If you’ve never read one of Tara Johnson’s books, I have a treat for you today. Where Dandelions Blooms is my favorite book from her, and Cassie Kendrick is in the house for a character interview. I don’t want to steal her thunder from giving herself an introduction, so I’ll introduce you to Where Dandelions Bloom instead.

Where Dandelions Bloom by Tara Johnson

Cassie Kendrick is on the run. Her abusive father arranged her marriage to a despicable man, but she’s discovered an escape. Disguised as a man, Cassie enlists in the Union army, taking the name Thomas Turner. On the battlefields of the Civil War, keeping her identity a secret is only the beginning of her problems, especially after she meets Gabriel Avery, a handsome young photographer.

Anxious to make his mark on the world and to erase the darkness and guilt lurking from his past, Gabriel works with renowned photographer Matthew Brady to capture images from the front lines of the war. As Gabriel forges friendships with many of the men he encounters, he wonders what the courageous, unpredictable Thomas Turner is hiding.

Battling betrayal, their own personal demons, and a country torn apart by war, can Cassie and Gabriel learn to forgive themselves and trust their futures to the God who births hope and healing in the darkest places?

Purchase Links: Amazon  |  Baker Book House  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Book Depository  |  Christianbook

Now for our interview with Cassie.

CC: I’m so excited to get to introduce you to my readers, Cassie. Would you mind telling them a little bit about yourself?

CK: I’m so tired of running…mostly from my father. You see, he arranged my marriage to our next-door neighbor–a horrible fellow named Erastus Leeds–and when I refused, he threatened me. I never could do anything right in his eyes.

But the Almighty provided a way to escape. Mere days before our doomed wedding, I learned war had been declared between the states. The plan was risky for sure and certain, but I was raised as a farm girl. I know how to handle a weapon. I snuck away from home in the dead of night, chopped off all my hair, and slipped on the disguise of a young man before enlisting in the Michigan 2nd under the name Thomas Turner.

My first obstacle was passing the physician’s inspection. No worries there. All he wanted to know was if I had at least three teeth to tear open powder cartridges. When he saw I had more than enough to spare, he signed a slip of paper declaring me fit for duty.

My second problem is the nosy photographer that has been assigned to follow our regiment. Gabriel Avery is his name. He wants to become a famous photographer like that Mathew Brady fellow. Gabe is likeable enough, I suppose, but he never quits talking! And he doesn’t really know how to defend himself out here on the battlefield. That became apparent when I had to save his skin on more than one occasion. Worse than covering his mistakes is how close we’ve grown in the past few months. I’m not sure what would be worse…being sent home in disgrace to face a miserable future, or Gabe learning I’m not Thomas Turner at all.

No matter what I choose, I’ll be destroying someone…including myself.

CC: Those are some terrible choices, and, knowing your story, it doesn’t get any easier for you. The challenges you face both as a female soldier and as a soldier in general. It is heartbreaking. . . and yet the hope that your story brings is one that I will never forget.

How do you think others view you? Do you feel this is an accurate representation of you? Does it bother you or make you feel good about yourself?

CK: Most people see me as quiet, introverted, and a male. For now, I don’t mind the anonymity. To hide is to escape.

CC: I’d say it’s definitely a good thing for everyone not to know the real you in this situation. 

What is your biggest struggle? Your biggest fear?

CK: My biggest fear is being trapped in the same cycle of abuse I’ve endured my entire life. First with my alcoholic father and now with a betrothal to Erastus Leeds. The rejection slices too deeply to endure anymore. Even my mother, the one person who should have protected me, is under Father’s immovable thumb. I cannot, I will not, be smothered any longer. If my future leads to nothing more than heartache and ashes, at least it will be by my own choosing…no one else’s.

CC: Escaping the cycle of abuse is a terrible struggle. Abuse affects so many. . . it’s just heartbreaking. At least this way, you get a choice in how you move forward. Even if it comes with its own consequences.

Do you have a dream you keep close to your chest that you can share with us? Is there a specific reason you want this? 

CK: To run, to be free. Free from my father. Free from death. Free from pain. Even free from myself.

CC: The ultimate freedom. I think we all seek it in different forms and fashions. It’s so hard to really wrap our minds around the truth of real freedom, but we all long for it.

Who is your least favorite person to deal with? (in the story) Why?

CK: I used to think my biggest problem was Gabe! When we first met, he was too talkative, too nosy, too naive, too…well, everything. But now the handsome photographer is starting to grow on me. I look forward to our chats, his laughter, and the way he looks at the world. Oddly enough, as Gabe and I have grown closer, I’ve noticed a strange gleam in Briggs’ eyes. My fellow soldier and fighter. I’m not sure why, but from time to time, I sense him watching me. And I don’t like it one bit.

CC: I have to say, Gabe does grow on a reader very quickly while Briggs . . . he’d make me uncomfortable too.

Who is your favorite person to deal with? Why?

CK: Grandma Ardie. She is a testament of unconditional love and grace…probably the only true example of love and patience I’ve witnessed in my life. I would give my life for hers a thousand times over.

CC: Grandmas hold a special place in our hearts. I’m actually sort of realizing for the first time that I no longer have any grandmas in my life. `In fact, this question prompted me to call and check on my only Grandpa left. They truly are special people in our lives.

Readers, don’t miss your chance to read Cassie’s story. It is one that will stick with you for years after the story is over, and you’ll NEVER look at dandelions the same. 

About Tara Johnson:

Tara Johnson is an author and speaker, and loves to write stories that help people break free from the lies they believe about themselves.

Tara’s debut novel Engraved on the Heart (Tyndale) earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and finaled in the Carol and Christy awards. Her latest releases, Where Dandelions Bloom and All Through the Night were also published through Tyndale.

In addition to being published in a variety of digital and print magazines, she has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio, Enduring Word radio, television, and numerous podcasts. She is a history nerd, especially the Civil War, and adores making people laugh. She, her husband, and her children live in Arkansas.

Connect with Tara: Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Instagram  |  BookBub  |  GoodReads  |  Pinterest


Readers, are you Civil War fiction fans? Share the titles and authors of your favorite ones below. If you’re not a fan, let me encourage you to try one of Tara’s stories. They don’t strike me as the typical Civil War story, and they leave a lasting impact on your faith. EXCELLENT stories.

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