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122 of 123 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2007
There was a divide among the states, among brothers, families, and friends. There was a common ground, in honor. Jessica James' book, "Shades of Gray," is a novel about the Civil War in Virginia, but it is more about the honor and dedication, beliefs and convictions of both sides, than about the battles themselves.

Captain Hunter, a Confederate cavalry officer, is a fierce and worthy opponent to the Union. His determination and cunning is respected and feared. He'd never met an equal on the field, until a Union spy came face to face with him at a river crossing. Sinclair, with an imposing beast of a black horse, was a legend, escaping the grips of death again and again. These two foes would hunt each other, evade each other, and eventually, save each other's lives. Sinclair holds more secrets than the future plans of the southern forces; Sinclair is a woman in scout's disguise. Known only to her cousin's husband, Colonel Jordan, she is sent on missions to deliver messages, bring back information, and try to stay alive. Her desire to fight for her beliefs leads her to much more; going up against the famed Hunter becomes a challenge she cannot stop herself from pursuing. What she ends up allowing herself to do is well beyond what is expected, or accepted in the days of the Civil War.

Capturing the reader's attention from the start, Jessica James offers a different sort of historical fiction. While the conflicts and skirmishes are detailed and enthralling, the feeling within the soldier is what is so important here. The passion and depth of convictions is clear, respectfully portrayed on both sides, to a point. The plot is intricate with southern nuances, northern straightforwardness and the inner and outer battles of war. The humanity of feelings we cannot control is an outreach that will hit home. Life does go on, even in the middle of hell on earth.

Well written and expertly executed, this novel is sure to be embraced by readers of many genres. Surely, anyone interested in history, the War Between the States, or Virginia herself, will love it. Jessica James brings readers into the very minds of those who were there; you cannot leave this book unchanged in your understanding of the souls of the Civil War.
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75 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2008
I have given relatives and friends a number of copies of Shades of Gray as I was so impressed by it. Their feedback has been fantastic! A sister wrote she could hardly put it down. Not a word should be changed, not a line omitted, perfect, she cried over it.

Sons of Confederate Veteran Camp members have also purchased copies and love it.
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2008
Jessica James' Shades of Gray is a touching, captivating tale about Andrea, a spirited young woman serving as a scout for the Union, and Hunter, a dashing, powerful colonel in the Confederate army. After Andrea saves Hunter's life, their fates become intertwined as she poses as a Southern lady, reveals her true identity as a Unionist, and eventually ends up as a captive in his home.

The stubborn nature of both Andrea and Hunter, combined with Andrea's hot temper, make for some interesting, explosive battles of wits between the two. Their attraction for each other builds throughout the novel, but trouble befalls them from the moment they admit their feelings. The succeeding battles and plot twists pull the reader so deeply into the story that putting the book down is not an option.

Jessica James' has done a fantastic job with this novel, giving Civil War buffs and anyone looking for a wonderful book something fabulous to read. She skillfully weaves real battles and historical figures into her tale, and creates characters and plot twists that keep you begging for more. I wholeheartedly recommend this splendid book.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2008
Loved it ~ start to finish. I didn't just read about the civil war I was there smack dab in the middle of it. The spying, the battles, the raids, the camps. The human drama, the camaraderie, the love, the lives hanging on the edge. This book has it all. The last 100-150 pages were intense, the last 50 pages heartbreaking, the last 20 pages I cried. I mean the tears were running down my face.

The passion between Andrea and Hunter is so explosive that I thought the book was going to catch on fire. The scenes where they argue and fight for their own beliefs and feelings about the war and why each is involved are intense and heated. I felt like I was in the room listening to these two worthy opponents do battle for themselves, their families, their homes and their country. As they slowly come to realize that what they feel for each other is beyond their control they surrender pieces of themselves to the other and cross battle lines.

