The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear (Throwback Book Review)

This month for our Throwback book we’re diving into The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear. It is a step back in time to the Tennessee Mountains where true crime and history collide in a book you can’t stop reading; a dark chapter of true history in America. This book is a part of the series called True Colors. All of the books in the series are different historical stories of American criminal activity and most of them are unique stories of historical romantic suspense that I hadn’t heard of before.

Throwback book of the month: The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear

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The Blue Cloak (Book #5)

By Shannon McNear
Genre: Historical, True Crime

Based on real events beginning in 1797 — Rachel Taylor lives a rather mundane existence at the way station her family runs along the Wilderness Road in Tennessee. She attends her friend’s wedding only to watch it dissolve in horror as the groom, Wiley Harpe, and his cousin become murderers on the run, who drag their families along. Declaring a “war on all humanity,” the Harpes won’t be stopped, and Ben Langford is on their trail to see if his own cousin was one of their latest victims. How many will die before peace can return to the frontier?

Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, and Bookbub.

Review of The Blue Cloak

The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear summed up in one word is: STUNNING. 

When I read true crime I find it very difficult to give it a rating (I mean this stuff actually happened!) so I tend to base my rating more on how the author conveyed everything. With The Blue Cloak though, I was stumped. 

When I started reading The Blue Cloak I could not stop thinking about the characters and their plights. Shannon McNear brought to life a haunting story of innocence shattered that is a devastating account of a true eighteenth century crime; and she did it with careful respect and research for all the people involved. It was equal parts history and pure historical suspense—a combination that left me wanting to finish and scared of what was going to happen next.

Shannon McNear wove in such a thread of good triumphs and hope amidst this dark piece of history gone wrong, with heart-wrenching details that captivated my mind and to this day still won’t let go. It is a testament to the strength of the human spirit that Rachell and Ben ended up doing what they did. 

The historical detail and research that went into the writing of this book were phenomenal, it made the story even more eye-opening for me. One of the best parts was that Shannon McNear took the time at the end (in the author’s note) to explain several different aspects of the story and the historical documentation to back them up. It showed just a glimpse of the great amount of diligent research that went into crafting this story and I really appreciate how she wove it in with the edge of your seat feeling.

As I said in the beginning though, it is always hard to rate this type of book. I mean, we’re talking about characters in a book ( a TRUE CRIME BOOK) that have seen the true brutality of mankind at its worst, fear that their friends and family are in the clutches of evil, and fear for their own lives as they try and catch some of America’s first serial killers; before the word serial killer was even invented.

How does one rate THAT? How can you rate the truth when presented to you in detail?

So I’ll say this, Shannon McNear’s The Blue Cloak is a very well-written story, an enjoyable read (in a deeply moving way), a great historical account interwoven with some light, and it was told with her customary skill of weaving fact and fiction. The cast of memorable characters giving this truthful story a new light and a hope that we can learn from this almost forgotten piece of southern history and prevent it from happening again.

Shannon McNear is one of my top favorite authors of historical fiction (an Auto-buy author) and I highly encourage you go check out her other stories. 

About the Author

Shannon has been writing one thing or another since third grade and finished her first novel at age fifteen—but waited more than thirty years for her first book contract. In the meantime, she graduated from high school, attended college, met and married her husband, birthed nine children, lost one, taught five to drive, revised that first story innumerable times, and completed six others.

Her first published novella, Defending Truth, in A Pioneer Christmas Collection (Barbour, 2013 & 2015), was a 2014 RITA® nominee, and her most recent one, The Wise Guy and the Star in Love’s Pure Light was a 2021 SELAH winner. She writes regularly for Colonial Quills, is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Faith-Hope-Love Christian Writers, and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.

Transplanted to North Dakota after more than two decades in Charleston, South Carolina, she loves losing herself in local history. When this homeschooling mom isn’t cooking, researching, or leaking story from her fingertips, she enjoys being outdoors, basking in the beauty of the northern prairies.

