I love the way Olivia Newport weaves real history into her historical novels. She has taken a post World War I issue and brought it to the attentions of many who probably didn't know the issue even existed--the rights of the Amish to practice their beliefs and to educate their children as they see fit. There isn't much "romance" in the story but that doesn't detract from the highly readable novel she has produced.
Brightest and Best pits power-hungry men against a peaceable community of men who are trying to prove their manhood by pushing people around who won't fight back. Their aspirations for more and better cloud their sketchy judgment and make them do things that in other times they wouldn't dream of doing. They were practicing a form of racism that is still just as hateful as any found today. At the base of any racism is a feeling of superiority over another race and as God has told us so many times, there is no Jew, no Greek, no Gentile, no Hebrew, no distinctions among any men.
Ella lives with her father and step-mother, but she loves Gideon and his children. All she wants is to marry Gideon, love his children, and make more with him. First they go through many trials to get there--their community school falling apart, unjustified arrests, having children removed from their homes, beatings, burglaries, and then fights in court.
I love the way Olivia writes and how she develops her characters, settings, and plot pacing. It is a book that is hard to put down and one that engages the reader intimately into the warp and woof of the story. Very definitely Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a new one-room school house that teaches real values.
My thanks to Shiloh Run Press for allowing me to read and review this book.