By the Light of Embers

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 15 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

By the Light of Embers is a stunning historical romance. Gandhi transports the reader to a time that is not that far away but achingly (and heartbreakingly) familiar. While I think it would have been easy for the romance to become cliche or cheesy, the romance between Lucia and Nicholas was passionate and beautifully written. Every interaction between the two was well-crafted and lovely to read. I also think that Gandhi's character development was exemplary as she created multi-dimensional characters that I grew to love (and in some cases, hate). The ending broke me a little bit but I also knew that something heartbreaking was going to happen as Gandhi created an impending sense of doom throughout the book. While I may have not chosen the happy ending that Gandhi wrote, I was happy that Lucia found some happiness and was able to achieve her dream of being a doctor. 

I don't tend to gravitate to historical romances but if there are books that move me as much as By the Light of Embers did, I am willing to give the genre a closer look! I really enjoyed this book and I hope to see more from Shaylin Gandhi!
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By the Light of Embers is an alluring historical novel about a young woman who is beyond her time .  The heroine, Lucia Lafleur is faced with the choice of following her dreams of being a medical doctor or losing her finance forever.  While contemplating her decision, Lucia spends the summer of 1954 in her home state of Louisiana with her family and her best friend, Gretchen.  As she forbiddingly falls in love with an old acquaintance, Nicholas, Lucia realizes just how much hatred runs through her childhood town, a realization that could cost them both their lives.    

What I love about this novel is that it is such an an empowering tale for woman everywhere.  Lucia fights for her dreams.  She fights against racism and social injustices.  She stands up for herself and her wants and her needs.  And within ALL the conflict, Lucia stays true to herself.  What better lesson for women out there then to be true to oneself?    

I want to preface by saying that I really enjoyed this story.  It was well written with great character development and wonderful descriptions.  However, there are one too many subplots occurring throughout the novel that makes it a bit too soapy for historical fiction.  This novel, in my opinion, borders the romance genre.  BUT, although there are so many subplots, I did appreciate how each subplot ties nicely into the ending.  And that ending?  Oh my.  That's all I can say....Oh my.
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By the Light of Embers by Shaylin Gandhi is the story of a young woman who must fight against the prejudice and societal expectations of the 1950s. It’s 1954 and Lucia Lafleur is a college graduate, engaged and just got accepted to medical school. Before heading home for the summer, her fiancé gives her an ultimatum: him or medical school. She heads home to Bellefontaine, Louisiana with her friend, Gretchen. Soon she befriends Nicholas Fletcher, a man from her childhood and someone she was supposed to stay away from. But Nicholas is unlike any man she has known, and she can’t help be drawn to him despite the danger. As their friendship blooms into something more, she realizes she is heading down a road that her hometown may not be ready for. Which man will she chose: the safe, logical one or the man who matches her passion and intelligence? Does she follow her heart or her dream? 
By the Light of Embers is a story I wasn’t expecting. From the description I knew it was a story of a white woman and a black man in a relationship which was not acceptable in the South. As I read and was swept away by the passionate love story of Lucia and Nicholas, the drama of prejudice of those around them and the building of events which led to an amazing climax. The book didn’t end the way I thought it would, but it was a satisfying ending, wasn’t farfetched and just fit the story. It was a suspenseful and exciting story up to the very last page. I was so engrossed in the story that I didn’t realize it was coming to an end! I highly recommend By the Light of Embers!

By the Light of Embers
will be available May 9, 2019
in eBook
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A gripping read by Shaylin Gandhi, filled with intrigue, heartbreak, the emancipation of women and the struggles of a mixed race relationship in the 1950s. The story builds to a crescendo and I could imagine this as a movie. This is one author to watch! Thanks to Netgalley the author and publishers for a copy of this book.
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By the light of Embers by Shaylin Gandhi is a very touching story of race relations in Louisiana in the 1950’s. Lucia LaFleur is about to graduate from college in Philadelphia. Her fiancé, Kip, expects her to get married and be a housewife and mother. Her dream is to become a doctor. At his ultimatum she decides they need to take a break from wedding plans. She and her roommate, Gretchen, head to Louisiana for the summer while she tries to make her decision about medical school or marriage. She is faced with many memories of how things were along with how things still are in the south with whites only libraries and drinking fountains for examples. She befriends a negro man who enjoys reading and writing poetry but can their friendship lead to more or will they be stifled by the prejudice and hatred surrounding them?
I enjoyed this book. Parts of it were very enlightening and some parts were very difficult to read. The story overall is very touching in many ways and I believe it will bring out different feelings in each person that reads it. This is a story that needed to be told and everyone needs to read it. I give it 5 of 5 stars.
I received an advance copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
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A poignant and powerful read, By the Light of Embers, by Shaylin Gandhi, is set in 1954 in the height of the Jim Crow era in the Southern United States. Lucia Lafleur has spent the last four years in Philadelphia attending university. On graduation, she and her best friend Gretchen Perry head south of the Mason-Doxin line to spend the summer in Bellefontaine, Louisiana at Lucia's parents home. With a backdrop of sprawling plantations and small town charm, Lucia's laidback summer plans quickly unravel around her. 

While in school Lucia is a candy-striper who consistently has problems due to her toeing the line between propriety and arrogance at work, with one doctor in particular. In her personal life, everything seemed perfect. She has a wonderful fiance in Kip O'Neill, a law student with a bright future. They plan to marry, but acceptance to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine puts Lucia on a path she didn't expect. Kip's ultimatum of him or medical school stuns Lucia, and she requests time to think about it. 