For the time it took me to read this book I was transported back to those war years. I was there in the thick of it. I was riding my beloved horse across enemy lines to bring dispatches and information back to camp. I shared my days and nights with my fellow soldiers. I fought side by side with them. I stared the enemy in the eye. I worked to save their live and when I couldn't I held them as they died. I shared stories of home and family as they read letters from loved ones. I cleverly played the part of spy whether I was a southern belle or disguised as a young man.

Any book that captivates me, absorbs me, captures my imagination is a good book indeed. Shades of Gray did all that. I recommend this book to any reader as it has something for everyone. Readers of historical fiction should especially enjoy it.
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120 of 137 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2012
I'm surprised this novel received positive reviews. It's poorly written, cliche, and entirely predictable. The heroine spends much of her time riding her huge horse (that only a man should be able to handle) through unrelenting peril-- all while posing as a fearless young male Union message courier/undercover scout. The scene during which she brazenly rides her trusty steed across an open field under Rebel fire from all sides so closely resembles the opening scene from Dances with Wolves that we can simply call it plagiarism. Furthermore, the writing is banal and repetitive-- to the extent one wonders if an editor even saw the manuscript. Here's and example (two consecutive sentences): "He had a noble air about him, a manner and tone of voice that instantly riveted attention. Whether giving orders on the field of battle or merely conversing with his men, there was something in his voice that was irrefutably authoritative, a quality that instantly riveted attention." Too bad this book doesn't INSTANTLY RIVET ATTENTION. The author and editor also do not know the difference between "compel" and "impel" or "explicit" and "implicit." When the heroine again does not follow her commanding officer's orders, he admonishes her: "Was your mission not clear? Were my orders not implicit?" I couldn't get past the first 10% of the Kindle version and will search for another historical fiction book set during this fascinating period of American history.
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2013
This is not historical fiction, please do not be deceived like myself and many other reviewers. It's a romance novel loosely set in the Civil War.

That by itself would not warrant a one-star review. However, the writing is atrocious and the characters so cardboard, thanks nothing at all to keep the reader engaged in the story. The author needs to work on how she writes dialogue-people do not speak in formal written English! Also as another reviewer mentioned, her use of dialect is incorrect and detracts from the reading. Additionally, romance stories do not have to be so formulaic. It was obvious from Hunter and Andrea's first meeting where this story was going, and reading over 400 more pages of their story was torturous.

There's just nothing here to recommend. Save your money and avoid this one!
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2010
The book is abound with cliches after cliche, and the author repeats phrases over and over. The main characters are cardboard, and the rest are merely stereotypes. There seems to have been little research done, which seems incredibly lazy to me. If you want civil war romance, my advice is to keep looking.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2008
The American Civil War was among the darkest of times in our nation's history, a period in which both civilians and soldiers suffered greatly amidst the tragic circumstances that surrounded them on behalf of their respective causes. In addition to separating the country's northern and southern states, this `Great Divide' also cut through the fragile fabric of family and friends. As the threat of armed conflict became inevitable, loyalties among the country's citizens became blurred and one's sense of duty to the state often overshadowed the duty to the country.

Ultimately the War Between the States was a catastrophe of epic proportions, yet it is within this tragedy that we can sometimes find triumph. For every battlefield account depicting the worst of man, there are countless other stories that illustrate care and compassion. For every instance of hatred between the combatants, there are also stories of love. This is the basis for author Jessica James' debut release titled "Shades of Gray: A Novel of the Civil War in Virginia."

More than a typical romance novel, "Shades of Gray" takes the reader on a whirlwind journey across the Old Dominion with a highly original and historically accurate plotline. It is presented with a wonderful narrative that echoes the classic writing styles of days gone by, and it is through the author's meticulous attention to detail that the book's characters come alive. Depictions of their tenacity, both for and against one another's causes, seem to spring from the pages and I found myself reading much faster than usual, as the forward momentum of the storyline was maintained throughout.

