Cover Image: When the Jessamine Grows

When the Jessamine Grows

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Donna Everhart presents a realistic picture of life for the average person during the Civil War in When the Jessamine Grows. This story set in North Carolina shows how the war forced neighbor against neighbor and touched many emotions for me.

I wanted to hug Joetta, and sometimes clap my hand over her mouth. She was a strong woman with moral clarity but also a loving mother & wife. The many traumas she experienced before & during the Civil War were tough but she found a way through them. She fought hard for the ones she loved and never let popular thought sway her. Loved how she persevered over great odds.

Read this awesome historical fiction novel of what the war cost one woman and how she fought to keep her loved ones safe. No one writes it better than Donna Everhart. 4.5 Stars!

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What a wonderful story. The leading lady, Joetta, what a character, she really comes alive on the pages, she is strong, fearless, courageous, loyal, a loving wife, mother and and dutiful daughter-in-law. She works the farm fields, cooks, cleans, tends her vegetable plot, sews and so much more. The story is told around the civil war., Joetta’s husband and oldest son are caught up in the war, Joetta point blankly refuses to choose a side, this lands her in a lot of trouble, she loses friends, her youngest son has lost his respect for her, he blames her for their stark situation, their fields and crops have been destroyed, they have lost nearly everything, there is little food, her father-in-law does little to help, but Joetta does not waver she stays true to herself. The story is also about betrayal, community family, love and hope, Joetta’s hope faith that things will improve that her beloved husband and son will return safely. As the story unfolds we see her youngest son Robert son turn again to his mother, rebuilding their trust and faith in one another which is wonderful
This is my first book by this author, I will be looking forward to reading more,
Many thanks to Net Galley and Kensington Books for an ARC of this book in exchange for a review.

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"When the Jessamine Grows" is no easy read, in the emotional sense. An often shocking display of what formerly close friends in a rural community, where you rely on each other and stick together, can inflict in retribution.
Joetta McBride does not have "a side" in the American Civil War as her families small-holding rural life is not directly affected by either sides agenda. But by geographical location, she is expected to take the confederate position in this divisive period of American infighting. This support needs to be demonstrated, not inferred, and watch out if you are seen to be lacking.
Donna Everhart always impresses with the way she draws me into the characters. Josette's love for her family is foremost in her outlook, but when she thinks all is lost, she has to switch to preservation mode. Her virtues and morals remain intact, so she can embrace a young boy wrongly accused, but this will up the ante again in the retribution stakes.
We also meet her complex father-in-law, who probably brought even more trouble to the family with his big mouth! Josette's neighbours show their true colours, as they live their own personal circumstances in the difficult time.
For a New Zealander, the American Civil War is not familiar, so I did research a little to give more context and as a plant lover I also found out Jessamine is South Carolina's state flower is described as Carolina jessamine...a type of sweet smelling Jasmine. An evergreen, it is hardy, and will whether a storm, take punishment and rise again.
Thanks to NetGalley, Donna Everhart and Kensington Books for my copy. This story stays with me as I watch yet again how war tears our world apart. There will be mother's in this day and age, struggling to survive, with conflicting moral stands and ultimately losing loved ones.

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I've always loved stories set during the Civil War. The greatest stories are those when families had to chose on which side of the war they would stand. No matter how hard they tried, there were no neutral positions to be had. Most Civil War stories are centered on either the families living in luxury or those living in abject poverty due to slavery. When the Jessamine Grows centers on a family in the middle. The middle class life in the middle of a war they did not consider their own. But pressure from outside would soon bring the family into a conflict from which they will struggle to recover.

This book is written to bring forward your emotions as you watch this family destroyed by a conflict that touched everyone. This era changed every life, whether blue or gray or just trying to survive, the people would never be the same.

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Donna Everhart is one of my favorite Southern Fiction and historical authors. She writes stories with heart. That touch you deeply. Stories that make you believe in things even in extreme circumstances.

