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Gone with the Wind meets The Help in the stunning prequel to Leila Meacham's bestselling family epic Roses. "From birth, Jessica had eschewed the role to which she'd been born. Was it because she sensed that her father's indulgence was compensation for his disappointment in her? Jessica thought too much, questioned, challenged, rebelled. Sometimes Eunice thought her daught Gone with the Wind meets The Help in the stunning prequel to Leila Meacham's bestselling family epic Roses. "From birth, Jessica had eschewed the role to which she'd been born. Was it because she sensed that her father's indulgence was compensation for his disappointment in her? Jessica thought too much, questioned, challenged, rebelled. Sometimes Eunice thought her daughter should have been born a male." Born into the wealthiest and most influential family in 1830s South Carolina, Jessica Wyndham was expected to look appealing, act with decorum, and marry a suitably prominent and respectable man. However, her outspoken opinions and unflagging sense of justice make her a difficult-and dangerous-firebrand, especially for slavery-dependent Carson Wyndham. Jessica's testing of her powerful father's love is only the beginning of the pain, passion, and triumph she will experience on a journey with the indomitable, land-obsessed Silas Toliver and headstrong Jeremy Warwick to a wild new land called Texas. PRAISE FOR LEILA MEACHAM "Discovering Leila Meacham and her spectacular talent is akin to discovering gold. With this novel she has become a national treasure." -- Huffington Post "Rich with American history and pitch-perfect storytelling, fans and new readers alike will find themselves absorbed in the family saga that Meacham has proven-once again-talented in telling." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)


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Gone with the Wind meets The Help in the stunning prequel to Leila Meacham's bestselling family epic Roses. "From birth, Jessica had eschewed the role to which she'd been born. Was it because she sensed that her father's indulgence was compensation for his disappointment in her? Jessica thought too much, questioned, challenged, rebelled. Sometimes Eunice thought her daught Gone with the Wind meets The Help in the stunning prequel to Leila Meacham's bestselling family epic Roses. "From birth, Jessica had eschewed the role to which she'd been born. Was it because she sensed that her father's indulgence was compensation for his disappointment in her? Jessica thought too much, questioned, challenged, rebelled. Sometimes Eunice thought her daughter should have been born a male." Born into the wealthiest and most influential family in 1830s South Carolina, Jessica Wyndham was expected to look appealing, act with decorum, and marry a suitably prominent and respectable man. However, her outspoken opinions and unflagging sense of justice make her a difficult-and dangerous-firebrand, especially for slavery-dependent Carson Wyndham. Jessica's testing of her powerful father's love is only the beginning of the pain, passion, and triumph she will experience on a journey with the indomitable, land-obsessed Silas Toliver and headstrong Jeremy Warwick to a wild new land called Texas. PRAISE FOR LEILA MEACHAM "Discovering Leila Meacham and her spectacular talent is akin to discovering gold. With this novel she has become a national treasure." -- Huffington Post "Rich with American history and pitch-perfect storytelling, fans and new readers alike will find themselves absorbed in the family saga that Meacham has proven-once again-talented in telling." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

30 review for Somerset

  1. 5 out of 5

    Helene Jeppesen

    This was a wonderful book in many ways, but mostly because it took me by surprise. “Somerset” is not a book that I would normally fall in love with, and I can clearly see myself hating it if I had read it at a wrong point in time. However, I didn’t! It seems I read it at the perfect time because I was able to oversee the silliness of this book’s characters and their decisions, and I was able to completely fall in love with the story gradually as I got more and more into it. I still think that Si This was a wonderful book in many ways, but mostly because it took me by surprise. “Somerset” is not a book that I would normally fall in love with, and I can clearly see myself hating it if I had read it at a wrong point in time. However, I didn’t! It seems I read it at the perfect time because I was able to oversee the silliness of this book’s characters and their decisions, and I was able to completely fall in love with the story gradually as I got more and more into it. I still think that Silas’ decision in the very beginning was unbelievable, and much of what happened afterwards was as well. However, I believe that if you read this book with an open mind, you’ll be able to see that it delivers so much warmth, growth and tenderness that makes it possible for you to ignore those weak points. “Somerset” is a story of generations and it spans over almost all of the 19th century in the USA. Furthermore, it’s a prequel to “Roses” which I’ll most definitely be diving into sooner rather than later, just because I’m in the mood for these sort of endearing kind of stories that Leila Meacham provides us with.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dale Harcombe

