Guest Post & Giveaway: Across the Great Divide by Michael L. Ross

Happy Monday, dear readers! Today on the blog I am very excited to be hosting Michael L. Ross, author of Across the Great Divide! Michael is here to talk a little about his novel and we also have a giveaway so be sure to enter!

I’m Michael Ross, and I’m thrilled to be with you all today on Passages to the Past. Thanks to Amy Bruno at HF Virtual Book Tours for hosting.

Today you can hardly look at the news without sensing the intense divisions in our nation. The divisions have always been there, dating from the earliest conflicts between the Federalists and the Democratic Republicans, but there have been few times when the divisions reached as deep as they do today. One of those past times was the American Civil War. Ordinary families all over the country were gripped by passions and forces that led them to take up arms against one another. The clashing cultures and belief systems, the economic pressures, and the radically different visions for the future of our country led to a conflict that killed more people than several other wars combined.

Suppose you’re a young person, not rich, and wanting an education. A mentor offers you a scholarship – with just one catch – you have to sign a loyalty oath and join his militia. Not so different from joining the National Guard today, right? And for a young woman of the 1860s, options were limited – her life was supposed to be finding the right husband, and raising a family. While women today have many other options, as Melinda Gates says, there’s still a ways to go for gender equality in the workplace, and some careers are thought of as traditionally female, often with lower pay. For a person of color, especially someone outside the United States, the economic barriers can seem unsurmountable.

These are the scenarios of the people in Across the Great Divide: The Clouds of War. Will Crump is a real historical person – I wrote about him for the Texas Historical Society, Handbook of Texas Online. You can see that article here.

I knew Will’s granddaughter Katy Bell Crump when I was a kid growing up in Lubbock, Texas. I was fascinated with the stories – when I became an adult, I looked into it and found even more. The question that haunted me was: how does a normal person get sucked into a war like that? What made families split over the issues, some fighting for the North, others for the South? How could anyone look at slavery and think it was justified? Looking for these answers spurred my research. I read diaries and letters, of soldiers and former slaves, newspapers of the times, non-fiction accounts of battles, scholarly studies like James McPherson’s What They Fought For 1861-1865. I learned about slave patrols from the Harvard Press book “Slave Patrols” by Sally Hadden, conditions in northern prison camps from Levy’s “To Die in Chicago”. As I read the stories, words, and lives of those from the past, they began to come alive for me.

And so we come to Lexington, Kentucky, in 1859. Fifteen year old Will Crump wants off the farm – he dreams of becoming a lawyer, maybe a judge someday. There’s no money for school – but he is offered a scholarship, if he’s willing to join John Hunt Morgan’s Lexington Rifles. Like a youngster signing up for the Marines today, he has no idea where this will lead, but judges it to be worthwhile. Will is an honest person, and stubborn. Once he’s chosen a path, he sticks with it. Later, when his love, Jenny, makes him choose between her and his word to Morgan, he learns some of the cost. John Hunt Morgan joins the Confederate army, forming the Second and Ninth Kentucky Cavalry units, and Will follows.

Will’s eldest sister, Julia, knows she has few prospects and options. At twenty-one, she’s practically an old maid, in the culture of the time. She has no dowry, and she’s no great beauty. Julia dreams of marrying a rich man. When opportunity literally bumps into her, she’s not sure what to think, but takes her chance – leading to a high society life, and adventures as a Union spy. Julia’s character is based on the real-life Pauline Cushman, risking her life for the country she loves.

Albinia, Will’s younger sister, despairs of a life that looks like cleaning, cooking, and children. At seventeen, she has time yet, and her beauty gives her advantages – but she risks jail and life itself as she becomes aware of the plight of the African Americans around her – one in five people in Lexington, Ky. was a slave. Her friendship with Lucy Clay of Ashland gives her a window into the lives of slaves, particularly Luther, about the same age as her brother Will. Once she sees the truth, she cannot turn back. With her love, David, she begins helping on the Underground Railroad – but what will it cost her?

Luther is Lucy Clay’s personal slave, along with Phoebe, a present to her. Luther is glad to be at Ashland, compared to his former master, Jameson, where his mother and sisters still live. He dreams of freedom, but feels it isn’t worth the risk – until he must decide whether to abandon his mother and sisters, as they run from Jameson, or go with them, and risk everything. He knows Albinia, and when chance brings them together, it thrusts her into the Underground Railroad, and Luther into the uncertain path of trusting a white person with his family’s future.

Through the eyes of these four people, we get to live in another time, and see what drove them, and how they cope in the storm – in The Clouds of War. In the style of Jeff Shaara, you’ll meet many actual historical people in the book.

If you enjoy history, I post regularly on and on my blog with little known facts and people of history. Sign up for my newsletter for deals, book recommendations, and visits with History Makers.