A story about a family touched by the Civil War. Touched in many ways. None too good. In North Carolina the McBrides, Joetta and Ennis, had a good life. They had two sons Henry and Robert. Ennis's dad lived there also in his family cabin. Mr McBride talked about war often. Made it seem like a good thing. When Henry runs off to join the Confederates to fight him mother becomes desperate for Ennis to go after him. Eventually he does and thus the story begins...

This is a book mostly about Joetta and her beliefs. Her husbands beliefs and Mr McBrides beliefs. Joetta and Ennis are neutral about the subject of this war. They don't really feel like it has much to do with them as they do not own any slaves and they are fairly poor. They work hard on their land. They do what they must to get by while also looking after Mr McBride. Joetta does not like the way her father in law talks about the war in front of her sons and once Henry has left and Ennis finally goes after him things start taking a drastic turn. Not for the better.

The story takes you through several of the McBride's friends beliefs and how they respond to Joetta. How some turn against her calling her a traitor. The things that happen because of this. Joetta goes through so much during this time and still does all she can to feed her other son and father in law. She takes in a young boy who was on their land and the confederates called a spy. He was just a boy and Joetta wanted to protect him. She had a heart. Some didn't care. Some could only think of themselves.

A story that will stick with me for a long while. A heartbreaking story of this family and all they endure during a devastating time in the US because some thought it was ok to own another human being. Some thought it was their right to own a person. To shoot them if need be. They did not want to set them free. So they went to war. Life was hard but some still had a heart and knew it was wrong. Some people didn't seem to think anything of owning a black person. A slave. A sad time for the world.

This book is very well written and will make you feel things about this topic. I think it was this author's best book yet and she's written some very good Southern Fiction novels. Most of the characters I loved. A few I detested. Set in a time when American was truly messed up.

Thank you #NetGalley, #DonnaEverhart, #KensingtonBooks, for this ARC. This is my own true thoughts about this book.

FIVE huge stars and a very high recommendation.

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What an awesome book and super story! It's the civil war and this family wants to stay out of it. But the granddaddy just can't stay out of it. He's not able to keep his opinion to himself and tells the grandsons what he feels they need to do and of course one goes and joins up into the service. I don't like to tell the story plot on reviews but you get the picture. What's a mother to do? Survive thru the mess the best she can do. I really recommend this book to even people not into the civil war times. The book is about getting food on the table and keeping family together. Thank you!!

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A historical novel set in North Carolina during the Civil War, the story follows Joetta McBride, a strong and determined woman who opens her home and farm to soldiers from both the Confederate and Union sides. Despite the challenges and hardships she faces, Joetta remains neutral in a war that threatens to tear the nation apart.

Donna Everhart, one of the best historical Southern fiction authors you will ever find, gives us a protagonist who stays true to her convictions despite the many challenges she faces.

Most Civil War books I have read focused on plantation owners with large numbers of slaves. “When the Jessamine Grows” centers around the subsistence farmers, those who grew only enough to feed themselves and their livestock. They were not slave owners. This gave me an entirely new perspective on life during the Civil War.

I felt that Joetta McBride, the protagonist, was portrayed in a realistic manner. She managed an intricate juggling act to uphold her beliefs while keeping her family safe. A myriad of emotions swept through me as I devoured this book. The characters were so authentic. I could feel the love between Joetta and her husband, the crankiness of Mr. McBride (Joetta’s father-in-law), the obstinance of her older son Henry, and the moodiness of her younger son Robert. This is an excellent examination of family dynamics.

I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy historical fiction and strong female characters.

