Candle in the Darkness

by Lynn Austin
Series: Refiner's Fire #1
432 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Jeanne

Excellent Civil War novel with some sexual content not for children.


Caroline lives in the South at the time of the Civil War. She believes wholeheartedly that slavery is wrong, but when her husband and her closest cousin go off to fight the Union, will she have the courage to do what she thinks is right?


Because of her views on slavery, Caroline does some spying for the Northerners. She also helps a Union soldier to escape, hiding him from the prison guards. She gives maps to escaped slaves and also teaches her black nanny to read and write - a crime in the South.

Spiritual Content

Caroline is a Christian, as are most of the characters in the story. God is frequently mentioned and worshipped.


During the war many men are shot up. As Caroline helps at the hospital, many wounds and death are mentioned.

Slaves are whipped by their overseers.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Wine is mentioned and drunk. Caroline's father gets intoxicated once or twice, but both times it is portrayed as a bad thing.

Sexual Content

When one of Caroline's cousins gets married, another cousin says that she doubts the one who got married even remembered that she would have to share a bed with her husband. The cousin also pretends that her pillow is her non-existent husband, but Caroline thinks this is wrong. Intimacy in marriage is mentioned in one other place. A man kisses a woman on the neck; Caroline kisses her fiance.

At one point a man hides in Caroline's bed to escape the soldiers who are looking for him, but nothing untoward happens. Caroline is accused of being in a relation with this man, though it isn't true and the suggestion is by no means graphic.

In one part of the story, during an Abolitionist speech in the North, a runaway slave says that he is the illegitimate son of a slave and her master. Another instance of this is mentioned at the end of the story.

Crude or Profane Language or Content



'Candle in the Darkness' is a very good novel of the Civil War. The way the story is written in the first person through Caroline's eyes is pleasing and well done, and the moral struggles very interesting. Also, it is shown that the war was not only fought over slavery, but also over 'states' rights' - something largely overlooked in many Civil War novels.

However, the sexual content (especially that involving slavery) makes the story ill-advisable for younger children.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 4.5
Written for Age: adult

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