Ezra Johns, a Negro volunteer soldier from Boston, fought with the Union army to help free his people from slavery. When the war was over, his main goal in life was to make it back home alive and then continue his education. He meets up with the small group of former slaves which includes Delia and quickly is smitten with the pretty young woman.
Delia also feels an attraction to the handsome Ezra, but then a stranger named Jack joins their group. Ezra is distrustful of the drifter’s intentions, especially when Jack begins giving Delia a lot of extra attention. Ezra knows he has to watch out for the shy, hesitant Delia so Jack doesn’t take advantage of her. But then a torrential flood separates him from the group when he attempts to rescue the elderly Miss May before she gets washed downriver. Will Delia be able to withstand Jack’s advances? Is there any hope for Delia and Ezra meeting up again and possibly falling in love?
THEN CAME HOPE is the second novel in the post-Civil War series by Louise M. Gouge, and features a black Union soldier who falls in love with Delia. Delia is a frightened young former slave who has been emotionally and physically abused all of her life, and has now found herself a free woman having to learn to fend for herself in the world. I admired her courage in that while she was trying to find a place for herself, she also was looking out for the others in her group. Ezra is a well-educated black man who left his comfortable life in the North to volunteer to fight to help free the slaves in the South. Surviving the war was only half the battle for him as he now must fight to return North to Boston against angry, Negro-hating Southerners who found themselves on the losing end of the Civil War. Not every Southern white was unforgiving and distrustful of blacks, however, as Ezra, Delia and the others in their group come to realize when they receive help and employment from two whites who own neighboring farms, which in turn leads to them finding each other again.
In THEN CAME HOPE, I came to really admire Ezra for his strong values and the upstanding way he lived his life, even though he had much opposition and oppression holding him back. He went from being a soldier separated from his unit to being in charge of the safety and survival of a whole group of former slaves. Even though Ezra had fought bravely for his country and his people, he still had to fight to gain the respect of his fellow soldiers and the whites still in control of the country. I enjoyed seeing Delia bloom into a confident young woman who finally realized her worth through Ezra’s love and God’s unending patience. It was nice to see them discover friendship and love together.
Louise M. Gouge is an award-winning author, including the twice-won Road to Romance Reviewer’s Choice Award, a three-time finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year, and second place in the 2007 Word Weavers of Central Florida Award for Fiction for this book, THEN CAME HOPE. The first book in this post-Civil War series is entitled THEN CAME FAITH, and the third story THEN CAME LOVE will be released in the spring of 2009. It will be about another northerner somewhat like Ezra who fights in the Union army. I hope every reader who enjoys historical fiction will pick up THEN CAME FAITH and THEN CAME HOPE, because this well-researched series shines the light on post-Civil War like no other novel I’ve ever read from this time period. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to other romance lovers.