    Not being a fan of white flowers I picked up and read this book despite its cover of white roses. I enjoyed this novel which tells the story of three families the Tolivers, Warwicks, and DuMonts over a span of years. The time period covers such issues as migration to Texas, slavery and the Underground Railway as well as the Civil War. Jessica is a spirited woman. Her unconventional views get her into trouble with her father who is a slave owner and sets her life on a course different than she i Not being a fan of white flowers I picked up and read this book despite its cover of white roses. I enjoyed this novel which tells the story of three families the Tolivers, Warwicks, and DuMonts over a span of years. The time period covers such issues as migration to Texas, slavery and the Underground Railway as well as the Civil War. Jessica is a spirited woman. Her unconventional views get her into trouble with her father who is a slave owner and sets her life on a course different than she imagined. But no matter what life throws at her, she copes. Without doubt, Jessica was my favourite character although I also liked Jeremy and Tippy. I struggled to understand Silas Toliver and the decisions he makes all geared towards furthering what is most important to him, owning and establishing his plantation in Texas. He names this plantation Somerset. I did warm to him somewhat by the end. I found the story a bit less engaging as it moved away from the story of Jessica and Silas to other generations. This is apparently a prequel to Roses. I had not read the first book but it didn’t matter. This is a story of family, tragedy, love and loss but also of obsession and the price people are prepared to pay and what they are prepared to sacrifice to achieve their dream. Inducing both anger and tears at times, this historical novel, for the most part, had me thoroughly engaged. At times though, I thought we could have done without quite so much description which would have cut it down a bit as it is a big book. But I certainly never considered giving up on it. An enjoyable read that gave this Australian a better appreciation of American history. A book to lose yourself in for a while.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Deborah

    Lelia Meacham is my favorite romance/saga writer of these times. She stole my heart in her huge novel some years ago, "Roses," and continued to do so with this continuation of the families in "Somerset." If you love a big and heart-wrenching story with every twist and knife-edged turn of love and adventure...you'll love this book. It's a stand alone, but if you read "Roses" first, you'll love it even more. Meacham's characters are so engaging you could just eat them up. Jessica, the main female Lelia Meacham is my favorite romance/saga writer of these times. She stole my heart in her huge novel some years ago, "Roses," and continued to do so with this continuation of the families in "Somerset." If you love a big and heart-wrenching story with every twist and knife-edged turn of love and adventure...you'll love this book. It's a stand alone, but if you read "Roses" first, you'll love it even more. Meacham's characters are so engaging you could just eat them up. Jessica, the main female character, is strong willed, bigger than life, and exasperating; but, she's so lovable and identifiable as the matriarch of a dynasty. I sometimes wanted to reach out and shake her, and sometimes just cried with and for her as she matured. Her love interest/husband, and one of the male central figures of the story, Silas, was definitely the Rhett Butler of the story. So unattainable at first, and so exhaustively desirable in the end even to me! In fact, I loved all the characters (Jeremy, Tippy and Joshua, and all the descendants of Jessica and Silas, and their friends...) and I couldn't get enough of each of their stories through the years. "Somerset" is a book I couldn't wait to get back to every day. I had a lot of things going on this weekend, and didn't get to everything, but I made my way back to my ebook to finish this novel, nevertheless. It's addictive, touching, a tear-jerker, and so strong and beautiful a story it just keeps you on tender hooks. I was sad to see it end. If you're looking for a wonderful historical fiction/romance saga for the summer's end, this is the one. You'll always remember it and the beautiful characters that fill its pages. 5 stars Deborah/TheBookishDame

