is a champion of the slaves and wants to see them treated fairly and equally.

Myra Hargrave McIlvain is a master at bringing history to life, and this is a book to be read and savored.


Myra Hargrave McIlvain has free-lanced as a writer of Texas historical markers, written articles for newspapers all over the country and for magazines such as Texas Highways. Her love of a good tale prompted her to write six nonfiction books about famous and infamous Texas sites and characters. Her most recent, Texas Tales, Stories that Shaped a Landscape and a People, is a collection of 113 of her favorite Texas history blog posts.

McIlvain’s new love is historical fiction, which includes Stein House and The Doctor’s Wife, both of which chronicle the development of the thriving German seaport of Indianola on the Texas coast. The characters in those award-winning books have returned in Waters Plantation an award-winning sequel that opens in 1875 post Reconstruction Washington County.

A Long Way Home is McIlvain’s eleventh book––the tale of a woman whom everyone thinks died on 9/11. Instead, she is living a new life in the Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Currently McIlvain is working on The Reluctant Bride, a tale that opens in 1817 on a Louisiana plantation.

That’s all from me for today, folks. Have a wonderful weekend. Be safe. Be happy.

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