REVIEW: The Patriot and the Loyalist by Angela K. Couch
Completing his three years in the Continental Army, Daniel Reid still has no desire to return home—not after losing the woman he loves to a British Captain—so he volunteers to ride south through enemy lines and deliver a message to Colonel Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox. With his temper needing a release and a dark haired beauty finding her way into his broken heart, Daniel decides to join the Swamp Fox’s efforts against the British. Little does he know the British still have the upper hand.
Lydia Reynolds has learned that love comes at a price, and she refuses to pay. Better to close her heart to everything and everyone. When her brother-in-law won’t grant her passage to England, where she hopes to hide from her pain, New Englander, Daniel Reid, becomes her only hope—if she can induce him to give her information about the notorious Swamp Fox and his troops. When the British grow impatient and Daniel evades her questions, Lydia must decide how far to take her charade. The poor man, already gutted by love, hasn’t grown as wise as she. Or so she supposes…
Until the truth is known, the muskets are loaded…and it is time to decide where true loyalties lie.
Dear Ms. Couch,
After reading the first book in the “Hearts at War” series, “The Scarlet Coat,” I was eager to see what the second book would offer. While book one was set in the Mohawk Valley of New York, this one would be nearer to home for me.
Daniel Reid wasn’t shown at his best in the first book. After his temper got the better of him, he did something that he still regrets and which caused great disappointment to those who love him. Seeking escape from this and his own feelings, he joins the Continental Army. The focus of the fighting is now shifting south and Daniel volunteers to head to South Carolina to contact the Swamp Fox. Meeting and assisting a pretty young woman on the evening of his arrival is a promising start to his mission.
Lydia Reynolds is neither fervent patriot nor loyalist. Her deceased father was loyal to England and her brother-in-law seems to be carrying on in the same vein, bringing over war supplies for the British via the family shipping business. A year after the death of his wife, Lydia’s sister, in childbirth, Charles has been pressing Lydia towards a relationship she doesn’t want.
Escape arrives in the news that her maternal grandparents have left her a small cottage in England where she can live and be free of emotional entanglements – which have caused her nothing but pain. Since Charles refuses her passage to England on what Lydia feels are flimsy excuses, she has no other recourse but to seek the help of a British officer billeted in their house. If she can provide him with information about Patriots, especially Francis Marion and his men, he will provide her passage to England. The Northerner Lydia met and whom she suspects of fighting for the Rebels is the perfect person to supply her with the details she needs.
Things take a turn Lydia isn’t prepared for when information she supplies to Daniel as bait for the Rebel forces lures him and many of Marion’s men into an ambush. Injured during the fighting and without a horse to escape, Daniel must rely on one of the few people he knows in the area – Lydia – to conceal him. His accounts of watching American men surrender and be cut down in cold blood horrifies her as she realizes it was her actions that lead to their deaths.
Still, using Daniel and getting the location of the Swamp Fox from him is her only chance to get what she wants. Despite trying to reject her growing interest in him and his descriptions of his family and home in New York, she finds herself negotiating with British Major for more time to try her methods rather than letting the British use their interrogation tactics. Daniel has lost once in love but can’t help his continued feelings for this pretty miss even as he grows suspicious of her pointed questions about Francis and his men. Will Lydia be able to continue to protect her battered heart from loving anyone else? Will Daniel put his battered heart at risk a second time? And what will happen when the British Major tires of waiting?
One thing I’d already noticed in this series is that no characters and the people they love are shielded by that magical bubble of romance book protection from the worries and dangers of the day. Lydia has lost to disease, violence or childbirth every relative except her baby niece and brother-in-law. When she says she doesn’t want to risk loving anyone else, even getting close to little Margaret, because of the possibility of pain, I can see why. Hers is no “I’ve lost once and will never love again.”
Daniel has matured in the intervening three years; he’s seen brave men die and more of the atrocities of war. He’s also had time to think about what he did and how it affected his family’s feelings for him. His lingering guilt has also led him to avoid contacting them despite knowing he should though he treasures the few letters from them that have reached him over the years. When his worst fears about Lydia are seemingly confirmed by people who should know the truth, it is far more powerful a conflict than the usual “one woman has done me wrong and I’ll never even try to love again.”
The pace and plotting of the dangers in the book is well done. Time and again, Lydia and Daniel are faced with exposure, capture and must face the risks they run by their actions. No one, be they loyalist, rebels or fence sitters is totally safe as seen from the destruction and death surrounding the town and countryside. There are close escapes and dangers narrowly averted – well up until the end – but in ways that seem realistic and provide a moment of respite before the tension mounts again.
I did think that the seeming ease with which Daniel makes contact only with fellow patriots while avoiding loyalists was convenient. Lydia’s brother-in-law’s relationship switcheroo was very fast and out of the blue. And why Major Layton didn’t eventually just have Lydia followed to get his hands on the rebel spy was hard to follow. But Lydia’s method of getting Daniel out of captivity was inspired. I liked that it showed that not all the British were evil and dastardly.
As with the first book, religion plays a role but more as a personal catalyst for change in Lydia to allow her to open her heart again – there are no sermons nor preaching. One warning – Lydia’s family has and does still own slaves. It is Daniel, who has been raised without any, who opens Lydia’s eyes to the wrong being done and this inspires her to free the one slave she personally owns.
So onward to the next book which promises to explore another area of regional conflict within this greater conflict. B-