  4. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    Overall, I liked this. It was a solid 3 stars for me. But I did the audio on this and that was a mistake on my part. I do NOT recommend the audio. The reader poured on the southern accent. It was a little much. I would have enjoyed this so much more if I had actually turned the pages. One of the main characters was a strong southern female, but the audio reader kept trying to make her into a cheesy damsel in distress. That was so hard to overcome for me. It was a struggle to tune out the voice s Overall, I liked this. It was a solid 3 stars for me. But I did the audio on this and that was a mistake on my part. I do NOT recommend the audio. The reader poured on the southern accent. It was a little much. I would have enjoyed this so much more if I had actually turned the pages. One of the main characters was a strong southern female, but the audio reader kept trying to make her into a cheesy damsel in distress. That was so hard to overcome for me. It was a struggle to tune out the voice so that I could focus solely on the story. For the most part, I liked the characters. They all seemed different enough and made strides forward as they evolved. The main romance did not work for me. It felt forced as the author abandoned reality in an effort to paint a pretty picture. But I didn’t buy it. When reading long sweeping multi- generational stories, I love a great pace. There were very few moments that felt stagnant. The story moved along consistently, sometimes a little too much so. The author glossed over a lot of events. She seemed completely dedicated to romanticizing southern living pre and post civil war. Which isn’t really such a bad thing, but the actions of some didn’t seem to carry accurate consequences. It just seemed light when it could have been an opportunity to add depth. The author seemed determined to keep the picture pretty, but I kept wishing it felt a little more real since it was historical fiction.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Coble

    Try as I might, I can't enjoy a book that calls slaves "servants" in one paragraph and then, just a few paragraphs later, discusses which of the sons of the manor inherited which "servant" upon the death of the plantation owner. Had the characters been more interesting I might have put up with it. But romanticising slavery and, by extension, antebellum lifestyles is something I don't enjoy. Try as I might, I can't enjoy a book that calls slaves "servants" in one paragraph and then, just a few paragraphs later, discusses which of the sons of the manor inherited which "servant" upon the death of the plantation owner. Had the characters been more interesting I might have put up with it. But romanticising slavery and, by extension, antebellum lifestyles is something I don't enjoy.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Leea

    After reading Somerset half way through I came to the conclusion that I just didn't care what happens to these characters. The family sage didn't evoke any emotions in me. I didn't HAVE to see how this plays out because the characters didn't have that emotional pull. The story was some what engaging but I found it choppy and full of uninteresting details. I wanted more hardship working the farm or setting up life in Texas but once they got there time began to skim 5 or so years per chapter. This After reading Somerset half way through I came to the conclusion that I just didn't care what happens to these characters. The family sage didn't evoke any emotions in me. I didn't HAVE to see how this plays out because the characters didn't have that emotional pull. The story was some what engaging but I found it choppy and full of uninteresting details. I wanted more hardship working the farm or setting up life in Texas but once they got there time began to skim 5 or so years per chapter. This is my first book by Miss Meacham and I don't know if i'll read another. This just wasn't a good fit for me. ARC courtesy of Grand Central Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway. I am so glad that I did. Reminiscent of big sweeping novels such as Gone With the Wind or North and South, covering generations of families. A genre that seems not so often written today. The Toliver and Warwick men come from a lineage of English heritage and wealth. Jeremy Warwick and Silas Toliver leave the family plantations to start their own plantations in the new state of Texas. Silas is coerced into marrying Jessica Wyndham to relieve the Wynd I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway. I am so glad that I did. Reminiscent of big sweeping novels such as Gone With the Wind or North and South, covering generations of families. A genre that seems not so often written today. The Toliver and Warwick men come from a lineage of English heritage and wealth. Jeremy Warwick and Silas Toliver leave the family plantations to start their own plantations in the new state of Texas. Silas is coerced into marrying Jessica Wyndham to relieve the Wyndham family of scandal. Silas's mother predicts that a curse will haunt the Toliver family due to Silas's choice of Jessica over his fiancé. Despite the circumstances Silas grows to love and admire Jessica. Yet it seems the curse does haunt them in the deaths of the children they love so dearly. Through the saga of the family is also deftly portrayed the history of Texas and the country. Travel with Silas, Jessica and Jeremy on the wagon trains through the prairie. Find an understanding of what plantation life was like and the effect of the civil war on the slave labor utilized by the plantation owners. Imagine yourself as the mistress of the manor living in opulence. I plan to read Roses to continue the story of the families and people I so enjoyed getting to know.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I am so sad to be done with this book .I wanted to continue with this beautiful family saga .Leila Meacham is a superb writter .I really felt so many emotions I cried I laughed and just plan could not wait to pick it back up again . I have a signed copy coming from texas from my mother she had the great fortune to meet ms meacham on 2/15 at a bookstore in houston area.I can truly see movie coming with roses and somerset. I picked up roses when borders was closing just browsing thru books and the b I am so sad to be done with this book .I wanted to continue with this beautiful family saga .Leila Meacham is a superb writter .I really felt so many emotions I cried I laughed and just plan could not wait to pick it back up again . I have a signed copy coming from texas from my mother she had the great fortune to meet ms meacham on 2/15 at a bookstore in houston area.I can truly see movie coming with roses and somerset. I picked up roses when borders was closing just browsing thru books and the beautiful cover caught my attention .I am infinitely glad that I judged the book by its cover ..lucky me!!!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Laura P

