Adele Holmes, "Winter's Reckoning" (She Writes Press, 2022)

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Madeline (Maddie) Fairbanks has created a satisfying life for herself in Jamesville since the death of her husband, Samuel, one of the town’s leading citizens. An herbalist from a long line of female healers, she provides medical care to local residents at all levels of society, traveling into the hills and from house to house with Renetta Morgan, her young assistant. Although Ren is black and Maddie white, the townsfolk accept their partnership, since the only alternative is a circuit-riding doctor who appears a few times a year. Race relations in Jamesville are tense, with restrictions on who can walk where and which door to the general store serves which type of customer, yet for the most part, Ren and Maddie manage to skirt the rules without drawing undue attention to themselves.

Then Carl Howard arrives in town. At first, he intends merely to pass through, but when he discovers that the town is waiting for a vicar who has not appeared on schedule, Carl sees an opening and announces that he is the reverend assigned to Jamesville’s Protestant church. On his first Sunday, he preaches a hellfire-and-brimstone sermon condemning outspoken, independent women and racial integration. Maddie opposes his point of view, and he fights back by declaring her interest in herbal medicine the equivalent of witchcraft. Before long, the two are at loggerheads, Ren is caught in the middle, and the Ku Klux Klan is riding the wave of Carl’s approval to threaten the people of Jamesville.

In Winter’s Reckoning (She Writes Press, 2022), Adele Holmes has created an unflinching portrayal of how one narcissistic individual can wreak havoc on an entire community, fanning the flames of underlying conflicts until they explode into violence and hatred. But she also shows how the strength of family, friends, and a powerful, committed heroine can combine to overcome such challenges—producing a novel as heart-warming as it is thought-provoking.

Adele Holmes, MD, worked as a pediatrician for twenty years before retiring and turning her attention to fiction. Winter’s Reckoning is her first novel.

C. P. Lesley is the author of two historical fiction series set during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible and three other novels. Her latest novel, Song of the Sinner, appeared in January 2022.

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