Published April 5th 2016 by Simon & Schuster
Synopsis: Jamie Pyke, son of both a slave and master of Tall Oakes, has a deadly secret that compels him to take a treacherous journey through the Underground Railroad.
Published in 2010, The Kitchen House became a grassroots bestseller. Fans connected so deeply to the book’s characters that the author, Kathleen Grissom, found herself being asked over and over “what happens next?” The wait is finally over.
This new, stand-alone novel opens in 1830, and Jamie, who fled from the Virginian plantation he once called home, is passing in Philadelphia society as a wealthy white silversmith. After many years of striving, Jamie has achieved acclaim and security, only to discover that his aristocratic lover Caroline is pregnant. Before he can reveal his real identity to her, he learns that his beloved servant Pan has been captured and sold into slavery in the South. Pan’s father, to whom Jamie owes a great debt, pleads for Jamie’s help, and Jamie agrees, knowing the journey will take him perilously close to Tall Oakes and the ruthless slave hunter who is still searching for him. Meanwhile, Caroline’s father learns and exposes Jamie’s secret, and Jamie loses his home, his business, and finally Caroline.
Heartbroken and with nothing to lose, Jamie embarks on a trip to a North Carolina plantation where Pan is being held with a former Tall Oakes slave named Sukey, who is intent on getting Pan to the Underground Railroad. Soon the three of them are running through the Great Dismal Swamp, the notoriously deadly hiding place for escaped slaves. Though they have help from those in the Underground Railroad, not all of them will make it out alive.
My Review: This is a sequel to Kathleen Grissom’s “The Kitchen House” but you do not have to have read that book to enjoy this one. I loved the Kitchen House and enjoyed this book just as much. The story picks up many years later as we follow the life of Jaime Pyke who has moved to Philadelphia. As a runaway, he was hidden away by Henry, also a runaway while he is healing from a vicious attack shortly after arriving in Philadelphia. Henry takes him into the city and he lands a job as an apprentice to a silversmith, Mr. Burton. Being able to pass himself off as white allows himself to be part of the Philadelphia Society. As he works for him and lives in his house, he eventually works his way into the hearts of both Mr. and Mrs. Burton. He is eventually adopted by the Burtons. When the Burtons die he inherits the business, the house and their estate. The story goes back and forth between the present and Jamie’s past life on Twin Oaks. This gave us the background we needed to follow the story whether we had read the previous book or not.
When Henry comes to James’ house for help, he feels he must help him to pay back the debt he feels he owes him. Henry’s son, Pan, has been working for James as a houseboy and has disappeared. Henry thinks he has been taken by slave traders and put on a boat south to be sold as a slave. There are other things going on in James’ life at this point, but I do not want to spoil the story so will not share, that put him in extreme danger if he goes after Pan, but he follows through with his promise to Henry.
Not only does the story does go back and forth in time but it is told from different points of view by several of the characters from this book as well as others who were also in The Kitchen House. This was not a book that could be read in one sitting. It is painful to read about the conditions and situations that the African American people were going through during this time. The characters that I disliked in the first book, Marshall the plantation owner, Rankin the overseer and his son Jake were either in the story or were referred to in this one. I still hated them. The characters of Belle, Sukey, Miss Lavinia and her daughter Ellie also appeared in this book and either helped or found help for James and others in the book. They are still heroes in my eyes.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review that you do not have to have read The Kitchen House to enjoy this book, but I do encourage you to read it first so you have a full picture of this story. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.