Find her at

Other Books in the True Colors Series

The White City (Book #1) by Grace Hitchcock

While attending the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, Winnifred Wylde believes she witnessed a woman being kidnapped. She tries to convince her father, an inspector with the Chicago police, to look into reports of mysterious disappearances around the White City. Inspector Wylde tries to dismiss her claims as exaggeration of an overactive imagination, but he eventually concedes to letting her go undercover as secretary to the man in question—if she takes her pistol for protection and Jude Thorpe, a policeman, for bodyguard.

Will she be able to expose H. H. Holmes’s illicit activity, or will Winnifred become his next victim?

Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, and BookBub.
*Just an FYI this book has been republished as Miss Wylde in The White City

The Pink Bonnet (Book #2) by Liz Tolsma

Widowed in Memphis during 1932, Cecile Dowd is struggling to provide for her three-year-old daughter. Unwittingly trusting a neighbor puts little Millie Mae into the clutches of Georgia Tann, corrupt Memphis Tennessee Children’s Home Society director suspected of the disappearance of hundreds of children. With the help of a sympathetic lawyer, the search for Millie uncovers a deep level of corruption that threatens their very lives.

How far will a mother go to find out what happened to her child?

Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, and Bookbub.

The Yellow Lantern (Book #3) by Angie Dicken

In Massachusetts in 1824, Josephine Clayton awakes on the table of the doctor she’s assisted all these months. She was presumed dead by all and has become the doctor’s next corpse for his medical research. Frightened, the doctor tries to kill her, but Josephine begs to be spared. A deal is struck–Josie will leave her village and work at a distant cotton mill. All the while, she’ll await her true mission–posing as a mourner to help his body snatcher procure her replacement. At the mill though, Josie is praised for her medical remedies among the mill girls, gaining attention from the handsome factory manager Braham Terrance. Yet, when Braham’s own loved one becomes the prey for the next grave robbing, Josie must make a choice that could put her dark past behind her or steal away the promise of any future at all.

What price will Josie pay for love when her secrets begin to unravel?

Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, and BookBub.

The Gray Chamber (Book #4) by Grace Hitchcock

Will Edyth prove her sanity before it is too late?

On Blackwell Island, New York, a hospital was built to keep its patients from ever leaving.

With her late father’s fortune under her uncle’s care until her twenty-fifth birthday in the year 1887, Edyth Foster does not feel pressured to marry or to bow to society’s demands. She freely indulges in eccentric hobbies like fencing and riding her velocipede in her cycling costume about the city for all to see. Finding a loophole in the will, though, her uncle whisks Edyth off to the women’s lunatic asylum just weeks before her birthday. Do any of Edyth’s friends care that she disappeared?

At the asylum she meets another inmate, who upon discovering Edyth’s plight, confesses that she is Nellie Bly, an undercover journalist for The World. Will either woman find a way to leave the terrifying island and reclaim her true self?

Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, and BookBub.

The Green Dress (Book #6) by Liz Tolsma

Fiction Based on Strange, But True, History

True, riveting stories of American criminal activity are explored through a unique stories of historical romantic suspense. Collect them all and be inspired by the hope that always finds its way even in the darkest of times.
In Boston, 1886, Harriet Peters commissions Sarah Jane Robinson to make her a new dress. Both widows are struggling to make ends meet, and they strike up a quick friendship. Harriet feels sorry for Sarah Jane, who has suffered so much loss in her life. But Harriet’s friend, Dr. Michael Wheaton, has concerns that death seems to follow Sarah Jane in mysterious ways Still, Harriet can’t imagine any deceit in her friend, who she comforts through the deaths of her daughter and nephew. Will Harriet’s trusting nature lead to her own demise as a persistent stomachache starts to plague her?

Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, and Bookbub.

