About the Book
Book: The Red Ribbon
Author: Pepper Basham
Genre: Christian historical/suspense
Release Date: October, 2020
An Appalachian Feud Blows Up in 1912
Book 8 in the True Colors series—Fiction Based on Strange-But True History
In Carroll County, a corn shucking is the social event of the season, until a mischievous kiss leads to one of the biggest tragedies in Virginia history. Ava Burcham isn’t your typical Blue Ridge Mountain girl. She has a bad habit of courtin’ trouble, and her curiosity has opened a rift in the middle of a feud between politicians and would-be outlaws, the Allen family. Ava’s tenacious desire to find a story worth reporting may land her and her best friend, Jeremiah Sutphin, into more trouble than either of them planned. The end result? The Hillsville Courthouse Massacre of 1912.
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About the Author
Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor. She’s a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains where her family have lived for generations. She’s the mom of five kids, speech-pathologist to about fifty more, lover of chocolate, jazz, and Jesus, and proud AlleyCat over at the award winning Writer’s Alley blog. Her debut historical romance novel, The Thorn Bearer, released in April 2015, and the second in February 2016. Her first contemporary romance debuted in April 2016.
More from Pepper
Feuds, Moonshine, and Family Loyalties by Pepper Basham
My upcoming release for Barbour’s True Colors series is really close to my heart…and pretty close to my house.
The Red Ribbon, my first foray into a historical suspense novel, takes place in the county where I grew up. Carroll County, Virginia, is a county on the border of Virginia and North Carolina, not too far from Mt. Airy (Mayberry). Nestled in the foothills and mountains of the Blue Ridge, it is a part of the Appalachian Mountains, and with that comes similar histories as other backwoods Appalachian communities: feuds, moonshine, and family loyalties.
One thing I love most about my Appalachian upbringing is the intense closeness of family – and when I say ‘family’ I mean, of course, my mom, dad, and brother, but also my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents…the whole “gang”, as my granny used to say.
The closeness of family, and the protection of the family name, is a big deal in Appalachia. There’s a lot of pride in the way your ‘name’ is thought of throughout the community, so when someone insults your name, there’s a good chance the repercussions aren’t going to be pleasant. Especially back in the early 1900s, when The Red Ribbon takes place. In fact, insulting someone by “stealing a kiss” is one of the events that leads to The Hillsville Courthouse Massacre/Tragedy.
A long-time feud between the Allen family and the “Courthouse Clan” came to a head inside the Hillsville Courthouse in March 1912 and this event resulted in the largest shootout within a courthouse in Virginia history. The story followed with a nationwide manhunt and made national news until the sinking of the Titanic the following month.
Growing up in Carroll County, I knew a few things about this story. Rumors and whispers, really. Most folks didn’t talk about it because it still caused a stir among those who were descendants (because another thing about Appalachia is that families tend to stay on or around family land for generations). People still took “sides”. So, when I decided to write this book, I knew I was stepping into precarious territory. Not that anyone would start up a shootout nowadays because of a book, but because people still have some deep feelings about how their ancestors are portrayed in history, and since many of my family members still live in Carroll County, I wanted to tread carefully into the events of “The Allen Tragedy”.
What I discovered was a story that still held a whole lot of mystery even one hundred years later. Bullet holes still mark the courthouse steps from that fateful day, rumors still circulate about who was to blame, and no one knows who fired the first gunshot that began the tragic shooting.
I’m not a “scary” book writer or reader, but I love a good adventure, so this book takes the reader on an adventure into Appalachia to my neck of the woods, and follows the journey of Ava Burcham and Jeremiah Sutphin as they live among the illegal moonshiners, dirty cops, and mountain gunslingers of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
(To learn more about the true events of the Courthouse Tragedy, you can read about it here: https://roanoke.com/news/virginia/the-courthouse-tragedy-gunfight-in-hillsville-in-1912/article_45d0d7f3-6e1f-57c4-83be-fceb3d98dafd.html)
Have you ever read a book set in Appalachia? If so, what was the title and what did you learn about the Appalachian culture? Have you ever visited the Blue Ridge Mountains?
Let’s chat mountain people, mountain ways, and mountain books 😊
Of the eight True Colors books published by Barbour thus far, this latest one by Pepper Basham is my favorite. The Red Ribbon is based on the 1912 Hillsville Courthouse Massacre in Carroll County, Virginia, an event unknown to me before reading this book. Nothing says historic Appalachia like a feud, and this story illustrates how deeply grudges run through generations and how it takes only one small spark to set them ablaze: “A terrible foreboding rife with long-held anger and blind rage breathed out from the crowd, with fingers from the past twisting half truths and hard hearts.” As a resident of northern Appalachia myself, I have always loved the rural and the rustic, preferring the backwoods over the city any day. Therefore, I was fairly certain that I was going to enjoy this book, and having no foreknowledge of the crime was an added bonus in the suspense department!
With skilled authenticity, Basham interlaces the historical record with fictional characters to create a tragic and inspirational tale complete with wholesome romance. As much as I love language, usually thick dialect distracts and even outright bothers me because it slows my pace and causes me to have to translate, but in this case it didn’t. None of the dialogue is at all difficult to figure out, and much of it reflects what I’ve grown up hearing, which lends it a comfortable familiarity. In this way and so many others, I feel a special connection with this book. I can easily connect with Ava Burcham and her fondness for writing, and with Jeremiah Sutphin’s bond with his dog, Wolf. The strength of family ties, whether biological or chosen, continues to be a mainstay for many in the Appalachian and other rural regions today.
Because the main characters are fictional, The Red Ribbon has an intriguing sense of unpredictability. Up until the final chapter or two, how the ending will play out is largely a mystery, which makes me appreciate it all the more. Basham explores the dynamics of mountain life, including tragedy and trauma and how they shape the characters in both the past and the present. The subject of faith comes up mostly with regard to Ava, for whom “God had always seemed so far away, so distant, from the shadows waving a sinister hand over the works of the world. She’d asked Him into her heart as a little girl, but with so much brokenness in her past, could she really trust Him with her future?” A struggle with which we all contend sometimes, trusting God comes more naturally when we go through difficult circumstances and, with each one, see how He provides for us and cares for us.
Epigraphs for each chapter consist of Appalachian aphorisms from either Granny Burcham or Granddaddy Sutphin; they set the scene for the chapter and impart mountain wisdom. A cast of characters appears at the front of the book, which can be very helpful but which does have some spoilers for the story’s outcome (particularly for those with no prior knowledge of this historical event), so read it with caution! Given how reactive some of the characters are, it is easy to draw parallels between the early twentieth century and the present. As Ava realizes, though, we all have a choice: “She could focus on the losses and pain, allowing those dark thoughts to color the filter of every other scene in her life, or she could choose thankfulness, gratitude, and the belief that God touched it all with hope—held it all—and never took His attention away from her.” Which will you choose?
I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥
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Inklings and notions, October 31
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Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, October 31
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For Him and My Family, November 1
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Remembrancy, November 5
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Amanda Tero, blog, November 11
Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, November 11
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To celebrate her tour, Pepper is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.