A dainty beauty reared in luxury and a poor, plain woman cross paths in Fire by Night (4.5) by Lynn Austin. Mortified by the cowardice she displayed as an onlooker at the Civil War battle of Bull Run, Julia Hoffman intends to redeem herself in the eyes of the handsome minister she loves. The headstrong beauty insists on becoming a nurse, but adventure turns to nightmare, and Julia's motives for service must change, or she will revert to the shallow socialite she dreads becoming. Phoebe Bigelow isn't about to be left behind as a live-in slave to a townswoman when her brothers go off to war. Tall and big-boned, Phoebe dons her overalls and joins the Union army under her nickname, Ike. She's in an awful fix when she falls in love with her best buddy and can't tell him she's a woman. Phoebe's and Julia's paths cross, and each discovers in the other something they need to make them whole in faith, love and femininity. Austin shines a searchlight on little-known aspects of the Civil War, seam-lessly blending period details with vivid characters and an edge-of-your-seat plot. (Nov., 432 pp., $12.99)

Reviewed by: 
Jill Elizabeth Nelson