Shades of Gray

A Novel of the Civil War in Virginia

Romance - Historical
468 Pages
Reviewed on 09/03/2009
Buy on Amazon

    Book Review

Reviewed by Anne Boling for Readers' Favorite

The setting is Virginia during the Civil War. Families had divided loyalties. The era of southern belles and plantations has always fascinated me.

Acting as a spy and messenger, Andrea dressed in men’s clothing. Captain Alex Hunter was determined to catch the spy that led him into a trap. He pursued the rider only to have an accident. Andrea could not let the man die. She pulled him to shore. The ungrateful man attempted to capture her. Their lives cross paths again and again as though fate had determined they would be together.

There have been many books written of fictional accounts of the Civil War. Jessica James has created one of the most moving Civil War stories I have ever read. The love story between Alex and Andrea is beautifully written. Ms. James manages to capture the essence of the era. Andrea is a unique character. She strongly fights for what she believes in. This delightful character has a tempest personality. Alex is just as determined and fights just as hard. He could be brutal and yet could exhibit the traits of a southern gentleman. The characters are so well-developed that I had to remind myself this was fiction. One of the things I liked about Shades of Gray was the way the author presented both viewpoints. Shades of Gray would make a great movie. Ms. James is extremely talented, and I believe we will hear a lot more from her. Do not walk, run to your nearest bookstore for your copy of Shades of Gray.

Heather Froeschl

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.

David Wright

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.


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.

Lady Elizabeth

Have you ever become so enchantingly entangled in reading a story that it no longer is print on a page but it becomes part of your life? The people have souls, they breathe. The setting is not flat but alive and auditory. You turn pages eager to find out what happens next, but when the end comes you grieve. Shades of Gray is that kind of book and it takes a masterful gifted storyteller like Jessica James to create the allure.
Although the novel takes place during the Civil War in Virginia, it is also a passionate love story between Alex and Andrea who are fighting on opposing sides. Circumstances bring them together and they are forced to live in the same house. Andrea is a pro-Union Southerner. She can be the Southern Belle, petite and sophisticated or a rough riding horseman spying behind enemy lines for the Union. Alex, the epitome of southern gentile society is a ruthless Confederate Captain. The characters of Alex and Andrea are brought to life in their spirited dialog about the war and their patriotic honor. James writes with such wit and ease when Alex and Andrea are bantering back and forth: speaking, screaming, arguing and debating about the war, slavery, states rights and more. The alliteration is awesome and I could read sentences over and over again. Andrea's unconventional spirit and intelligence makes her my favorite heroine in all literature. What a little spitfire: stubborn, full of spunk, so real and so genuine. I loved this book and carry the memory with me still. A feat not many authors can successfully do. Jessica James has an extraordinary talent. Her writing is untouchable. This one I see as a movie!!!

Scott Mingus

One of the trends in tradebook publishing in the past two decades has been the strong growth of historical fiction, particularly those books aimed at women. Combining plots that strongly emphasis character development and personal interrelationships with believable historical situations and settings, these books generally sell very well and appeal to a broad audience. Some, like Cold Mountain, have become best sellers that have cut across across wide genre of readers.

The most recent addition to this segment of the book industry comes from a Gettysburg author, Jessica James. Shades of Gray: A Novel of the Civil War in Virginia (ISBN 978-0-9796000-0-5, softback, 524 pages) is a worthy addition to the line up. Published by Patriot Press, the novel concerns the growing relationship between a Virginian who is a ardent secessionist and Confederate advocate. The lead female character, by contrast, is a devoted Unionist. The interplay of their divergent beliefs, coupled with the backdrop of the growing war, is well written and sustaining. Crisp, well flowing, and with a storyline that holds your attention, James shows off her talents as a novelist, as well as revealing a solid understanding of the Civil War era.

Her powerful prose is both descriptive and evocative, vividly painting a word picture that draws the reader into the action. For example, in a passage concerning the bursting of an artillery shell that kills the heroine's horse, James writes, "Justus, startled by the thunderous clamor, reared high in the air, throwing Andrea backward and off balance. She heard an appalling thud, a loud crack, the sound of iron consuming flesh and bone. She leaned forward, grabbing erratically for a handful of mane to regain her balance. But there was no mane to grab. The strong, well-muscled animal between her legs had dissolved. Disappeared. He was gone." Similar strong passages dot the book.

