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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Book of Matthew by Catalina DuBois is the first installment in the House of Whispers series, following Sarah, a young slave in 1850s Missouri, and Matthew Colburn, the plantation owner's son and heir, as they navigate a deeply romantic relationship at a time when such a connection was as much an improbability as it was impossible. Matthew has it in his head to free all of the plantation's slaves when he inherits sole ownership and all that entails with its management, assets, and property, to which Sarah is bound until that time comes...if it ever does. Until then, the couple is forced into a secrecy that, if revealed, would undoubtedly deliver horrifying consequences for all involved.
I'm always a bit nervous when I pick up a book where the love story is centered around an individual in captivity and their master, as it's difficult to move beyond the revisionist history of what love is (and isn't) when one of the lovers has absolutely no agency and has been forced into bondage. In the context of Book of Matthew, Catalina DuBois has done an exceptional job in balancing the delicacy of this issue against the brutally harsh realities of American slavery. The narrative does not hold back in any of its ugliness and neither forgives nor provides leniency to those who are complicit. What she is able to accomplish in this novel is a story of genuine hope.
Sarah is a protagonist whom DuBois has developed into a character with the strength to convey a genuine affection that may have still occurred under different circumstances. Matthew and other abolitionists depicted are also likeable, just as easily as those who are bent on maintaining slavery are detestable. I'd recommend this series to readers who enjoy historical fiction with all the trimmings and the stomach to appreciate the horrible truths of a past that will never be forgotten.