Thomas and Beal in the Midi

Farrar. Apr. 2019. 384p. ISBN 9780374276522. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374719135. F
More than 20 years after Mason's Retreat and six years after The Right-Hand Shore, Tilghman returns with the love story of Thomas and Beal. Love story, yes. Fairy-tale romance, no. In 1894 Maryland, for an interracial couple to marry, they must leave. Leave their families, leave the blighted orchards of the Retreat, leave America and its blighted legacy of slavery. Thomas and Beal begin their young marriage in France, first in Paris, then in the rugged southern region of Languedoc, where they grow grapes and eventually produce wine. In Paris, while Thomas spends his time in libraries researching their future, Beal fascinates the artists of the Latin Quarter and experiences personal freedom for the first time. When the couple moves south to the vineyard Thomas has purchased, she's apprehensive about returning to rural life. But their new surroundings provide space that their young, untested marriage and their crops need to flourish. Thomas is a patient man, and in many ways, his relationship with Beal is like the book itself, beautiful but multilayered, taking time to develop, occasionally frustrating but always rewarding.
VERDICT Lovely literary fiction for not only fans of Tilghman's previous work but for anyone interested in that age-old question, What is true love? [See Prepub Alert, 10/22/18.]

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