The American Revolutionary War tests a family’s political ideologies in this first novel of a three-part saga.
The area of Troy, New York, might first appear placid but undercurrents of dissent between opposing factions of the Revolutionary War are already visible. The local magistrate, the wealthy Edward Shippens, and his wife Henrietta and daughters, Sarah and Peggy, are devoted Loyalists, faithful to the Crown. Pitted against them are the Patriots, clamoring against “taxation without representation.”
The Seabrooks, Henry and Betty, and their son, John, are Neutralists who are uncommitted in their political stance. But their ideology is tested when trouble brews on three separate fronts: John is increasingly attracted to Peggy Shippen and finds it difficult to separate love and political ideology; a local man dies at the hands of an angry mob that accuses him of Loyalist sympathies; and Betty Seabrook, who travels to remote Fonda, New York, to help her ailing sister, finds that the local Cayuga Indians make life difficult.
While the plot is relatively engaging, extended descriptions cause it to stall often. Sticking to the “show, not tell” principle more often would have served the novel better. The author’s frequent use of the first-person creates distracting interjections: “Jarvis, as I mentioned, was one of the members of the search and rescue team.” Additionally, while it is understandable that the Native Americans would speak in broken English (“Me sure, you do fine”), it is surprising to find here that they also use complex words like “pillage.”
Despite these writing stumbles, readers will appreciate the story’s vast canvas and seeing how the tidal forces of history affected everyday citizens.
BlueInk Heads-Up: Residents of upstate New York will especially appreciate this glimpse into the region’s past, a time when towns shared sheriffs and travel from one small hamlet to another took days.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.