I received an advance copy of the book. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

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When the Jessamine Grows is the first book I've read by Donna Everhart. The story takes place in North Carolina and is a tale of courage, survival, strength, loyalty, and loss. It is told from the point of view of Joetta McBride, a wife and mother who lives with her husband Ennis, her father-in-law, and 2 young sons on their farm in Nash County. Joetta is a strong woman who holds firm on her beliefs, and along with her husband Ennis, stands by her convictions and refuses to take sides when war breaks out. This has dire consequences and Joetta faces discrimination and isolation from those she once called friends, and she faces harsh punishment from those in authority who consider her a traitor.
I found it got off to a bit of a slow start for me, but eventually I was hooked and read the last half very quickly - I'm so glad I stuck with it! I really felt Joetta's struggles with the decisions she had to make, some she instantly regretted. The emotions throughout were real and accurate and I could really relate to the characters. I don't know a lot about American history, so this book was a great insight into the hardships faced by those left behind to hold the fort while the men were away fighting, and the treatment those with unpopular opinions faced. It is well researched with facts woven into the story, and it felt like an authentic and accurate portrayal of family dynamics of that time. It is a great example of how people can turn on each other when there are differences of opinion, lives are at stake, or reputations are at risk, and this was an integral part of the book. This book left me wanting to know more about the civil war, I would have loved other POVs in this book so hopefully there will be a sequel where we discover more about the journey of the McBride family!
Overall a great read.
Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and author for an e-arc to review.

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When the Jessamine Grows, by Donna Everhart, is a well-written, beautifully researched story of love and loss in a time of war on American soil. This outstanding novel is set in a rural southern town during the Civil War. It wasn't just a war between the North and the South but between families, friends, and neighbors. Even those who chose to stay out of the war fought their own battles. Thanks, NetGalley and the publisher, for providing me with the ARC ebook I read and reviewed. All opinions are my own.

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This historical fiction novel takes place in North Carolina during the Civil War. While it doesn't describe the war, it depicts the struggles of the people at home and the hardships they endured.
Joetta is married to Ennis, they live on a small farm with their 2 sons, Henry and Robert and Mr. McBride (Ennis' father) lives in a cabin on the property. They work the land to raise crops and have an assortment of chickens, pigs, and a cow. When Mr. McBride talks incessantly of the glory of war, the oldest son, Henry, leaves to join the Confederates. Joetta persuades Ennis to go after him and bring him home, while she takes on the farm chores along with her other duties to keep the farm going.
the author writes a detailed description of the struggles which the family endured, and the difficulty they had surviving in the hostile environment brought upon because of Joetta's neutrality. When it seems that things cannot get any worse, they do, an the story was difficult to read as Joetta was shunned and harassed by friends and neighbors. Her sense of loyalty, honesty and her convictions were strong and helped her maintain her dignity
I thought the author did a fabulous job describing the time and place and Joetta's feelings. The ending was hopeful,
which I thought was a good thing.
I received an ARC from Kensington Press and NetGalley as well as a paperback copy from the publisher; the opinions expressed her are entirely my own and I recommend this book for book clubs.

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Donna Everhart has written another historical fiction novel that I couldn't put down.
The book takes place in the south during the Civil War. Even though the story is all about the way and the things that happened during that time, how hard it was for survival, my take aways from the book are self-honor, sticking with what you believe no matter what happens or who tried to change your mind. The book was full of wonderful history. I'm definitely a historical fiction lover and this book delivered for me.

Thank you to NetGalley, Donna Everhart and Kinsington Books for allowing me this arc version for the kindle.

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When the Jessamine Grows by Donna Everhart is a book that will remain with you! I always enjoy books by this author and this one is no exception!Her characters are always developed very well and Joetta is a strong woman although like all of us not perfect!The book takes place in North Carolina during the Civil War.We know that this war divided the country and families.We rarely hear about those who remained neutral.Joetta lived on a small farm not a plantation like so many books.This also made it more personal for me being from a farm background.Even through hard times Joetta held to her beliefs.This well researched book will be enjoyed by those who enjoy historical fiction as well as those who love strong women characters.Thank you so much to Kensington Books and NetGalley for allowing me the privilege to read an ARC of this book.

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In When the Jessamine Grows, Donna Everhart looks at a family keeping themselves alive on a small farm in rural North Carolina and how they are impacted by the Civil War.

"Joetta and her husband, Ennis just want to be left alone to live their lives. They have no interest in choosing a side between North and South. Their boys hang on to the words of Mr. McBride, Joetta's father-in-law, who won't stop talking about the glory of war and the Rebs. The oldest son, Henry, steals off one night to volunteer. Ennis soon heads out to find him. Joetta and Robert, the youngest son, try to keep the farm going, but Joetta's stance on being neutral brings destruction to the farm. Can they survive? When will this war end?"

