Kirkus Reviews –
Will a young woman defy her mother and all society to be with the man she loves? Although Caroline Maxwell's meddling mother has created a list of socially desirable (read: those with money) potential suitors for her eldest daughter, free-spirited Caroline is equally certain that she'd rather have adventures of her own. In pursuit of that goal, she sneaks around in search of education, an act her mother would doubtless want to hide from Amelia and Helen, Caroline's younger twin sisters. Besides, Caroline's heart is set on her brother Eddie's childhood friend, roguish Jack Culhane, though she knows her mother would certainly never approve. What matters more to Caroline is whether Jack returns her affections, a question she's on the cusp of answering when Lord Bremerton enters the picture. Renowned as one of England's most eligible bachelors, Lord Bremerton seems keen to be caught by a net that Caroline's reluctant to cast. She feels creeped out when he's around and suspects that, in spite of his gentlemanly title, he's anything but. Since Harriet Vandermeulen has set her sights on a winter wedding with Jack--even though she may have failed to mention it to him--Caroline knows the time to choose is running out. Will she do her family proud and marry a man who can bring a title to the Maxwells, or will she follow her dream and convince Jack once and for all that his heart belongs to her? Though details such as Caroline's fondness for chocolate cake may endear her to hungry readers, the characters aren't meaty or distinctive enough to dig into, leaving Evanovich and Kelly (Love in a Nutshell, 2012) on safe but familiar ground.
Kirkus Reviews –
From the intimate domestic circles of the political elite, a dressmaker witnesses the upheavals of 19th-century America. Chiaverini (The Giving Quilt, 2012, etc.) sets aside her Elm Creek Quilts series for this historical novel about Elizabeth Keckley. Drawing upon the rich milieu of Civil War America, as well as Keckley's own memoir (published in 1868 as Behind the Scenes), Chiaverini weaves the story of a woman who lived as both slave and freedwoman. Elizabeth learns her trade by making clothes for her fellow slaves, and once freed, she plies her needle so skillfully that the wives of Republicans and Democrats clamor for her designs. Varina, the second wife of Jefferson Davis, even seeks to take Elizabeth with her to Montgomery when the South secedes and her husband becomes president of the Confederacy. Despite her desire to journey with Varina, Elizabeth decides to stay in Washington, since traveling further South will erase most of her freedoms. Her decision leads to her new position as Mary Todd Lincoln's modiste. Elizabeth not only designs and sews Mary's clothes, but she also arranges her hair, helps her dress, cares for her children at times and becomes her confidante. As others nearly shun Mary for her extravagances during wartime, not to mention her mercurial personality, she relies more and more heavily upon Elizabeth. Their relationship affords an interesting perspective for viewing the cultural and social turmoil of the times, for no matter how much Elizabeth is respected for her skills and no matter how intimately Mary trusts her with her confidences, Elizabeth remains a former slave, and she must be reminded of her place. While the backdrop is strikingly vivid, Chiaverini's domestic tale dawdles too often in the details of dress fittings and quilt piecings, leaving Elizabeth's emotional terrain glimpsed but not traveled.
The New York Times Book Review - Isabel Wilkerson
In a movement as vast as the Great Migration, there are so many stories buried in the ashes of memory, so much untold and yet to be sung that perhaps no book should bear the burden of telling it all. In the end, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is less about the migration than about a mother's loss and the toll it takes on her and her children, their feeble attempts to escape their lives and the costs borne by every one of them. Hattie's family represents itself and itself alone. This deeply felt novel does not seek to tell the story of all, but of one that perhaps might have been.