Review: A Champion's Heart
A CHAMPION'S HEART - Piper Huguley
Liliaceae Publishers
December 2016
REVIEWER:  Brenda Larnell | RATING:  A
REVIEW: If you are familiar with the Bledsoe sisters of the author’s Migrations of the Heart series, then you know there are two sisters whose stories have not been told. This novel features the baby sister of the family, Cordelia “Delie” Bledsoe. Not only does A CHAMPION’S HEART reveal Delie’s journey, but it also ushers in a new series, Born to Win Men, by reacquainting the reader with Champion Bates, who in his former life was a chauffeur for the town’s founding family, the Winslows of Winslow, Georgia. Delie and Champion were childhood sweethearts in Winslow, but when the story opens in 1935, Delie nor Champion are children anymore. As a matter of fact, Delie is the former teacher of First Water School, the school designated for children of color in Winslow, mother to a son, Neal, and surrogate mother to four children who are abandoned by their parents. Champion is a boxer, who after seven years of honing his skills as a prize fighter, is seeking one last, big purse bout with a white man.

The story arcs of this novel highlight the journeys of both the heroine, Delie and the hero, Champion. They embark on a life changing road trip that not only alters their lifestyles, but it also alters their relationship. With the five children and another Bledsoe sister, Em in tow, Champion and Delie set out for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where Delie, Em and the children will join the other Bledsoe sisters and their husbands of the
Migrations of the Heart series. It will be a joyful, yet poignant reunion because, for the first time the town of Winslow will no longer have a Bledsoe as a citizen. Delie and Em, unable to continue the upkeep of the Bledsoe farm, head North to be with family. Champion, who takes time out from training for his big fight, serves as their driver, guide, and protector. He also utilizes that travel time to renew his relationship with Delie. Seven years ago, he made a decision that left Delie alone, pregnant, and slamming the door on any chance of a life together with him. There are health issues and issues of paternity that emerge to add complications, but the complications, along with the great cast of side characters, provide a memorable storyline.

The side characters, the Bledsoe sisters, Ruby, Mags, Nettie and their respective husbands, Dr. Adam Morison, Asa Caldwell, and Jay Evans, are more than incidental characters. They represent stability, family and unconditional love. The children, Neal, Flo, Willie, Roy and Bonnie also play integral roles as catalysts that help to solidify the storyline. Then there is the mother of Champion Bates, Effie Bates, who has her own agenda concerning her son. Author, Piper Huguley, does a masterful job in utilizing this ensemble to build narrative tension and carry the story.

A CHAMPION’S HEART is an impressive launch for a new series and an equally impressive link to a preceding series. I can’t wait to see who will be featured as the next “born to win man”. (There is one more Bledsoe sister left with an unwritten story.) In the meantime, my advice to you is if you have not read the books of the Migrations of the Heart series (A VIRTUOUS RUBY, A MOST PRECIOUS PEARL, A TREASURE OF GOLD) to start with those, in that order and then read A CHAMPION’S HEART. You will not be disappointed. Enjoy!

1st December 2016 |