Somerset by Leila Meacham
(Grand Central Publishing, 2014, 624 pages)
In this prequel to Roses, Meacham tells the story of how the Tolivers, Warwicks, and DuMonts first came to Texas and the start of the Toliver curse. After Silas Toliver’s father died, the entire plantation and estate was given to his older brother. Silas’s dream was always to be able to stand and look out onto his plantation and fields of cotton and call it his own. So him and his best friend, Jeremey Warwick, hatch a plan to take a wagon trail to the new territory of Texas to settle their own land. But when Silas runs into money trouble, he makes a deal to satisfy his own greed and begins the Toliver curse.
I enjoyed this prequel to Roses but it’s been so long since I read Roses that I’m sure there were some references or foreshadowing that I missed. The family charts helped at the beginning but it also spoiled the twist that happens about 150 pages into the story. My favorite character was Jessica because of how strong she was and how she always stuck to what she believed in, even when her family is about to shun her or when everyone in town, including her husband, disagrees with her beliefs. She reminded me a lot of Mary in Roses except unlike Mary who would do anything for the plantation, Jessica would do anything for her beliefs in human rights. I like that Meacham went back to do a prequel of the families to show the history and the beginning to the Toliver curse, but I can’t decide if I would recommend to read Roses first because it is the stronger book or Somerset to get the family history if a reader was looking to begin the series.