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ARC Review: The Divorce Colony

The Divorce Colony: How Women Revolutionized Marriage and Found Freedom on the American Frontier by April White April White’s The Divorce Colony is set during the Gilded Age, in the America of the late 1800s. It revolves around the lax divorce rules then to be found in South Dakota.  Today, getting divorced is almost easier than getting married. But in the Gilded Age, divorces were not so easy to obtain. Divorce was viewed as a moral concern for the state, and was denounced from the pulpit for threatening the sanctity of marriage. Even President Theodore Roosevelt spoke out against it.  Laws around divorce tended to be most lax on the frontiers of the United States. By the 1880s the territory of Dakota gained the dubious honor of posting the largest rise in divorces in the country. At the turn of the century one city - Sioux Falls, South Dakota - gained a reputation for having the laxest divorce laws of all, and required only a three month residency in order to take advantage of them

ARC Review: A Man Named Baskerville

Well, today it's my turn on the Escapist Tours book tour for Jim Nelson's latest book, A Man Named Baskerville. My book review is below and spoiler alert - I really liked this one. 

Also, stick around to the very end of the post for a special giveaway from Escapist Tours and the author. You could win a free copy of this book!

A Man Named Baskerville by Jim Nelson

In A Man Called Baskerville, Jim Nelson expands on Arthur Conan Doyle’s short backstory of the botanist Stapleton, the villain in The Hound of the Baskervilles. Nelson has put together an engrossing tale, which he says comes from the journal Stapleton kept in his final days. In fact, the story begins with the line  - “Let this journal stand as the one true account of the events in and around Dartmoor and the estate known as Baskerville Hall”. 

It’s been ages since I read the Hound of the Baskervilles, but that didn’t distract at all from my enjoyment of Nelson’s story. It’s not an attempt to retell the Hound. Nor is it meant to be a new Sherlock Holmes story. In fact, Holmes and Watson aren’t central to the book at all, but merely bit players. 

In Conan Doyle’s story, Stapleton disappears at the end and is presumed to have died while trying to escape into the bogs. In Nelson’s telling, he did not die in the bogs, but survived at least long enough to have penned his journal.

The book is told through flashbacks as Stapleton lays out his life story. He is, in fact, the son of Roger, the disowned brother of Lord Charles Baskerville, and feels himself to be the rightful heir to Baskerville Hall and the baronetcy that goes along with it. Raised in Brazil by his drunken father as young Roger Baskerville, he pieces together the family story and determines to one day claim the title.

It is not a straightforward journey, but an adventure of the wrongs done to young Roger and the criminal path they set him on. From Brazil the story continues on into Costa Rica, then to Yorkshire in England, and finally to Dartmoor and Baskerville Hall, where the events of Conan Doyle’s Hound unfold.

As the story progresses, Nelson makes sure to incorporate pieces from the Stapleton life story that Sherlock Holmes relays in the final chapter of The Hound of the Baskervilles. But Nelson also fills in many of the blanks. The result is some adventurous storytelling. 

The plot is well planned and the way the flashbacks are organized helps to build the story and keep your interest high. Nelson has also done a pretty good job with the characters. You get a strong sense of who Roger Baskerville is, not only from what he says directly in his journal, but from how he records others reacting to him. His wife Beryl and companion Antonio are also well fleshed out. The hounds, Agrippina and Nero, also have their own personalities.

At the start of the book it seemed like Nelson was embarking on a “sympathy for the devil” type of story, but as Roger’s tale progressed things got darker and darker until whatever sympathy I may have had for him is gone by the book’s end.

This was a great read. As I said, I don’t think you have to have the Conan Doyle story fresh in your mind to enjoy this book. But once you’re done you may be tempted to go dig out the original story. Especially after reading Nelson’s Afterword, in which he describes his own discovery of The Hound of the Baskervilles, and how he was inspired to write this book.

I give A Man Named Baskerville Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Jim Nelson book links:

Jim Nelson is a self-published author, and you can find his books on Amazon. 

📘 Buy A Man Named Baskerville: Amazon*

📗 Jim Nelson’s Author page on Amazon, where you can find all his books available in Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and Paperback formats: Amazon*

Sign up for your chance to win a free copy of Jim Nelson's A Man Named Baskerville.

Giveaway Information:

Prize: An eBook Copy of A Man Named Baskerville!
Starts: April 18th, 2022 at 12:00am EST
Ends: April 24th, 2022 at 11:59pm EST