Robert Marcum is no newcomer to the realm of historical fiction, but his newest work, “Storms Gather,” strides into an era he has never engaged before. Set in the 1860s, this newest tale follows a fledgling nation into the throes of civil war circling the subject of slavery.
After their mother’s death, Randolf and Elizabeth Hudson are left to manage the family steamship business in St. Louis. Although weighed with grief at the loss of their second parent, Mrs. Hudson’s passing allows Lizzy and Rand to openly return to their Mormon beliefs, which had been forbidden after the family fled Nauvoo.
However, not every new development is as joyful as their return to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As the siblings plunge into new spheres in life, each comes face to face with the evils of the slave trade.
As the new head of the family business, Rand is confronted by a malevolent group looking to use his ships to further their secessionist cause. Rand refuses to support their indulgence in slavery and their work to divide the nation, which leaves them angry and leaves him and his business a target of arson or worse. His work to promote freedom and protect lives is assaulted on every side by evil men desperate to silence him.
While visiting Virginia, Lizzy is confronted with the realities of slavery as well. Her independent nature and her very freedom are threatened when the cruel treatment of slaves on the plantation comes to light. Having worked with abolitionists in St. Louis, Lizzy is torn between the feelings she has for Andrew, the plantation owner’s son, and standing up for what she knows is right.
This book, the first in Marcum's "A Nation Divided" series, is a finely crafted work. The main characters are vibrant and animated. But while they are moral and honorable, they are also beautifully flawed, leaving the story with an aching reality.
The story's supporting cast is no less dynamic than its stars. Each villain is vicious to the core; each hero is stalwart and brave. These characters add depth and vision to the tale.
While Marcum painstakingly researched the time period, he did not let his characters override the history surrounding the story. Marcum molded his home-made men and women around real events and real people in such a way that all are left feeling fluid. This book is a gem in its genre.