Donaldson’s Novel, Hearts of Mercy, Explores The Misogyny That Brutalized Women Of The Great Smokies

Nineteen-year-old Viney Walker introduces progressive ideas to Wear’s Valley and outwits the 19th century vigilantes who beat women for defy the clan’s standards.

“Shocking, intriguing and poignant. Joan captures a moment in time few are aware of. Beautifully written and researched.” –Viola Shipman, International Best-Selling Author of The Recipe Box

Fleeing heartbreak, Viney Walker reluctantly follows her father to his new home deep into the Great Smoky Mountains, where she encounters the wrath of a vigilante group. The White Caps terrorize the women of Wear’s Valley as they impose their sharia law that demands purity. Viney chafes over the rules, as vicious as those endured by contemporary women in the Middle East or the double standards woven into other cultures.

When Viney falls in love with her cousin, James, she ignores the White Cap’s warning even though she secretly witnesses the clan whipping a girl. Instead of silent obedience, Viney feeds her rage by drawing strength from the equality she experienced while living in Rugby, a Utopian Community, and where her sister, Lizzie remains. And from the grit displayed by her cousins, the Walker Sisters whose high mountain top home protects them from the fury of the White Caps. Like the women of today who raised their voices against abuse, Viney determines to undermine the White Caps’ rule and bring freedom to the valley.

As Viney’s love for James and for her father unfolds, she plots with a counter vigilante group, The Blue Bills to destroy the White Cap’s reign. She only reveals her plan to Lizzie, who fears for her sister’s life. Blinded by love, Viney stumbles into the White Caps’ trap. With her hands tied to a porch post, Viney begs for mercy and receives it from the man who rejected her. Through the first person, Viney’s voice will draw readers into the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains as she explores a dark time in Tennessee’s history. Hearts of Mercy shows the power of a sister’s protection, the might of a father’s sacrifice, and the distance that a man will travel to claim the heart of his beloved.

About the Author: Joan Donaldson is the author of four books for young people. Her novel, On Viney’s Mountain won the 2010 Friends of American Writers Award, appeared on the Bank Street List of Best Books of 2010, and represented the State of Tennessee at the 2010 National Book Festival sponsored by the Library of Congress. She earned a MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Spalding University, Louisville, KY, and has published personal essays in The Christian Science Monitor and other magazines. With her husband, John, she raises organic blueberries. She loves to garden, play her Celtic harp, and make quilts with the help of her corgi, Merlin and orange cat, Fergi. She is represented by AKA Literary Management and may be contacted at: or on Facebook or Twitter.

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.