Welcome!

Welcome!  Tea & Rebellion is a blog by author Tara Cowan.

You will find tidbits about Tara’s books, as well as history, travel, reviews, and likely sweet tea.  Sit back and enjoy a bit of rebellion while you sip!

TARA COWAN has been writing novels since she was seventeen. She is the author of the time-slip Torn Asunder Series and the stand-alone contemporary Thank God for Mississippi. She loves all things history, traveling, watching British dramas, reading good fiction, and spending time with her family.  She writes novels set mostly in the American South. An attorney, Tara lives in Tennessee and is busy writing her next novel.

TARA holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science, with minors in English and History, from Tennessee Tech University and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Tennessee College of Law.

TO CONNECT with Tara, follow her on Instagram, or find her on Facebook or Twitter.

 

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Can You Forgive Her? Review

It has been too long since I made time to read, but I finally made time, and it was so good to get back in the swing of things. Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope, is a novel which was written in 1864, when the U.S. was right in the thick of the Civil War. But this book was set in England and includes no reference to the war whatsoever. That alone was interesting—the same hoopskirts, the same point in time that we have all studied in detail…a very different experience. 

I first discovered Anthony Trollope by watching the Julian Fellowes-directed Doctor Thorne, which was based on Trollope’s book by the same name, on Prime. Fellowes would cozily appear before each episode began to tell us about his love for Trollope and his characters. I had a hunch, given my love of Fellowes’s Downton Abbey, that any novelist whom he liked, I would like also.

As I was looking for a Trollope book to start, I was first intrigued by the title, which seemed very tongue-in-cheek and a little daring. I would describe Trollope’s overall tone as just that, with added ingredients of compassion and a sweet, bouncy narrative form. He starts out the book breaking the fourth wall by babbling something along the lines of: “The thing for which I am going to ask you to forgive her had not yet taken place…” It made me smile immediately. Every once in a while, he breaks the wall to have a little chat with the reader. “I for one am inclined to forgive her… In any event, you must forgive her before the end of this narrative…”

The story follows Alice Vavasor, a young lady who is engaged at the start of the book but can’t really decide whom she wants to marry for various reasons. I don’t want to try to capture Alice here because Trollope draws her as being exquisitely complex. We get so deeply into her head and learn all about her introspection, strength, morality, goodness, insecurities, and stubbornness. Going to that level of understanding a woman felt very modern; you completely forget that it was written during the Victorian Era. There was almost nothing he had to say about women that would make modern readers cringe because Trollope both loves women and never forgets the most important part of writing fiction: to remember the humanity of all. Alice reminds me, more than any character I have ever read, of myself, but it occurred to me that a lot of women might feel the same because Trollope just gets women. He has a way of conveying with clarity the creatures that they are—exquisite and nuanced—so perfectly onto the page that you are shocked to reflect they are not real characters.

This is saying a lot for a book written in 1864 when this level of psychological understanding and exploration was somewhat less than ubiquitous. But psychology seems to be where Trollope shines most in this book. He understands women, he understands how they interact with men, and he understands men. Character after character is portrayed honestly, but always with a dash of compassion, of understanding, in the way of seeing through their eyes—even the villains.

Everyone in Alice’s life gets some airtime. Trollope is meticulous to explore each of his characters’ personalities and motivations in details. Particularly interesting was the marriage of Plantagenet Palliser and Lady Glencora. Trollope explores the unhappiness of Glencora, Alice’s cousin, who is a young wife who was forced into marriage with a man she doesn’t love. He frankly (and scandalously for the time period) explores the possibility of Glencora leaving her husband for another man, and then sensitively fights hard for the marriage. The Palliser couple forms the link for the succeeding Palliser series, apparently. (I am not sure whether I will read the rest because they appear to have an emphasis on political rather than romantic storylines, but I have ordered another book from a different series.)

Another character with a lot of airtime is Alice’s cousin, George, the true villain in the story who even commits violence against a woman, a scene which Trollope doesn’t shy away from putting right on the pages (again, unusual for the time). That being said, even George’s motivations are explored sensitively, and not without a certain measure of sympathy, even if Trollope does have very clear notions of the way things should be and of how people should behave.

Other female characters are Alice’s wealthy aunt and her cousin, Kate, whose lives and personalities are explored in detail along with Alice’s and Glencora’s. Because of this, the book actually felt in some respects like modern women’s fiction. Somehow, I have to imagine that this level of attention to women was ground-breaking in the 1860s. But Trollope does it with a respect for social conventions also that would have made it more palatable to the Victorian reader than if he had tried something more revolutionary.

But the men are not given short shrift either. I particularly liked the character of John Grey, who is a very strong character who made for a romantic plot that moved the story along.

There were some parts that were a bit boring, usually dealing with George’s financial matters, that I did skim over. I would recommend doing that because those parts have the potential to bog the reader down. All in all, however, I really enjoyed the book and feel like I discovered a new author to stand alongside my favorite English historical authors.

The Story of Home

As any who have read my books have probably deciphered, I love old houses. Three years ago, I bought one. It wasn’t old in the truest sense of the word—it was built in 1940—but it was old enough to have character. It wasn’t big—only about 1,300 square feet, with tiny bathrooms and closets—but it served my needs. I recently sold it with plans to move closer to work, but it will always hold a special place in my heart. 

