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Masque of Honor: A Historical Novel of the American South


Masque of Honor: A Historical Novel of the American South

John Mason McCarty, a Virginia gentleman known by everyone as Jack, is a kind and generous soul with a noticeably short temper and a penchant for trouble. Loved by all, he manages to win hearts and friends easily, apart from one: Armistead Thomas Mason. Armistead and Jack --- while cousins, neighbors and brothers-in-law thanks to Jack’s brother, William, marrying Armistead’s sister, Emily --- have never had much in common. During the War of 1812, Armistead (a general) and Jack (a captain) were frequently at odds over how the men should be treated. When the war ends and politics enter the picture, there is even less peace between them.

While Armistead touts his war experience and uses influential friends to help propel his political career forward, Jack is content to explore other opportunities available to him. When a woman named Lucinda Lee enters Jack’s world, he finds himself wondering about a new life that includes finally settling down on his Virginia property to build a life with her, continue his law practice and live a quiet existence --- not a scenario he ever pictured for himself before Lucinda.

"While MASQUE OF HONOR is very much centered on Jack and Armistead’s feud, the love story that weaves through the novel is what truly makes it wonderful."

When the ever-present tension between Jack and Armistead escalates from mild insults to antagonistic letters to the newspapers challenging each other over politics and other matters, they find themselves physically fighting all under the guise of protecting their honor. Family and friends broker a temporary truce, but the two will not find peace until they face each other across a field with guns raised.

While MASQUE OF HONOR is very much centered on Jack and Armistead’s feud, the love story that weaves through the novel is truly what makes it wonderful. The courtship of Jack and Lucinda is quite sweet, giving them a chance to find themselves in the love that they have for each other without getting lost in it or letting it become all-consuming, even when it threatens to be. They quarrel and test each other’s patience, but they belong together, and I found myself rooting just as much for the two lovers as their families were.

Although it would be easy for me to argue that this book is more of a love story than about the politics and ambitions that consume the characters, the strain of Jack and Armistead’s war of words sits near to that love story. It follows the ups and downs of both the McCartys and the Masons, having a major impact on their lives and the choices they make. And it is those fateful decisions influenced by the politics and vitriolic words that have a most acute impact on this story, tearing apart lives and leaving people adrift.

The setting is another character, and I love that the book is set in the DC area. Washington, DC, and Leesburg, Virginia --- two locations highlighted here --- have preserved much of their history. To this day, in certain areas, you can still feel as if you are stepping back in time, seeing ghosts of soldiers across battlefields and women in elaborate dresses sipping iced tea on shaded porches. MASQUE OF HONOR brings all of that history to life vividly and wonderfully.

Before this book came my way, I will admit to experiencing a slight reading slump. I think I was simply waiting for the right book, one that captured my imagination, with characters who frustrated and amused me, while simultaneously making me want to spend all of my time with them. I found that in MASQUE OF HONOR. Also, there is a reason why I adore historical fiction so much. If you have time, the characters are worth a quick search, and you will see exactly what I mean about history coming to life. If you love the genre as much as I do, grab this one. You won’t be disappointed.

Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on February 12, 2021

Masque of Honor: A Historical Novel of the American South
by Sharon Virts

  • Publication Date: February 9, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: RosettaBooks
  • ISBN-10: 1948122707
  • ISBN-13: 9781948122702