Book Review: The Bedwarmer’s Son by Caryl McAdoo

~ About the Book ~

What if Abel had killed Cain, but there was no jury of his peers?

In 1928 Georgia, a black man who kills a white man is automatically guilty, but the bedwarmer’s son, an ex-slave, is no normal black man. And the dead white man is his half-brother. Once his lily-white lawyer lady learns the truth, everything changes. Can she save him from swinging?

Will the bedwarmer murder the one she’s been bought to serve?

From the antebellum South, come travel the dusty trails of Jim Crowe Dalton, Georgia, with slave and master, saint and sinner. See if God is really big enough, if He truly cares about His children.

Amazon  //  Goodreads

~ Excerpt ~

The door closed behind Jasmine.
A faint hint of smoke mixed with the soft scent of whisky and lemons and honey she carried on the silver tray Mammy put the mug on. Like she was some fancy house slave bringing the master his night cap.
Bathed in shadows, next to the brick hearth, her new owner sat in a stuffed chair, staring at the dying embers. A patchwork quilt wrapped him like a cocoon.
She eased up next to him and extended the tray. “Your hot toddy, sir.”
He turned toward her. “What did you say, girl?” His words poured out slow as sorghum on a freezing cold morn.
The tone in his voice sent shivers up her back, and a pesky woodpecker thumped against her chest. “Your drink, sir.”
Mister William didn’t look nearly as old as she thought he would. Pasty though; she had that right.
“Mammy fixed your toddy, and I got it right here for you, sir.”
“Oh.” He stared at her for a double fist full of her heartbeats before he finally nodded. Still didn’t take his toddy. “Who are you?” His question came as one word, and it took her a minute to get them separated and understand.
“Jasmine, sir.”
He nodded. “Oh. Yes. Now I remember.”
“Yes, sir. Your toddy, sir?”
“Mama told me all about you at supper.” He extended his hand and lifted the mug from her tray, but she didn’t move a muscle. Stood there holding that tray as steady as an old oak. After a sip, he held it to his chest and returned to his ember watching.
“Would you want me to put another log on, sir? It be a mite chilly tonight.”
Taking another sip, he reached down and retrieved a brown jug, the kind they put corn squeezin’s in. The man couldn’t be half as old as Miss June. The words of the old woman waiting outside the door wormed their way up, her baby boy.
So…this man was Miss June’s son. No wonder old Mammy wanted Jasmine to be nice to him, being his wet nurse and all. Probably raised him more than his own mam.
But that didn’t make any difference. She would kill him dead if he laid a hand on her.

~ Review ~

The Bedwarmer’s Son is a historical fiction novel with a few story lines woven through it. The primary story is that of Billy Sinclair, the son of cotton plantation owner William Abel Sinclair and his bedwarmer, Jasmine. Now in his seventies, Billy is about to go to trial for the murder of his half-brother, Jamieson Sinclair. But it’s not so much a question of ‘Who pulled the trigger?’ as whether a coloured man has the right to defend his life, even if the threat comes from a white man. Many at this time in history would have said not.

The second story is that of Billy’s mother, Jasmine, beginning from the time she arrives at Three Springs Plantation. Billy shares the story with his lawyer, Alice Parmalee, in order to help her prepare his defence, but it is actually told from Jasmine’s point of view as a step back in time. It’s an intriguing story that highlights some of the difficulties faced by an interracial couple prior to and following the Civil War, and while readers may not be comfortable with some of the choices made by the characters, the story is also realistic about the consequences of those choices and the difficulties they create—Billy’s situation included.

For young white lawyer Alice Parmalee, it’s a case that tests not only her legal mettle, but also her belief that faith in an invisible, all-powerful God is ludicrous. Her growing attachment to both Billy and his grandson, Will, only heightens her anxiety that she won’t be able to successfully defend Billy’s case.

The story was engaging, but I did feel as though some aspects developed a little simplistically: for example, the growing relationship between Alice and Will, and Alice’s beliefs regarding God. There was also a scene toward the end of the novel concerning Billy and his now-deceased brother Jamieson that I felt stretched credulity in order to wrap things in a nice neat bow.

Readers may also wish to be advised that there are 10 occurrences of the ‘n’ word used in reference to a black person (and not just by white characters). Due the way the story develops, this is mainly confined to the first half of the novel.

* Tomorrow’s open discussion will be on whether it is appropriate to use racial slurs in fiction. We’d love to you come and join the conversation.

~ About the Author ~

Caryl McAdooBorn in California, Caryl McAdoo got to Texas in time to celebrate her first birthday. As a Dallas seventh grader, she remembers a homework essay on ‘What will you be doing in 2000?’ Looking into the future, Caryl saw herself as an inter-galactically famous author, streaking from planet to planet signing books. She laughs, “But I didn’t start writing again until the late ’80s, then was so blessed to find the DFW Writers’ Workshop in ’93.”

Her first book debuted ’99, then for the next nine years, she averaged a title a year from four presses: two non-fiction, four novels, and three mid-grade chapter books. In March 2014, her first historical Christian romance Vow Unbroken debuted from Howard Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. In the three years since that release, she has published more than ten novels.

For every good blessing – including ten children (four by birth, six by marriage) and sixteen grandsugars – she gives God the glory. Caryl lives a country-life with Ron, her high school sweetheart husband of forty-seven years, and two grandsons in the woods a few miles south of Clarksville, Red River County seat, located in far Northeast Texas.

Connect with Caryl:  Website  //  Facebook  //  Twitter


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