I kept wondering if anything good was going to happen to Joetta. And the early part of the story was tough. How much could one character - Joetta - take? But she marshals through. Everything that's thrown at her - she justs gets up and tries to do the right thing and survive. Mr. McBride was horrible. He could never seem to understand that there are times to keep your mouth shut. A lot of issues seemed to be because of him.

Everhart gives a view of what happens when someone wants to take an isolationist approach. How rumor and gossip can lead to a mob and vigilante justice.

There are still a couple of loose ends but I like the ending for Joetta. An interesting story about the people during the Civil War.

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Wow, what a truly remarkable story of American history! I have read all of Donna Everhart’s books and have enjoyed each and every one. Not only do they have great storylines but I personally learn so very much from reading them. When the Jessamine Grows is about what it was like for families during the Civil War. The struggles and hardships that they go through just to survive I found heartbreaking to read but yet it was enlightening to witness Joetta’s strength and perseverance. It was a remarkable story of a family’s love and dedication to each other and to sticking to your beliefs and not giving in or giving up. I’d like to thank Kensington Books for accepting my request and NetGalley for the arc. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, I feel I learned so much about what it must of been like to live during this time and it’s a book I would recommend to anyone who enjoys reading about American history. I’m giving this a much deserved 5 star rating as I believe Donna Everhart must of done a tremendous amount of research and her writing was just so beautiful and eloquent. I am anxious to read where and when this author takes her readers next!

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Set in the south during the civli war, a family is divided by whether to join the south or not. Deciding not to become part of the conflict which results in devastating consequences. A very strong woman character defying all odds to live up to her convictions and trying to keep her family together.
This is the first time reading this author even thou I had heard about her from one of my Facebook book groups. I could not put this book down, wondering what would come next and how Joetta would handle it. Definitely will be reading more of her books and suggesting for my book club to read. It is already slated for March’s discussion in my Facebook group.
Thank you to the author for giving a different viewpoint of the south and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this.

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Joetta McBride, living in rural North Carolina, considers herself neutral as the Civil War begins. When her teenage son runs off to join the Confederate army, she begs her husband to find him and bring him back home. As time passes with her husband and son gone, Joetta is shunned by her friends and neighbors. Her courage to stand by her principles and her struggles to continue to provide for her father-in-law and younger son as food and supplies dwindle show her strength and resilience.

This was an intriguing historical fiction read, and you can't help but admire and root for Joetta as she overcomes all of the hardships thrown her way.

I am really hoping there is a sequel!

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Thank you Netgalley and Kensington Books for access to this arc.

This was not an easy book to read. Civil Wars divide families, friends, and neighbors. Even those who want to stay apart will usually get drawn in eventually as do the McBrides. But healthy servings of guilt and pain also haunt Joetta as her world crashes around her.

There were times I cheered Joetta and her determination to hold onto her convictions. The easy way was there all the time but even biting her tongue was hard for Joetta in the face of needling comments designed to catch her out. She also had to deal with her younger twelve year old son who has lost the two men most important in his life and who now must help his mother wrest a living from the farm. Feeling her son slip away into resentment and pain at his own losses hurts Joetta even more. Yet there were also times when I yelled through my ereader at Joetta to just play along, read the room, and try to keep from upsetting those who could, and did, arrive with harmful intentions.

Joetta stubbornly sticks to her guns and there was one point where she ruminated on the fact that someone in her life called her pigheaded. Yep, that’s a good description. I kept feeling that she could have handled things better and still held onto her beliefs while also keeping her son and crippled father-in-law a bit safer. The middle of the book meanders around a bit with a lot of repetition of how the McBrides survive while the ending drags a little. Could they have managed through a harsh winter and two summers as they did? Possibly but it’s a stretch.