Across the Great Divide by Michael L. Ross

Publication Date: May 14, 2019
Elm Hill
eBook, Paperback, Hardcover

Series: The Clouds of War, Book One
Genre: Historical/Christian/Military

Lexington, Kentucky, 1859. After saving John Hunt Morgan from a puma attack, fifteen-year-old farm boy Will Crump joins Hunt’s militia, the Lexington Rifles. Morgan mentors Will and enrolls him in the local university, where he hopes to study law. As tensions rise between the North and South, Will is torn between his loyalty to Morgan and his love for his family. Will’s father, sisters, and sweetheart follow the Union, while Morgan and Will commit to the South. As part of Morgan’s band, Will participates in ambushes and unconventional warfare until his first real battle at Shiloh. He fights bravely, but increasingly questions what the war is accomplishing, and whether his devotion to honor has led him astray. And where is God in all this killing?

Will’s sister Albinia, friend of the Clay family, becomes increasingly aware of the plight of the slaves. When she finds Luther, a slave she knows, trying to escape, she must decide between her conscience, and her friends. She becomes involved in the Underground Railroad, helping slaves to freedom – but will it cost her love and her freedom?

Will’s other sister, Julia, is approaching spinster status and despairs of ever meeting a man who can give her more than life on a farm until she meets Hiram Johannsen, a son of immigrants who owns a steamship company. They marry and she makes a new life in the North. When Hiram answers the call to fight for the North, Julia runs the steamboat company in her husband’s absence and uses her boats to help Albinia ferry escaped slaves to freedom. Her business relations put her in the perfect position to spy for the North. When the Confederates capture her, will she survive?

Luther is one of the first slaves Albinia helps flee the South after his master cruelly abuses his mother and sister. He escapes with his family, and when war breaks out, he fights for the North as an auxiliary of the Third Ohio Cavalry, alongside Julia’s husband, Hiram, and against Morgan and Will. Luther has to confront the demons of his past, an abusive master, and a slave catcher that kills his little sister. Will the desire for revenge destroy him?

Throughout the war, Will is forced to examine and question everything he believes in—his faith in God, his love for his family, his loyalty to Morgan, and his worth as a human being.

Will and his family must somehow mend the torn fabric of relationships to find peace, and reach Across the Great Divide.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

"Ross’s gripping story follows a Kentucky family of modest means and the enslaved people they helped toward freedom. The depictions of slavery ring true, and the use of both historical and fictional characters fills out the probable feelings of people attaining liberty in the bloodiest of all our wars." -Daniel C. Snell, Ph.D., emeritus professor, University of Oklahoma, and scholar of the history of slavery

"Like a great roller coaster, Michael Ross’ debut novel goes up and down with personal crises and national conflict, but it also twists about unexpectedly from character to memorable character in a sprawling story of the Civil War. Will, an earnest young man whose faith and honor sometimes put him at odds with those he loves, is caught up in the struggles of a country grappling with its own destiny. The issues that compel and separate people in ‘neutral’ Kentucky as the war breaks out echo our own era. We, too, are caught in a great divide. If you love a good story pulled from history, and if you are person of faith, you will find it hard to put down “The Great Divide” until the last page." -Daniel A. Brown, PhD, Author of “Embracing Grace,” Pastor, International Speaker

About the Author

Michael Ross is a lover of history and great stories. He's a retired software engineer turned author, with three children and five grandchildren, living in Newton, Kansas with his wife of thirty-eight years. He was born in Lubbock, Texas, and still loves Texas. The main character of "Across the Great Divide", William Dorsey Crump, is one of the founders of Lubbock and Shallowater, Texas. Michael knew Will's granddaughter when he was a child. He has written a scholarly article on Will Crump for the Texas Historical Society, published in the Handbook of Texas Online, and has sold short stories in the past. This is his first novel and the first in the Across the Great Divide series.

Michael attended Rice University as an undergraduate, and Portland State University for his graduate degree. He has degrees in computer science, software engineering, and German. In his spare time, Michael loves to go fishing, riding horses, and play with his grandchildren, who are currently all under six years old.

He sees many parallels between the time of the Civil War and our divided nation of today. Sanctuary cities, immigration, arguments around the holiday table, threats of secession - all are nothing new. Sometimes, to understand the present, you have to look at the past- and reach Across the Great Divide.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, October 7
Review at Historical Fiction Reviews

Tuesday, October 8
Excerpt at Maiden of the Pages

Thursday, October 10
Feature at I'm All About Books

Friday, October 11
Review at Red Headed Book Lady

Saturday, October 12
Review at Reading is My Remedy

Monday, October 14
Review at Al-Alhambra

Wednesday, October 16
Review at Stories Can Make Us Fly

Friday, October 18
Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads

Sunday, October 20
Review at Locks, Hooks, and Books

Wednesday, October 23
Feature at The Caffeinated Bibliophile

Friday, October 25
Guest Post at Passages to the Past

Monday, October 28
Review at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, October 29
Feature at CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, October 31
Review at Older & Smarter?

Friday, November 1
Interview at Passages to the Past

Monday, November 4
Excerpt at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Wednesday, November 6
Review at Just Another Reader

Thursday, November 7
Feature at Coffee and Ink


During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a paperback copy of Across the Great Divide! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on November 7th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Paperback giveaway is open internationally.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

Across the Great Divide

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