    An epic family saga A prequel to Leila Meacham’s ‘Roses’…… ’Somerset’ tells the story of three generations of Tolivers, Warwicks and DuMonts as they first move to Texas and begin to build their respective empires and establish the town of Howbutker, TX. It covers six decades beginning with Silas and Jessica Toliver, Jeremy Warwick and Henri DuMont as they travel west to Texas, then follows with 2 generations of their offspring. Though some complain it is too long, I enjoyed the extensive charac An epic family saga A prequel to Leila Meacham’s ‘Roses’…… ’Somerset’ tells the story of three generations of Tolivers, Warwicks and DuMonts as they first move to Texas and begin to build their respective empires and establish the town of Howbutker, TX. It covers six decades beginning with Silas and Jessica Toliver, Jeremy Warwick and Henri DuMont as they travel west to Texas, then follows with 2 generations of their offspring. Though some complain it is too long, I enjoyed the extensive character building and historical details. The first generation was fleshed out and covered in much more detail than the latter two generations. But then the story was theirs to tell….. they were the founding fathers and mothers of Howbutker. Slavery, abolition, the civil war and the Toliver family curse make for an incredibly good story! My favorite character was Jessica Toliver. She was an amazingly woman for the times…. she was an abolitionist despite the fact that her husband was a slave owner. Their love story, the triumphs, tragedies, heartaches, losses and friendships they experience throughout their lives are brought to life with Meacham’s excellent storytelling. When Leila Meacham wrote ‘Roses’, it was intended to be a stand-alone book. I’m so glad she changed her mind and decided to write the prequel. I have read ‘Roses’ and I did like it, but ‘Somerset’ is even better! I received a free digital copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    RoseMary Achey

    Somerset follows the life of a Charleston woman as she marries, relocates to East Texas and establishes a cotton plantation with her husband in the early 19th century. Historical fiction and romance would best describe this novel. Covering over 75 years and three generations I found the writing somewhat predictable and not incredibly imaginative.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mona

    Changing my rating from 4 to 5 stars only because I still am thinking about Jessica. If I find I'm missing a character in a book I liked I think it deserves 5 stars! Changing my rating from 4 to 5 stars only because I still am thinking about Jessica. If I find I'm missing a character in a book I liked I think it deserves 5 stars!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Natasa

    I wanted to like this book, but just couldn’t. The writing was incompetent with predictable plots and an attempt to throw in bits of historical fact here and there.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