Our hero, a cavalier named Captain Alexander Hunter, represents the Confederate cause. He is a feared and revered trooper who is bent on stopping an equally courageous Federal scout who has repeatedly plagued the rebel army. This Yankee however, is really not at all what `he' appears to be, and through a strange twist of fate, we are introduced to Andrea Evans, a daring, female Union Spy, who plays the part of a soldier and a Southern belle. Both characters become entangled in each other's lives, forcing a duality of conflict that exists between their personal emotions and military obligations. The `conscience' of this book includes examples of courage, pride, loyalty and revenge, amidst a backdrop of romance and retribution.

It is this tension between the book's two main characters that echoes the very same sentiment that supporters on both sides of the Civil War struggled with, from the first shot at Fort Sumter to the surrender at Appomattox Court House. And it is within the history of America's greatest conflict that we are also caught up in a love story that transcends either side's political perspective.

In an email interview with me, Jessica James explained what inspired her to pen the book. "I am enthralled by the soldiers' deep devotion to Christian principles and their abiding belief in everlasting life," she said. "I have been reading Civil War nonfiction and 19th century fiction almost exclusively for the past three years. When I began to subscribe to romance and fiction magazines to keep abreast of industry trends, I discovered how revolting the romance genre now is." She added, "I felt the need to publish something that emphasized traditional American values. Publisher, Patriot Press, sets high standards to insure good, wholesome content that is both educational and inspirational."

Both Patriot Press and Jessica James have certainly met their goals with "Shades of Gray: A Novel of the Civil War in Virginia." The book is a wonderful read, as well as a moving commentary on the struggles that were faced by ordinary people, who rose to the occasion and became extraordinary. It is through the teetering lives of Captain Hunter and Ms. Andrea Evans that we can find the common ground that existed between the North and South.

(Reviewed for the Pinstripe Press by Michael Aubrecht)
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2011
Sadly, this is such an amateurish effort I do not understand how any publishing house ever gave it the go ahead. All the characters are grossly exaggerated, the heroine most of all. Readers generally abhor dialect, which this writer tries to get by with by misspelling of words on purpose, which only makes the reading irritating. Even though ordinary soldiers weren't grammarians, dialect is best conveyed by the rhythm and choice of words, not the author's method. This is minor compared to the dialogue of the main characters, who themselves are not only overblown cliches, but given to speeches more likely to have been confined to the politician's stump. The heroine swaggers around Union and Confederate camps disguised as a boy, and no one seems to notice her feminine features until what is obviously the romantic interest and antagonist does when she is back in crinolines as a Union spy in Richmond. While women have served as men in many wars, most men twig to a girlish and feminine face not to mention even a very small bosom--why women often say, "my face is up here." No mention is made of the heroine binding even very small breasts, which would still jiggle. Worse, the heroine constantly makes speeches about how she detests rebellion from the Union, unwisely in front of Confederate officers who suspect her of being a spy, confirming it. Some spy. The whole thing is like some exaggerated Victorian melodrama long out of date. While I love good historical fiction, I am 31% into the book on Kindle, and I can't read any more. Much as I try to give any book a chance, this one is just too tiresome and klunky.
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62 of 77 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2010
As a reader, I found this novel -- marketed as an historical novel -- an insult. As a Virginian, I found this novel both an insult and a totally unbelievable account of the Civil War in my state. Stereotypes abound, dialogue drags and repeats, and the story line begs belief. I found several ridiculous errors in word usage that should have never been made by the author in the first place, but that an editor didn't catch them boggles my mind (two examples: page 18: " 'But it does bare bringing up one more thing.' " --- the correct word would be "bear" and page 35 "Hunter and his men moved forward with some caution, yet they were unaware of any eminent danger. --- the correct word here is "imminent"). That Hunter did not recognize Sinclair the scout in the woman he danced with in Richmond, I found incredible. The story just did not seem believable, though women did serve as scouts. At page 187, I gave up. I, like the others who have given this novel the poorest rating, find it ludicrous that anyone thought this book worth 5 stars. You will be better off reading [ASIN:0393337103 Jacob's Ladder: A Story of Virginia During the War]], by Donald McCaig.
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