Tangled Roots

ElizabethBook Reviews, Historical Fiction, The Eighteenth Century Leave a Comment

Title: Tangled Roots

Author: Marcia Kemp Sterling

Publisher: River Grove Books

Copyright: January 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-1632993564


Format: E-Book, 302 Pages

Genres: Historical Fiction, Coming of Age Fiction, Family Saga


Set in the rich farmland of colonial Pennsylvania in 1750, this “history-comes-alive-in-fiction” narrative tells the first-person stories of Mary, her youthful passion constrained by tradition and family expectations; Alex, a Scots-Irish indentured servant who introduces her to secrets of the land and of the heart; and Matthew, Mary’s level-headed stepbrother who longs to win her affection. Set against the social issues of slavery, Native American oppression and indentured servitude, the novel is rich in historic detail and the search for love, justice and family in a new land.

At the center of the story is an old family cross, brought back to Britain after the Third Crusade. Even as the unique histories of Mary, Alex, and Matthew shape their experience in the American colonies, so their futures are touched by the iconic cross that changed hands in the Holy Land during the Crusades, reemerging on a 17th-century plantation in Northern Ireland and yet again in the forest surrounding a small farm in Lancaster County at the edge of the Pennsylvania Colony.


Tangled Roots tells the story of three young people in rural 1750s Pennsylvania. Mary Brandon, the daughter of a well-to-do farmer, rebels against societal expectations of women. Matthew Locke, her stepbrother, develops a deep affection for her. Originally from Ireland, Alex Turrentine is an indentured servant who works for the Brandon-Locke family. He awakens something new in Mary, something she never knew existed. Things become complicated when the fates of Mary, Matthew, and Alex become intertwined. Little do they know that their family histories, too, are tangled together.

To say that this book is a historical gem is an understatement. It is apparent from the beginning that the author conducted a great deal of historical research. Early on, she provides an antiquated map of Pennsylvania. Not only is the historical accuracy on point, but Kemp Sterling provides extensive background detail in genealogical maps and a fascinating author’s note. In short, this book felt very real to me. The characters are all extremely well-written, likeable, and came across as very human. The family back stories are equally as compelling. When reading this, I felt like I was standing in mid-18th century America along with the characters. While it does have its slow moments, the plot is steady. This is a fantastic book.

Originally featured on the History Novel Society website.


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