Many students of American history remember General Sherman as the infamous Union general that led the Union army to burn a swath through Georgia from Atlanta to the sea. But few are aware that one of Sherman's first loves was a Southern belle from Georgia, Miss Cecelia Stovall. With this multifaceted combination of fact and fiction, Haeger explores the path of two star-crossed lovers amid the backdrop of the American Civil War.

At a West Point ball in 1837, William Tecumseh Sherman meets Cecelia Stovall, sister to his classmate, Marcellus. While their attraction is quick and intense, Marcellus and his father thwart their budding romance by whisking Cecelia away on a grand tour of Europe; they believe the Yankee foster son of an Ohio senator is not good enough for Cecelia. The total control Cecelia's family exerts upon her is a profound statement of the life of a genteel Southern woman back then and leads to heartbreak, whereby she settles for marriage to wealthy Southern planter Charles Shelman.

During the war years, the two lovers meet again and rekindle their never-forgotten love, though each is married to someone else. And rumor has it that because of this love, Sherman spared Cecelia's home in his 1864 march through Georgia. Civil War America comes to life, not only because of Haeger's creativity and attention to detail, but also because she focuses this novel on actual people and events. (Mar., 320 pp., $24.95)

Reviewed by: 
Sheri Melnick