    Silas Toliver is a second son in the South during the pre-Civil war years. As such, he has inherited nothing from his father’s plantation holdings, and, to put it mildly, Silas is ‘land-hungry’. He wants to run a plantation and build it up, and seems to have the talents and gifts, but no means, to do it. Right off the bat Meacham has created a character whose frustration impels him to take action, and his guilt and justification of that pursuit haunt him for much of the duration of the novel. Si Silas Toliver is a second son in the South during the pre-Civil war years. As such, he has inherited nothing from his father’s plantation holdings, and, to put it mildly, Silas is ‘land-hungry’. He wants to run a plantation and build it up, and seems to have the talents and gifts, but no means, to do it. Right off the bat Meacham has created a character whose frustration impels him to take action, and his guilt and justification of that pursuit haunt him for much of the duration of the novel. Silas decides to migrate to Texas, but the timing for him will be extremely dangerous. Texas is being invaded by not only Mexico, who does not want to give up the land themselves, but also the Comanches who are defending their own rights to hang on to land. Jessica, Silas’ wife, also takes center stage through much of the novel. Her pro-abolitionist sympathies do not endear her to her Southern neighbors and her husband occasionally has to jump in to protect her from the results of her words and actions. The novel attempts to give a portrait of marraige and choice, with lesser themes of fidelty and child-rearing (for one example, how society viewed and treated both white and black children), as much as the times of the period. Silas (along with two other wagon train leaders), has to find a route into Texas, avoiding Santa Anna’s armies, and also the marauding bands of Indians. This book by Leila Meacham, a retired public school teacher, cannot be called ‘classical’ literature per se (such as “Gone with the Wind” might be). I feel (as do others who have reviewed the book), that it is a little light to be categorised as such. Meacham does not delve too deeply into her character’s motivations or personalities, but she does question the attitudes behind their decisions just enough to give the reader a desire to pursue reading to find out if they change throughout the course of the novel. As the novel continues we are taken through the heartaches and struggles of the Civil War and Reconstruction era, the arguments for and against a way of life in the South that ultimately had to change, and the founding of a state destined to survive and see many many changes over some of the most significant years of America’s history. “Somerset” is about one plantation family’s struggles to survive during these years, and their friendship and interactions with two other Texas families who become influential state founders over this time. “It had been Henri’s idea for Silas and Jeremy to plant both the York and Lancaster roses in each other’s gardens as a symbol of unity between their houses…. Henry would grow both his friends’ roses as well, he announced to Silas and Jeremy in one of their meetings. It was his feeling that, when disagreements arose among them, as they invevitably would, the roses should serve as tokens to express what men of pride such as they could not bring themselves to articulate in speech. “So if ever I should offend you, I will send a red rose to ask forgiveness,” he said, “and if ever I receive one tendered for that purpose, I will return a white rose to say that all is forgiven.” Although the characters themselves were interesting, they did not draw me as much as the events of this period did. The history was fascinating for me to read and the author’s ‘teacher’ background was evident in the writing: “I was reminded of Thomas Jefferson’s words in 1782 in his Notes on Virginia when I read that abominable tripe,” Jessica said, speaking to Tippy of the Compromise of 1850 when her friend finished reading its articles reprinted in the Democratic Telegraph and Register of Houston. Tippy reached to take a sandwich from the plate Jessica offered. “And they were?” “Jefferson said, “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.’” “Amen to that,” Tippy said. “It’s only a matter of a few years before the South feels the whip of that justice for enslaving the black man. All this compromise does is to buy time until war is declared between the North and the South.” With themes such as slavery, fidelity in marraige, betrayal and loyalty (abolitionists, “Night Riders”, and such), women’s rights, and family name and place in society, Leila Meacham has written a novel that spans the years of 1806-1900 in the South and done it very competently! Although sometimes her plot devices and personal conflicts are a bit overused (in my estimation), she still did a fantastic job of portraying views from both sides of the pre-Civil war era and displayed them through the lives of her characters. Even though the last eighty or so pages of the novel were a bit too ‘soap-opera-ish’ for my taste, on the whole, “Somerset” is a great reminder to me of why I read historical fiction, and I look forward now to continuing with Meacham’s sequel, “Roses”. “Cotton production, and subsequently Somerset and the planter culture, flourished in the 1850′s, despite the Panic of 1857 when the era of prosperity in the western and northern parts of the country came to an abrupt if temporary end. Demand for cotton in the United States, Mexico, and Great Britain was at an all-time high, ushering in the golden age of the plantation system and sparing the South and East Texas from the recession that affected other unrelated industries. Somerset had led the region in feeding the jaws of the ever-increasing number of northern factories and textile mills that chewed up the raw bales of “white gold” and spun them into cloth. The phrase “Cotton is king” was coined in the middle of the decade, an apt description of a cash crop that accounted for one-half of all U.S. exports and strengthened Silas Toliver’s belief that war would never come.”

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mallory

    Somerset gives the backstory and establishment of the founding families of Howbutker, Texas, whose descendants we’ve already met in “Roses.” It’s rare to have epics like this written nowadays. Fascinating to watch characters age and die, surrounded by major events in this country’s history, but sadly I was never able to feel close to any of them. I felt that by the end, the characters remaining were not as interesting as the ones at the beginning; I was more interested in the start, in the journ Somerset gives the backstory and establishment of the founding families of Howbutker, Texas, whose descendants we’ve already met in “Roses.” It’s rare to have epics like this written nowadays. Fascinating to watch characters age and die, surrounded by major events in this country’s history, but sadly I was never able to feel close to any of them. I felt that by the end, the characters remaining were not as interesting as the ones at the beginning; I was more interested in the start, in the journey to Texas and the families’ setting up their lives in a brand-new Republic. The Toliver “curse” also didn’t pull me in as it had in “Roses.” Favorite quotes: “Sometimes Sarah felt that her effort to put an end to slavery was like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon, but she must do her part. She believed that with faith and perseverance, people seeking to right a wrong would eventually prevail, no matter the odds against them.” “Feelings are neither right nor wrong. They just are.” – Henri Dumont “The only defense against the effects of time is to stay busy.” – Jeremy Warwick