On returning home she receives the strangest letter from the doctor whom she regularly butted heads with in Philadelphia, only to find out that he is a former colleague of her father. As she begins regular communications with Dr Sebastien Banner, Lucia comes to see him as a wonderful resource, sounding board, and ultimately a mentor in life as he begins to open himself up to her, and she to him. She discovers there is much more to the hateful, angry, drunk doctor than she thought there was.

Lucia also quickly finds herself in a precarious situation when returning to her childhood sanctuary in the swamps of Bellefontaine, only to find her place inhabited by none other than Nicholas Fletcher, part of the army who keep Inverness, the sugar plantation owned by the Moore family, and the son of the man Lucia found lynched in the swamp when she was thirteen. While Lucia knew, and was unnerved by, Nicholas as a child, he now scares her as a man. Towering over six-foot-five-inch with broad shoulders and thick muscles, skin as dark as iron, and unnerving golden eyes, Nicholas Fletcher is "now a fully grown man who looked like he could tear up an oak by it's roots," but who "stood proud, and whose weird honey eyes shone with shrewd intelligence." Lucia can't help but be drawn to him, while also trying to avoid him. You see, she may run around in trousers and dungarees, and have dreams of becoming a doctor, but she is still well aware of the impropriety in associating with colored men, especially when alone. 

As the summer ebbs on, Lucia and Nicholas walk a careful line of developing their relationship, while also having to ensure no one becomes aware of its existence. Lucia is in a tough spot, wanting to spill her secret to Gretchen, while being unable to - as Gretchen is being pursued by the son of the owner of Inverness, and one slip of the tongue could get Nicholas killed. Feeling their friendship drifting apart but being unable to figure out a way to rectify the problem while still maintaining her secret, the girl's summer is nothing like they thought it would be. 

Stepping off the train from progressive Philadelphia back into the segregation and lynch-happy culture of Bellefontaine, Lucia and Gretchen's eyes are opened to the still existing bigotry, hatred, and superiority felt of the white man. By the Light of Embers is both a sad and horrifying read. To imagine that these exact events occurred regularly just sixty years ago is hard to fathom. But it is also relative in the current political and social sphere, where race is a regular hot-button issue. An issue we thought had been put to bed with desegregation and Rosa Parks, but that had just been swept under the rug, kept quiet but never fixed. Biracial couples still face judgment from their peers across the country, people of color still face backlash when they stand up for themselves to authority figures, for demanding to be treated equal to their white counterparts, for demanding the police not use excessive force simply due to their skin color. Racism is still an issue across the country, and while the KKK doesn't operate in the open as it once did, the prejudice is still there, built into much of the institution. By the Light of Embers is a stark reminder of where we were not so long ago, and how we could hurtle back towards that if we are not careful. I highly recommend this read when it hits shelves.
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This book was beautiful and poignant and absolutely heartbreaking. The plot gripped me from the very beginning as I dived into the book and engrossed myself in the lives of these characters. The setting was written in such a way that I felt like I was there in Louisiana right alongside Lucia.  Speaking of Lucia, she was a great main character to be in the mind of. She was honest, straightforward, smart, a romantic at heart, and unflinchingly 100% herself. I could appreciate her desire to be a doctor and the struggle to stand out in a male dominated field. It was was a pleasure to watch her grow as a character. At the beginning she seemed all set in her convictions about what she wanted to do, who she was going to marry, her anger against her mother, and it turned out that not everything was as simple and planned out as she thought, especially after she met Nicholas. 

Nicholas. Oh sweet, Nicholas. I was very happy to see the romance in the book had an African American male as the male interest when I first noticed this book. Nicholas was a beautiful soul, and by seeing him the way Lucia saw him, I felt connected to this gentle man. It’s horrendous to read about how white people only saw black people (especially men) as brutes and violent beings, but this story clearly demonstrated who was the sadist and villain, and that was not him. It was easy to see why Lucia loved him so much and vice versa as well. They truly felt like they were soulmates on an intimate level.  

I also enjoyed the storyline between Sebastian (a cranky yet somehow endearing doctor) and Lucia. Their friendship was an unexpected yet pleasant addition. The other characters as well all added something to this story, whether their actions were  good or bad, they all played their part in making this story  gripping, realistic, and haunting.
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Sorry I could not get into this book. I tried a few times but eventually had to give up .It was too complicated and so I did not enjoy it.
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By the Light of Embers is a book that comes along once in a decade and stays with you for a lifetime. Beautiful imagery and fleshed-out characters make it easy to step back in time and live alongside Lucia and Nicholas as you feel their pain, walk their paths, and long for them to connect.
Racial tension abounds in this tale set in the deep south of the 1950s. The author also does an incredible job of showcasing the struggles for women in an era when the expectations for women were still unalterable. Lucia is a young woman desperate to realize her dream of becoming a doctor during a time that the bar for women was set far lower. Throughout the book, Lucia begins to unravel every expectation of who and what a woman should be. For many reasons, Embers is an empowering tale.
The author portrays her characters with dignity and depth, bringing the reader into the story. The setting puts the reader in the midst of the old south, and the emotional pull keeps you invested to the end. I cannot say enough about the author's skill as a writer. The writing is beautiful; Shaylin Gandhi's ability to weave a tale is on par with some of the greatest literary writers.
It takes a lot for a book to bring me to tears. This book accomplished that and has earned the high honor of an all-time favorite. I highly recommend By the Light of Embers!
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Heart-breaking ~ Beautiful ~ Haunting

tl: dr: Society often puts boundaries on love even if hearts don't. 

This beautifully written tale shares the story of an African-American poet who falls for a white female medical student in 1950s Lousiana. That set up basically should allude to the truth and sadness of the tale. The story is well-paced with beautiful literary passages. It is one of those books that makes you sad but happy you read it. I would mention that there are certain triggers, particularly about racial prejudice. But, the characters, and the love story, make this tear-jerker worth reading. 

4.5

Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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