Alice Bullock is a young newlywed whose husband, Charlie, has just joined the Union Army, leaving her on his Iowa farm with only his formidable mother for company. Equally talented at sewing and gossip, and not overly fond of hard work, Alice writes lively letters to her sister filled with accounts of local quilting bees, the rigors of farm life, and the customs of small-town America. But no town is too small for intrigue and treachery, and when Alice finds herself accused of murder, she must rely on support from unlikely sources.
Rich in details of quilting, Civil War-era America, and the realities of a woman's life in the nineteenth century, Alice's Tulips is Sandra Dallas at her best, a dramatic and heartwarming tale of friendship, adversity, and triumph.
Loyalty, trust and friendship are the themes of Dallas's (The Persian Pickle Club) cozy, suspense-driven epistolary novel, set during the Civil War. When her husband enlists as a Union soldier, teenage newlywed Alice Keeler Bullock must live on his family's Bramble Farm on the outskirts of Slatyfork, Iowa, with only her stern mother-in-law, Mother (Serena) Bullock, for company. Alice is lonely without the constant companionship of her sister, Lizzie, and their six younger brothers. She passes the time writing long, gossip-filled letters to Lizzie in Galena, Ill., and growing passionate about her quilting. Newly pregnant, Alice hopes that the baby will win over her fault-finding mother-in-law, but Alice doesn't make things easy for herself. She regularly boasts about her superior sewing skills, yearns aloud for fashionable clothing and speaks before she thinks. In other words, she is young and ignorant of the ways of the world, which leads to trouble with a Confederate sympathizer, Samuel Smead, who, encouraged by Alice's innocent flirtations, pursues her with an intensity that tarnishes her reputation. Meanwhile, Alice slowly makes friends with girls her own age, including Samuel's sister-in-law, Nealie, and a runaway mother, Annie, seeking shelter for herself and her blind daughter. As the story unfolds, secrets and mysteries abound, and Alice shares every joy and sorrow with her sister by letter, a credible narrative form except when Alice reproduces extended dialogue. The last third of the novel is a delicate balance between sentiment and tragedy; in some instances, the secrets spilled go over the top, with no adequate motives for why characters are so cruel. Alice is a feisty Northern counterpart to Scarlett O'Hara, however, and her irreverent humor and precise expression will keep readers entertained. First serial to Good Housekeeping; author tour.