  15. 5 out of 5

    Christy Ryan

    If this book would have ended about pg 400 I think it would have been a 5 star. I really enjoyed it and I felt closure at that point. The last 200 pages just dragged a bit on. That being said, I still love this author and the way she tells a story...and of course love a book set in Texas!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

    Classic historical fiction set in the south. This covers it all - wagon trains, plantations, cotton, civil war - I loved every page.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mamey

    I just LOOOOVE family sagas set in the 1800's!! I can't wait to read Roses next as this was the prequel. I was a little intimidated as it was over 600 pages, but it was so engaging it flew by. I just LOOOOVE family sagas set in the 1800's!! I can't wait to read Roses next as this was the prequel. I was a little intimidated as it was over 600 pages, but it was so engaging it flew by.

  18. 4 out of 5

    KP

    Somerset, you are NOT Gone With The Wind. Somerset, you are NOT The Help! Somerset, I knew Gone With the Wind- I knew The Help. Somerset- you are NO Gone With the Wind! About 200 pages too long. However, it did fill in the Roses story-line and I did enjoy the the time period. 3.5 saga stars.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. THIS REVIEW HAS A LOT OF SPOILERS... I read Roses a few years ago and loved it so I was excited to find this book quite by accident and when I realized it was the prequel to Roses, I was anxious to read it despite the fact that I didn't necessarily remember ever detail in Roses. That being said, this wasn't a terrible read but it certainly was not as engaging as Roses. I think what I disliked most about this tale is it was predictable the minute I read the family trees in the beginning of the book. THIS REVIEW HAS A LOT OF SPOILERS... I read Roses a few years ago and loved it so I was excited to find this book quite by accident and when I realized it was the prequel to Roses, I was anxious to read it despite the fact that I didn't necessarily remember ever detail in Roses. That being said, this wasn't a terrible read but it certainly was not as engaging as Roses. I think what I disliked most about this tale is it was predictable the minute I read the family trees in the beginning of the book. As I read the beginning chapters I knew that Lettie wasn't going to marry Silas so when it all happened with Jessica's father and the deal he made with Silas, it wasn't a surprise at all. The same can be said for who survives throughout the story as well. So, when Thomas went off to war and the entire (albeit too short and wrapped up very quickly) Civil War section when everyone was worried that the only heir to Somerset could die and leave the plantation without someone to run it, was already clearly outlined in that damn lineage chart in the very beginning of the book...we see Thomas marry. And since the others on the Toliver side of the family tree do not have further lineage it is obvious that they don't survive. What bothered me about those lineage charts in the beginning of this book or any book: do the authors really think that readers are that dumb or slow that we cannot keep track of multiple characters in a story without needing a reference? Insulting. This story was interesting and while I did enjoy the dialogue and the characters and there were some intriguing parts peppered throughout - a lot of this book (A LOT!) felt more like I was reading an article about the history of chewing gum (chapter 72) or a boring testimony in a company brochure about how the other men in the story (Warwicks and Dumonts) marrying in 1937, etc. and like in chapter 52 when she quickly recounts the successes and finds a way to bring in history (for instance the telegraph) right to these characters...it felt contrived. I was disappointed that more did not happen - to the farms, to the other character's business (I mean, really, success constantly with zero adversity?), to the Civil War (which took place in a chapter or two and then was quickly over), to their journey to Texas (really? Just smooth sailing in those days? Come on!). There was no excitement in this book - just an easy tale of how these three families came to be told in a way similar to a grandmother retelling a clean, simple, always positive version of their history. The three stars are only for the development of the characters, which were an interesting bunch and it is clear she did her research but instead of making the research meld into the story seamlessly every time she used her research it was as obvious if she had used a highlighter to point it out.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Krystal DeMoss

