I received a copy of REFUGE ON CRESCENT HILL by Melanie Dobson from Kregel. This book is now one of my favorites, and I’ve recommended it to my friends who love history as much as I do. I’ve always been fascinated by old houses. This book really whets my appetite to discover more about those in my neighborhood, even if they don’t have as cool a past as the Bristow Mansion. It also inspired me to research my genealogy more.
The book began a bit slowly. Camden Bristow is a freelance photographer, but she’s practically penniless, so she decides to visit her grandmother, who lives in Bristow Mansion atop Crescent Hill. When she gets to Ohio, she discovers her grandmother recently died and left her the house. Camden doesn’t want to part with it, but she doesn’t have enough money to support it. Plus, strange things have been happening since she moved in, and the town whispers of ghosts.
Then, there is Alex Yates, who left behind a troubled past to help out the town. He wants to use Bristow Mansion as a means to bring the community wealth, but the citizens keep fighting his ideas. In the meantime, Edward and Jake Paxton, neighbors to the Bristows, believe there is treasure hidden in the house, so they keep sneaking around to search for it. States away, a young woman named Stephanie is researching her family and discovers that a slave fled her ancestral plantation with jewels, planning to send someone back for his wife and child…except, he disappeared while heading toward Crescent Hill. Stephanie sets out to uncover the truth.
After a few chapters in, I really got caught up in the story and couldn’t stop reading. I finished within a day and craved more. There is a perfect mix of history, secrets, underground tunnels, mysterious mausoleums, romance, murder, and maps sewn into Civil War-era quilts. I would have liked to see more emotion from Camden. In a few places, her thoughts weren’t clear. She should’ve been terrified, but instead, she felt a bit two-dimensional. The other characters were well-rounded, though. I also would have liked more descriptions of the mansion. It sounded huge and glamorous, but also rundown. At times, I wasn’t sure how to picture it. Other than those points, the storyline was not only complex, but contained intriguing twists. Anyone who loves mysteries or history – or trying to guess the history of abandoned houses, like I do – will love this story. One of the best parts involved a link at the end that showed the house that inspired Melanie Dobson’s story. Although this is adult fiction/Christian/suspense, this would appeal to young adults, and would work great in a high school history class about the Underground Railroad.