The Black Midnight (Book #7) By Kathleen Y’Barbo

Could a series of murders in London in 1889 be related to unsolved murders in Austin, Texas, 1884? Queen Victoria wants to know and asks her granddaughter—who left the queen’s good graces by going off to America to become a Pinkerton agent—to quietly look for any connection. The catch is the queen doesn’t want her to do it alone. Alice Anne must find her former Pinkerton agent partner—now an attorney in Austin—and enlist him in the hunt. As the pair get closer to finding their suspect, their lives become endangered, but they refuse to be intimidated. Can this case be solved?

Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, and BookBub.

The Red Ribbon (Book #8) by Pepper Besham

In Carroll County, a corn shucking is the social event of the season, until a mischievous kiss leads to one of the biggest tragedies in Virginia history. Ava Burcham isn’t your typical Blue Ridge Mountain girl. She has a bad habit of courtin’ trouble, and her curiosity has opened a rift in the middle of a feud between politicians and would-be outlaws, the Allen family. Ava’s tenacious desire to find a story worth reporting may land her and her best friend, Jeremiah Sutphin, into more trouble than either of them planned.

The end result? The Hillsville Courthouse Massacre of 1912.

Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, and Bookbub.

The Gold Digger (Book #9) by Liz Tolsma

Men Are Disappearing in LaPorte, Indiana

In 1907, shy but loyal Ingrid Storset travels from Norway to support her grieving sister, Belle Gunness, who owns a farm in LaPorte, Indiana. Well-to-do widow Belle, who has lost two husbands and several children, provides Ingrid with enough money to start a small business. But Ingrid is confused by the string of men Belle claims to be interviewing for her next husband. When Nils Lindherud comes to town looking for his missing brother, who said he was going to marry Belle, Ingrid has a sinking feeling her sister is up to no good.

Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, and Bookbub.

The Purple Nightgown (Book #10) by A.D. Lawrence

Marvel at true but forgotten history when patients check into Linda Hazzard’s Washington state spa in 1912 and soon become victim of her twisted greed.

Heiress Stella Burke is plagued by insincere suitors and nonstop headaches. Exhausting all other medical aides for her migraines, Stella reads Fasting for the Cure of Disease by Linda Hazzard and determines to go to the spa the author runs. Stella’s chauffer and long-time friend, Henry Clayton, is reluctant to leave her at the spa. Something doesn’t feel right to him, still Stella submits herself into Linda Hazzard’s care. Stella soon learns the spa has a dark side and Linda a mean streak. But when Stella has had enough, all ways to leave are suddenly blocked. Will Stella become a walking skeleton like many of the other patients or succumb to a worse fate?

On Goodreads, Amazon, and Bookbub.

The Silver Shadow (Book #11) by Liz Tolsma

Denver of 1900 is still a dangerous place to be following the silver crash of 1893. And of out of the dark comes a shadow intent on harming women. Ambitious young Denver newspaper reporter Polly Blythe is searching for the big story that’s going to launch her career. On Friday evening, August 24, 1900, she gets her break when two women are cracked over the head within a two-minute walk of each other. But policeman Edwin Timmer thwarts Polly’s ideas of a serial criminal. . .until the shadowy figure strikes again. Will the reporter and the policeman team up to find the culprit before her strikes too close for comfort?

On Goodreads, Amazon, and Bookbub.

The Scarlet Pen (Book #12) by Jennifer Uhlarik

Enjoy a tale of true but forgotten history of an 19th Century serial killer whose silver-tongued ways almost trap a young woman into a nightmarish marriage.

In 1876, Emma Draycott is charmed into a quick engagement with Stephen Dee Richardson after meeting him at a church event in Mount Pleasant, Ohio. But within the week, Stephen leaves to “make his fame and fortune.” The heartbroken Emma gives him a special fountain pen to write to her, and he does with tales of grand adventures. Secret Service agent Clay Timmons arrives in Mount Pleasant to track purchases made with fake currency. Every trail leads back to Stephen—and therefore, Emma. Can he convince the naïve woman she is engaged to a charlatan who is being linked a string of deaths in Nebraska?

On Goodreads, Amazon, and Bookbub.

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