I trust that Jessica James will continue to share her talents in future books. Her work stands out among the best of the historical novelists, and is a worthy addition to the Civil War fiction line-up. Huzzah!


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.

R. Ballister

Truth be known, I'm not much of a romance reader, but I absolutely could not put this book down. The author does such a tremendous job of developing her characters that I soon found myself either loving or despising them, but turning pages as fast as possible to find out what happens next. Set against the backdrop of the Civil War, the main story line surrounds the dashing Captain Hunter, a Confederate cavalryman who is forced to look after for an injured Yankee woman to fulfill a promise given to his dying brother. Little does the captain know that this woman has led a double life, and can match wits, words, or anything else the captain throws at her! There's action, heroics, romance, and not a little humor as the two main characters vie for supremacy. Somewhere along the way, they figure out that maybe they don't hate each other all that much, but will it be too late? Ms. James does an excellent job of not only developing her characters, but developing Southern hospitality as well. This is a must read for Civil War fans, and both romance and action fans alike will find plenty to keep them engaged. Very highly recommended!

Betty Zeitz

Winner of the Silver Medal for Best Regional Fiction in the Independent Publisher Awards, this is a fast-paced adventure set in battle-torn Virginia during the War for Southern Independence. It pits a determined Northern spy against a larger-than-life Southern cavalry officer, and ups the ante by developing a strong romantic attraction between the two. Fierce enemies in the beginning of the book, each obsessed with destruction of the other, they are overtaken by near-tragedy and find themselves strangely allied. The Yankee spy, though she masquerades as a young man, is most definitely a woman. And the dashing and daring Rebel cavalry officer (and true Southern gentleman) will capture the hearts of lady readers and inspire the admiration of the men.

The story is set against the harsh conditions of this hard-fought period, but does not attempt a battle-by-battle account of the War. Historical events unfold within the context of the story and how the characters react to various victories, defeats, tragedies, etc. Since there are sympathetic characters and villains on both sides, it shows both perspectives; although we Southerners know who was right! Daring exploits, courage and recklessness fill the narrative, and strategy and intrigue keep the reader turning pages. The epic love story of Andrea Evans and Alexander Hunter is bittersweet, but survives against all odds.

Duty - Honor - Country - Courage - Loyalty - Valor - Gallantry. Today's younger generation has no comprehension of the deeply held convictions of particularly, the mid-nineteenth century South that exemplified the highest ideals these words stand for. Ms. James illustrates these concepts through her characters, whose lives reflect their commitment to principle.

Also important to me personally, the book is free of gratuitous vulgarity and pornographic scenes, but otherwise graphically depicts the brutality of this war. The love story is tender and thoroughly passionate without being offensive. I highly recommend this book, first in a series planned by the author.

S. Miller

I was wrapped up in Shades of Gray from the very beginning. That the story is about relationships and core values and not a particular battle or campaign shows a perspective of the American Civil War not generally remembered or re-enacted. While Ms. James' story does not avoid the atrocities of the War for Southern Independence, they are not the focus either. The story is well written within historical reference points but still keeps the reader wondering what will happen next. Jessica James tells a great story in the language of the time with a fluency that makes Shades of Gray even more fascinating.

E. Bibb

I just finished reading Shades of Gray by Jessica James, I found this book to be fascinating and hard to put down. I purchased the book in Gettysburg earlier this year (Patriot Point) but had put off reading it immediately. I met Jessica there and got a signed copy, I think it is the best Civil War fiction book since Cold Mountain. I know a little about Civil War history since I am related to six Condederate enlisted soldiers and General A P Hill. One of my relatives was with Mosby's Rangers 43 Va Calvary, which loosely resembles Captain Hunter's command.
Keep up the great writing, James D Bibb SCV Trimble Camp 1836 Treasurer.

Wendy Lower

Shades of Gray is a brilliantly crafted novel that will captivate you from page one. Can't be James' first book - each chapter unfolds with the proficiency and beauty of a seasoned author. Enjoy the twists and turns of this anguished yet alluring love story. You will not be disappointed in "Shades of Gray".

Sandra L. Ely

Jessica James' "Shades of Gray: A Novel of the War in Virginia", was a very well written, descriptive story. It had everything you could want from a book, life, death, friendship, love, war, espionage, and romance. The heroin's story was very touching and although fiction, the talented James made me believe I was there during the inevitable collision between the north and the south. I haven't enjoyed such a treasure in many years!