    When I first started this book, I doubted that I would make it all the way through. It seemed a typical antebellum historical novel with the same stock characters. Particularly annoying is the stereotype that any white woman who would fight against slavery would HAVE to be a mannish spinster. Then I got to Part 2 and I was hooked. The blurb on the back of "Somerset" compares it to "Gone With The Wind". (It's also compared to "The Help" which is ridiculous for many reasons.) While both "Somerset" When I first started this book, I doubted that I would make it all the way through. It seemed a typical antebellum historical novel with the same stock characters. Particularly annoying is the stereotype that any white woman who would fight against slavery would HAVE to be a mannish spinster. Then I got to Part 2 and I was hooked. The blurb on the back of "Somerset" compares it to "Gone With The Wind". (It's also compared to "The Help" which is ridiculous for many reasons.) While both "Somerset" and "GWTW" are both sweeping epics of era spanning the time before and after the Civil War. There are major differences. "GWTW" was the story of one woman's life, described in very great detail. "Somerset" is more like a family history. It is fast paced, which keeps it interesting, but it also makes it hard to find a connection with any of the characters. The main characters in the beginning of the book are great-grandparents (or dead) by the end of the book. I haven't read "Roses" yet, so I don't know the style it was written in but I get the feeling that the prequel would be much more interesting if you knew the later story. Also, after the initial character introduction there is very little race related violence. In fact race relations are hardly mentioned, except for a certain enduring friendship and one white planter who it is hinted is harsh to his slaves. In some ways I find this refreshing. I have read plenty of books that describe in detail the atrocities committed by white slave owners. But to act like slaves were any happier to be enslaved in Texas than in the deep south is preposterous. On the whole, I enjoyed the book and found it a quick read despite its size. But it didn't leave me aching to read the rest of the story.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Chance

    If you are a historical fiction fan, and a fan of family sagas - then "Somerset" is the book for you! Documenting three families who move from South Carolina to Texas before Texas became a state, author Leila Meacham spins a tale (well, several tales) that brings to life the drama and struggles that pioneer Texas families endured as they begin their lives in the rough, raw East Texas piney woods. "Somerset" is actually a prequel to Meacham's bestselling book, "Roses," and both books tie together If you are a historical fiction fan, and a fan of family sagas - then "Somerset" is the book for you! Documenting three families who move from South Carolina to Texas before Texas became a state, author Leila Meacham spins a tale (well, several tales) that brings to life the drama and struggles that pioneer Texas families endured as they begin their lives in the rough, raw East Texas piney woods. "Somerset" is actually a prequel to Meacham's bestselling book, "Roses," and both books tie together nicely. I highly recommend both books as wonderful, enduring novels that will be memorable for years to come. (Just word of advice - lift some weights or find a pillow to prop this book up on - it's a heavy read - literally!)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lisa B.