I think the two books listed above the blurb are accurate as far as which readers might enjoy this book. It is a hard look at a hard time. Though the McBrides and most of their neighbors don’t own enslaved people, there are some large plantations with owners who do. Nasty reasons for people to support the Confederate cause are mentioned. Sadly some of the attitudes are not ones that have died away in the century and a half and crop up in daily news now. Holding onto the courage of your convictions at any time when those convictions run counter to the prevailing viewpoints is challenging. There is much to admire about Joetta but watching her fight against the current leads to a darker story. B-

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Donna Everhart just may be my new favorite author. This is just the kind of historical fiction I love. It’s hard to read a book set during a war due to the extreme hardship people suffer, but authors like Everhart make it easier when they give readers fully developed characters who grow with the story.

Main character Joetta McBride lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband Ennis and her two sons. Her cantankerous father-in-law lives on the property and eats all his meals with the family.

I have to admit, at first I wanted Joetta to smack him and make him shut-up! He went on and on about the war and was a die-hard confederate, unlike his son Ennis and Joetta, who were neutral about the war. He glamorized soldiers to the point Jetta’s son wanted to join up and fight. Even though they were both too young, the older son ran off and joined.

As time went on, Ennis ends up fighting for the confederacy, leaving Joetta and their younger son to take care of the farm. Because North Carolina was a border state, there were many conflicting opinions about the war, but being a traitor to the cause was abhorrent.

Because Joetta wasn’t taking a side, she becomes labeled as a traitor and suffers many hardships because of it. In spite of that, she stands by her convictions. Her father-in-law also grows as a character throughout their experience, allowing Joetta to see a more positive side to him.

What I loved about the story was that it focused on the hardships of those at home and it did not gloss over some of the pain they suffered. The ending, while not perfect for Joetta, was one that left her full of hope for the future.


Many thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for allowing me to read an advance copy. I loved the story and am happy to give my honest review and recommend this to other readers.

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An unputdownable story of survival in a world tipped upside down by the Civil War! This book has a fast drumbeat, and I never spent one moment looking away. Readers of many stripes will love this book for the tenderness, the neighbors who turn on you like vipers, the world that rains down hardship, but against it all, the unrelenting moral perseverance of one Joetta Mcbride. This book takes you on one heck of journey and then puts you back together heart and soul. Truly an outstanding work of fiction, sure to hit the top of the charts!

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When the Jessamine Grows is a work of historical fiction which follows Joetta McBride, wife of a small North Carolina farmer, through the years of the Civil War and beyond. When the book opens she lives with her husband Ennis, 2 sons, and her father-in-law. Once war breaks out her son Henry sneaks away to sign up, despite being too young. When he does not return home Joetta prompts Ennis to go in search of Henry and he ends up signing up as well since it was the best way seek information. This leaves her to manage the farm as best she can, and keep the rest of the family together. This would be difficult enough but Joetta and her husband are not convinced by the soundness of the Confederate cause. They own no slaves, are not convinced by other white supremist arguments and see no reason to risk their lives or livelihoods. However, they do not support the Unionists either. Rather Joetta tries to maintain a strict neutrality which puts her offside with her neighbours and most of the wider community who strongly support the Confederate cause. It was this aspect of the novel which made it stand out for me. Joetta was not just a woman dealing with the standard hardships of war at the time. She was a woman determined to stay true to her own convictions and values, in what she believed to be just and fair, despite opposition from her sons and father-in-law as well as the wider community. In the face of threats and intimidation, and with the need to protect her family, she had to work out if and how she could bend while still staying true to herself . She was often left questioning if the cost of following her conscience was worth it, but was unable to act otherwise. Joetta was just the sort of female protagonist that I enjoy reading about - strong, not without flaws, but easy to empathise with. The writing was solid with the sense of time and place well-depicted. The minor characters, while necessarily painted with broad strokes, also felt wholly realistic. Donna Everhart fans will love this as will anyone who enjoys historical fiction. It publishes on 23 January. Many thanks to @netgalley and @kensingtonbooks for the ARC. All opinions are of course my own.

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