REVIEW: Challenge the Wind by Debra Tash
Dear Ms Tash,
It was the plot of this book which led me to buy it knowing nothing about you or your writing style. I love me some American Revolutionary books and was interested to see that this one would feature some regular British troops in addition to the upper class officers I’m used to seeing in romance novels. After reading it, I can assure you I’ll be seeking out books you’ve written and hoping for ones as good as this one.
Matthew Smith seizes Sarah Lloyd and her family as prisoners on a clear autumn day. Leading a party of British deserters, he now holds the family hostage north of Saratoga, New York. The Americans have just won a decisive battle, the turning point in their revolution, but Matthew’s turning point is yet to come. On another battlefield in Pennsylvania, the Lloyd’s oldest son struggles to find meaning in this war, while his twin sister remains trapped inside the British-occupied, rebel-capital of Philadelphia. The fate of each one of these people will be forged together that brutal winter of 1777.
I’ve read books about soldiers in the field, about people in enemy occupied cities but rarely have I read ones that include every day average Joes out in the countryside. With your book, you managed to cover all these bases. I really liked how you didn’t heap villainy on the heads of the British (even though the story is mainly sympathetic to the American side) and how Matthew and Quinn each have distinct reasons for joining the American cause. You take your time setting up their stories, their beliefs, their introspections about the War and what personal reasons each found for his change of heart. Nothing was rushed and I thank you for that. I also found their interactions and growing friendship with the Lloyd family to be realistic.
I found the sections set in Valley Forge to be less gripping. Not that you didn’t do a fine job portraying the horrors of that desperately cold winter but these parts seemed, I dunno, somehow forced and more wooden. Adam and his father came across more as stereotypes or manequins spouting historical facts and political rhetoric. When I started reading the section about Molly in Philly, I mentally groaned and thought, now how many times have I read this scenario? Feisty American heroine reluctantly falls for hunky British officer, managing to get in some good sex while she converts him to the cause of Liberty. And then I actually read what you’d written and realized to my delight that you’d taken that tired plot and turned it into something new and different.
But I think the thing I like the most about the book is its realism. You’re not afraid to let reality touch each character. It’s a story set during a war and by its nature, war causes deaths. I did mourn the loss of some characters but found the story better for your willingness to let some things happen. The historical information is cleverly spun through the story so it doesn’t whack us over the head with a massive info dump nor have to be explained in too simplistic terms.
When I started the book, I thought even with unusual characters I would still end up with several standard romance plot threads ending in standard ways but you turned a few of them on their heads. Brava.