    3.5/5.0 My Thoughts If you want to lose yourself in a good family saga, this is the book to do it with! The story covers three generations and numerous historical occurrences that happens during the ocer years of three families that move west to settle in Texas. From a character perspective, Somerest has it covered - characters to love, hate, cheer for and want to smack. I was initially a bit intimidated by the 600+ size of Somerest, but the story was well paced and held my interest. Many thanks to 3.5/5.0 My Thoughts If you want to lose yourself in a good family saga, this is the book to do it with! The story covers three generations and numerous historical occurrences that happens during the ocer years of three families that move west to settle in Texas. From a character perspective, Somerest has it covered - characters to love, hate, cheer for and want to smack. I was initially a bit intimidated by the 600+ size of Somerest, but the story was well paced and held my interest. Many thanks to Grand Central Publishing for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    I am crazy to start this book at this point in my life, but oh well. :) Finished this and it was a great "escape" book. It is the prequel to Roses and tells how the Toliver family ended up in Texas. It was a good book all about family drama and the drama of the late 1800s and early 1900s in Texas. Not a life changing book, but a good one just to enjoy reading without having to think. I am crazy to start this book at this point in my life, but oh well. :) Finished this and it was a great "escape" book. It is the prequel to Roses and tells how the Toliver family ended up in Texas. It was a good book all about family drama and the drama of the late 1800s and early 1900s in Texas. Not a life changing book, but a good one just to enjoy reading without having to think.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    A little over two years ago now, Somerset caught my eye in a cozy used bookshop. I meant to read it once I finished with whatever I had been reading at the time, but then something else (read: library holds) came along. And maybe a part of me was hesitant to start it as I’m not a fan of Gone with the Wind. I finally decided it was time to pick this book up, and you know what? I’m glad I did. It took a couple of chapters before I became invested. Once I was I was hooked! It’s not only full of histor A little over two years ago now, Somerset caught my eye in a cozy used bookshop. I meant to read it once I finished with whatever I had been reading at the time, but then something else (read: library holds) came along. And maybe a part of me was hesitant to start it as I’m not a fan of Gone with the Wind. I finally decided it was time to pick this book up, and you know what? I’m glad I did. It took a couple of chapters before I became invested. Once I was I was hooked! It’s not only full of historical facts, but Somerset is also full of characters who felt real as they had their own personalities, faults and flaws. At the start I liked Jessica more than Silas, but as time went on Silas grew on me to the point where I liked him more. I went back and forth between reading my physical copy and listening to the audiobook. I preferred reading as the narrator read a little too slow for my liking; however, when doing simple chores, the audiobook helped me continue on with Silas, Jessica, and the others in their journey. Now, after finishing Somerset, I’m looking forward to reading Roses.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    I absolutely loved Roses and this is the prequel to it, which although I did not love to the same degree as Roses, I still really enjoyed it. I listened to the audio version and a lot of people did not care for the narrator. I do not understand what everyone's objections are. I enjoyed this narrator and hope to find other books that I want to read also narrated by her. The audio version is just over 22 hours and the book over 600 pages, I feel this could have been shortened somewhat and still ha I absolutely loved Roses and this is the prequel to it, which although I did not love to the same degree as Roses, I still really enjoyed it. I listened to the audio version and a lot of people did not care for the narrator. I do not understand what everyone's objections are. I enjoyed this narrator and hope to find other books that I want to read also narrated by her. The audio version is just over 22 hours and the book over 600 pages, I feel this could have been shortened somewhat and still have been enjoyable, maybe even more so. Having given Roses 5 stars and loving it so, I can only give Somerset 4 stars since I do not feel that it was quite up to the same level as Roses.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    I recommend the book. The characters and their personal doings were fictitious, but the setting was real. The book has been compared to Gone With the Wind, but I think the interpersonal relationships were more in the realm of possibility than those relationships in GWTW. The present book is multigenerational and hard to review because there is too much to be said. Generally, Silas Tolliver went to Texas in a covered wagon to make his fortune in cotton planting. Producing an heir was of great imp I recommend the book. The characters and their personal doings were fictitious, but the setting was real. The book has been compared to Gone With the Wind, but I think the interpersonal relationships were more in the realm of possibility than those relationships in GWTW. The present book is multigenerational and hard to review because there is too much to be said. Generally, Silas Tolliver went to Texas in a covered wagon to make his fortune in cotton planting. Producing an heir was of great importance to each generation of Tolliver men pushing them to wed quickly and unwisely at different times. During the era, many strides in mechanics and industry were made. Believe me, the book was much deeper and better than this pitiful review, but I have other things on my mind. Christmas is here and my family is still in quarantine. My boys and grandchildren will not be home for Christmas. One son suggested we meet in a Walmart parking lot and exchange gifts through the car windows. So, should you see such a thing happening, pull up and join us in singing a Christmas carol or two. Merry Christmas. Thank you, Ms. Meacham, for a good read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shae

    Meacham knows how to write an intense family drama! I loved learning more about these families. Wasn't quite as enjoyable as Roses, but I do think it was nice to learn more about how Roses came to be. Meacham knows how to write an intense family drama! I loved learning more about these families. Wasn't quite as enjoyable as Roses, but I do think it was nice to learn more about how Roses came to be.

  28. 5 out of 5

    NayNay

    BEST FAMILY SAGA - just like Gone With The Wind Meacham returns to her beloved Tolivers and Warwicks in this prequel to her first best-seller, Roses. Spanning more than six decades, Somerset takes readers back to 1835 as Silas Toliver and Jeremy Warwick, younger sons of wealthy plantation owners, prepare to leave South Carolina in search of greater fortune in Texas.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Linda Shrum

    What a terrific saga. My summation: a cross between “Lonesome Dive” and “Gone with the Wind”. Beautifully written and a glorious story of generations of three closely tied families through countless trials including the civil war.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marcia

    Sometimes, after reading complicated mysteries and good literature, I need a sappy family saga. This book was perfect for that. A decent enough book for its genre, though no match for more weighty, thought-provoking books.

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