A lot of work went into the house: new paint, some restoration of trim, a new roof, dangerous trees removed, basement work…and a lot still could be done. But the first thing I liked about the house was that it was built of cypress wood, known to be generally distasteful to termites. The wood is beautiful, old, and tough. Between that and plaster walls, I could never hang anything myself.

I had only owned the house a short time when my piano teacher, who became like an aunt over the ten years I took lessons, told me that she had grown up in the house next door. That was special because my siblings and I had soaked up stories of her childhood in between lessons, and it was neat that this was the setting. She knew the people who had been her neighbors, who had lived in my house.

Those people had lost their daughter when she was just a child, she told me, and the mother was not coping. One day, she said, in the upstairs, an angel appeared to the mother and told her that her daughter was fine and that she was going to be fine herself, and that she needed to continue to live. “I knew this was a special house,” I told my piano teacher. “It is a special house,” she answered.

My sweet neighbor next door, who lives in the house my piano teacher grew up in, was friends with the son of the couple who originally built the house. The boy’s father, a high stickler, didn’t think the basement floor was level enough and had teams of mules working on it for days until the required precision was accomplished.

And I feel as though I made my own memories here as well. For one, my grandpa loved the house immediately. It reminded him of some homes from earlier in his life. Usually a bit grumpy about holidays, he loved to come to the house without complaints. My grandma loved it, too. She wanted me to have a proper dining room and gifted me a buffet piece and china cabinet that had belonged to her mother, whom she lost during childhood.

My niece and nephew loved the stairs and to watch the ducks on the river across the road. My family and sister-in-law’s family helped with the renovations and decorations. I hosted friends and family for parties and holidays. There always seemed to be joy in the house. 

And even though it is a small house, and not very old in the scheme of things, I know what people mean when they say they feel like stewards of houses, just taking care of them for their moment in time.

Hymns and Choirs

I use choir music on a lot of my writing playlists, because the joining together of voices evokes so many things—emotion, and mystery among them. I love just about every type of choir. My most favorite is probably the very fancy choirs like King’s Choir at Windsor, followed very closely by the gospel choir. Even though they are very different vibes, both do something to my heart.

Continue reading Hymns and Choirs

A Note on the Humor Style of Thank God for Mississippi

The concept of Thank God for Mississippi was always ninety percent humor. The South is full of legends of comedy, and I came from a family that was always ready to enjoy that. Growing up, I remember my mom flipping to the back of Southern Living to get to the humor piece first. Comedy laced with self-deprecation and Southern-style outrage/annoyance was always in the midst. Family storytelling with an emphasis on humor was and is very much a part of our lives. 

Continue reading A Note on the Humor Style of Thank God for Mississippi

Southern Rain Anniversary Q&A

Today is the third anniversary of the publication of Southern Rain on Amazon KDP. The process has been rewarding, humbling, fun, and, on the beginning, terrifying. To celebrate, I decided to do a Q&A based off questions that I have received about the Torn Asunder Series from readers over the past three years. Obviously, there are some spoilers because this is a deep dive into details of the story. Because I would like to say thank you for all of those who have loved the series, I decided to record my responses to these questions. But please bear with me and excuse the many “um’s” and pauses because I recorded them off-the-cuff. I hope you enjoy it!

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What I’ve Been Watching

Hi friends. It’s time again for some reviews. I thought I would catch you up on new stuff I’ve been watching to help if you are looking for something to watch. Here we go!

STREAMING ON NETFLIX:

  • Indian Matchmaking
    Having survived this long without COVID, I came down with it just as it is uncool… Needless to say, I was more than grateful to find Indian Matchmaking and its delicious drama. The premise is that Indians and Indian Americans call in matchmaker “Sima from Mumbai” to match them. And while it is fun, romancy fluff, you do learn a lot about Indian culture and dating, which in some aspects are very different from American. Anyway, despite all of the cultural differences, if you have ever been out there in the dating pool, similarities abound. Several times, I was thinking, “Oh, yeah, that’s just like this date I had…” Which is heartwarming and funny. Overall, the show is sooo fun.
Continue reading What I’ve Been Watching

Mississippi and Me: Country Music, Inspiration for Past and Present

When I decided to set Thank God for Mississippi in Tennessee, it seemed as natural as breathing to include a passion for the greats of country music in my eponymous character’s repertoire of traits. She loves Dolly Parton and gets affronted when the main male character says something she perceives to be a slight to the Queen of Country Music. She has sung June Carter Cash songs at the annual town fair for years. She has a T-shirt that says: “DOLLY AND LORETTA AND PATSY,” (which is how, the main male character says, he located her at the town fair). You get the picture.

I’ve only just begun to realize the impact country music has had on my life. It’s strange to have grown up in Tennessee, not too far distant from Nashville, and not realize how immersed you are in country music. My childhood home is roughly 65 miles from Nashville, but you could pick up about five of the Nashville country stations and the local ones as well. Dolly Parton, the fairy godmother of Tennessee, is something more than a legend at this point, and we’re basically bottle-fed on her songs. So obviously, there is a natural connection with country music in the area I grew up—and in the area where Thank God for Mississippi is set.

Continue reading Mississippi and Me: Country Music, Inspiration for Past and Present

Persuasion Review

Persuasion (Netflix, 2022) Review

A while back, upon learning that a new adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion was in the works by Netflix, I posted about that, other Persuasion adaptations, and the fabulous book itself. I was hopeful about the adaptation because I felt there was still some of the essence of the novel that was left on the table for a filmmaker to explore.

Continue reading Persuasion Review