Saturday, April 4, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy & Becky Hepinstall


A best-selling novelist enlists her own sister to bring us the story of two Southern sisters, disguised as men, who join the Confederate Army—one seeking vengeance on the battlefield, the other finding love.

In a war pitting brother against brother, two sisters choose their own battle.

Joseph and Thomas are fresh recruits for the Confederate Army, daring to join the wild fray that has become the seemingly endless Civil War, sharing everything with their fellow soldiers—except the secret that would mean their undoing: they are sisters.

Before the war, Joseph and Thomas were Josephine and Libby. But that bloodiest battle, Antietam, leaves Libby to find her husband, Arden, dead. She vows vengeance, dons Arden’s clothes, and sneaks off to enlist with the Stonewall Brigade, swearing to kill one Yankee for every year of his too-short life. Desperate to protect her grief-crazed sister, Josephine insists on joining her. Surrounded by flying bullets, deprivation, and illness, the sisters are found by other dangers: Libby is hurtling toward madness, haunted and urged on by her husband’s ghost; Josephine is falling in love with a fellow soldier. She lives in fear both of revealing their disguise and of losing her first love before she can make her heart known to him.

In her trademark “vibrant” (Washington Post Book World) and “luscious” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) prose, Kathy Hepinstall joins with her sister Becky to show us the hopes of love and war, the impossible-to-sever bonds of sisterhood, and how what matters most can both hurt us and heal us.


Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy & Becky Hepinstall is the best book that I have read in a long time. I cannot get over how much I loved it! I would have read it in a day or two if it were possible, but unfortunately I have a million things on my plate right now, so it took me longer than I wanted to be able to finish it. However, every time I had a chance, I would sneak away and read as much as I could. 
The story is heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time. Libby is completely lost at her husband Arden’s death during the Civil War, and she makes a promise to avenge him by joining the cause disguised as a young male Confederate Soldier, and killing as many Union soldiers as Arden was years old. Her sister Josephine refused to let her go at it alone, so she joins in on this crazy plan to protect her, and together they become Thomas and Joseph.

Libby (Thomas) was so connected to her dead husband Arden, that it is almost as if they have become one after he has died. She speaks like him, walks like him, is basically becoming him. She dreams about him nightly, and he speaks to her every day. She is slowly losing her mind, and it is as if Arden is taking over her. Josephine (Joseph) is worried about her, but through a new and close friendship with another soldier named Wesley, she learns that she has to start thinking about herself, and that nothing she does is going to help her sister at this point. Josephine has to make some tough decisions at this point, and she is torn between Wesley and her sister.

The writing is excellent in this novel. Everything flows together so nicely, and there is so much attention to detail. The descriptions of the battles put you right there with the sisters and the rest of the soldiers. I love that there was a great amount of historical research that went into this book, yet it was still a creative and interesting story. The characters were all easy to connect with, and you could really feel their pain and their struggles. I loved each and every character in their own way, even Lewis. I felt sadness with the others when their friends died, and I worried for Libby when her mind started to slip. I felt Josephine’s struggle to make the choice between Wesley and her sister. I felt so much throughout this book, and I love books that make me feel. I remember books like Sisters of Shiloh forever, because of how much emotion I felt while I was reading it.

There is absolutely nothing negative to say about this book. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good book to read, whether they are a fan of historical fiction or not. However, if they like historical fiction, then they are probably going to fall in love with this novel just as I did. I wish that I could give it more than FIVE stars, because that is what it deserves.  

This book definitely gets a FIVE out of FIVE stars from me!


"Sisters of Shiloh is an unsparing, bloody, emotional tour-de-force. With Kathy’s experience as a bestselling author and Becky’s history degree, the Hepinstalls are a highly effective writing team. They present lucky readers with a tale of love and hate, vengeance and devotion, and the darkest secrets imaginable. Highly recommended for all." --Historical Novels Review

"The Hepinstall sisters provide a fascinating glimpse into Civil War life from an unconventional perspective." --Kirkus

"The very best historical fiction delivers us into another time and place. In Sisters of Shiloh, Kathy and Becky Hepinstall plunge us so deeply into a complete and vividly rendered world of Civil War battlefields and Confederate campsites, we can smell the gun powder and taste the metallic tinge of fear along with their remarkable heroines." --Janis Cooke Newman, author of Mary


Kathy and Becky Hepinstall grew up outside Houston, Texas. An award-winning creative director, Kathy is also the best-selling author of four previous books. She lives in Carpinteria, California. Becky holds a history degree from the University of Texas at Austin and lives in Virginia with her husband, a Navy pilot, and their four children.

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