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The Spy Lover    by Kiana Davenport order for
Spy Lover
by Kiana Davenport
Order:  USA  Can
Thomas & Mercer, 2012 (2012)
Softcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Elizabeth Crowley

In this U.S. Civil War novel, we are introduced to Chinese immigrant, Johnny Tom. Johnny finds himself immersed in the tragedy of the Civil War when he is captured by the Confederate army. Faced with discrimination and deprivation, Johnny agrees to fight in the war in exchange for American citizenship for him and his family. But Johnny cannot foresee how his involvement will destroy his hopes for his family, especially for his daughter, Era Tom.

After Johnny is captured by Confederate soldiers, he deserts in favor of helping the Federal side. The husband of a Native American whose mother was the slave of a Southern white man, Johnny vows to help the Federals abolish slavery. But he cannot imagine the atrocities he will encounter in the war. Still, Johnny longs for the day he will be reunited with his wife, Raindance, and their daughter, Era. Throughout the novel, the story slowly unfolds of how a Chinese immigrant found himself married to a Native American and fighting in the Civil War.

Era Tom is recruited into the Civil War as a nurse. Although she visits hospitals in the South, she is a spy for the Federals. The Union army has promised to reunite Era with her father if she can help defeat the Confederate army. But Era unexpectedly falls in love with Warren, a Confederate soldier. She finds herself torn between being reunited with her father and her love for the man who has made her feel alive again amidst the horrors of war.

Kiana Davenport provides a fascinating novel of Chinese immigrants' participation in the U.S. Civil War. Although their support during the war is well documented, it is a topic relatively unexplored in novels. I enjoyed Johnny's resolve to endure the hardships of war in the hopes of seeing his family again. But I felt The Spy Lover lacked enough creative spark to keep readers fully engaged. The romance between Era and Warren seemed contrived from the beginning. Without this connection to Warren and Era, I did not feel invested in their romance, which is crucial to the entire novel.

However Davenport does deliver a surprisingly heartwarming ending, which will please readers. Civil War buffs will also appreciate and be impressed by the author's intricate depiction of the conflict.

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