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REVIEW:  My Name is Resolute by Nancy E Turner

REVIEW: My Name is Resolute by Nancy E Turner

my-name-is-resolute

The year is 1729, and Resolute Talbot and her siblings are captured by pirates, taken from their family in Jamaica, and brought to the New World. Resolute and her sister are sold into slavery in colonial New England and taught the trade of spinning and weaving. When Resolute finds herself alone in Lexington, Massachusetts, she struggles to find her way in a society that is quick to judge a young woman without a family. As the seeds of rebellion against England grow, Resolute is torn between following the rules and breaking free. Resolute’s talent at the loom places her at the center of an incredible web of secrecy that helped drive the American Revolution.

Dear Ms. Turner,

This book is a long saga. Which is not my favorite type of story but I knew going in that the book covered decades and it was my own choice to begin it. Several people I know have read and loved your previous books which made me want to try one. I love this time in history and hoped that the momentous events covered would make up for my personal bias against long books.

The beginning third is riveting. Ressie’s ten year old self is honest about what she sees and experiences though not with understanding beyond her age. She truly doesn’t know what her sister saves her from nor what Patience – Patey – endures for a few crusts of bread to keep the sisters alive on the pirate boat. In Resolute’s journey away from Jamaica and to the American Colonies, we see the resilience of children and how she learns to adapt to being a captive.

Ressie’s life as an indentured servant – or slave as some see fit to think her – was eye opening. Here is a hard life in the raw with the easy possibility of death at any moment, which is a theme throughout the book. Her capture by Abenaki Indians, travel to Montreal and years spent in a Ursuline convent there opens a whole chapter of history in the Americas of which I had no knowledge. These are the events that seal in Resolute the dyed in the wool desire for freedom, for liberty and to never be a captive again.

I also enjoyed the next period in Resolute’s life when she reentered English society and found her calling in life – that of weaving. As a woman alone, she has few ways to make an honest and honorable living but with the beautiful cloth she weaves, she can maintain her independence. When a handsome young man comes into her life, she finds her lifelong love, even if they do spark and argue at times.

Then the boring middle section began. Boring. Boring, The battles of the French and Indian Wars are raging yet what we see is Ressie getting (understandably) angry at the pettiness of a forgettable character then being taken to trial and facing her punishment. Beyond showing the justice of the day, the only other purpose that I can see is it sets up the teeth gnashing villains.

Once Ressie’s men are back from the war, we enter a new period in her, and their – life. Britain needed money to pay for the recent war and began to tax just about everything except breathing. Seeing the many and various ways that the taxes ruined honest tradesmen and brought others nearly to their knees trying to pay what the Crown demanded, I could see the rise in resentment and need of people to resort to any means they could just to survive. Of course, Ressie’s husband and privateer brother are soon in the thick of plotting and scheming ways to evade the new taxes and raise the spirit of rebellion.

I have to say that honestly sometimes Ressie is thick as a brick. She can keep her own secrets and has elaborate signals worked out yet when confronted with her husband and brother’s involvement in the little acts of rebellion against the Crown during the 1760s, she acts like subterfuge is totally beyond her ability to understand and has to have things explained. It might be an authorial instrument to explain the ways the Sons of Liberty passed on information but it makes Resolute look like an idiot.

As the book went on there was death. Lots of death. Well, that’s true to the times but saddening none the less, especially the degree of it. I’ve realized that while I want historic authenticity, I don’t want such a large number of the characters I come to know in a book to die and double that feeling if the deaths start to feel like events just tossed into the story for no other reason than to allow Resolute to wallow in grief some more or, worse still, mentioned in passing as if they are of almost no importance.

Inserting fictional characters among historical ones has to be done carefully for me to believe it. Unfortunately here some people, such as General Washington, are stuck into a scene in a way that seems merely as if to say, “See, here are real person randomly stuck into the story just because.”

I hope that some typos are fixed. More than once each King George (I, II, and III) is referred to as King Charles. But I did learn the difference between the Battle of Preston and Prestonpans. There are also moments of overwrought melodrama plus, as mentioned earlier, three characters who are naught but black villains with no shades of gray. They got very tiresome.

I wish the book had managed to maintain its strong beginning. The setting is interesting, the plot taught me new things about Colonial America and I had high hopes for it. But instead it slowed to molasses in places, depressed me with the sheer number of people who died and ended with more of a whimper than a bang. It also confirms for me the fact that most long sagas are probably books I should avoid from now on. C-

~Jayne

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REVIEW: The Silver Locket by Margaret James

REVIEW: The Silver Locket by Margaret James

“If life is cheap, how much is love worth?
It’s 1914 and young Rose Courtenay has a decision to make. Please her wealthy parents by marrying the man of their choice – or play her part in the war effort?

The chance to escape proves irresistible and Rose becomes a nurse. Working in France, she meets Lieutenant Alex Denham, a dark figure from her past. He’s the last man in the world she’d get involved with – especially now he’s married.

But in wartime nothing is as it seems. Alex’s marriage is a sham and Rose is the only woman he’s ever wanted. As he recovers from his wounds, he sets out to win her trust. His gift of a silver locket is a far cry from the luxuries she’s left behind.

What value will she put on his love?”

Dear Ms. James,

The lovely cover for your book “The Silver Locket” caught my attention even before I knew anything about the plot. When I discovered it is set during World War I, I knew I had to try it. But even though I found it well written and researched, ultimately the telegraphing of the major plot points and the final fate of one of the characters left me slightly dissatisfied.

The Silver LocketThe book begins in prewar 1914 and continues through 1919 thus putting it in what I call the saga category. Add to that the fact that the central characters are involved in such a horrible war, and I knew that there would be plenty of separations, heartache and tragedy. At this point in my life, I’ve discovered that usually I don’t care for these long, drawn out stories anymore. But in this case, the separations are skipped over thus mitigating that aspect I don’t care for.

The historical elements seem to be well researched and are included in a way that flows with the story rather than clogging it up with “oh, look at all the information I uncovered while writing this book” details. While the early section of the book seems a touch bland, once Rose runs off to London to be a nurse and Alex reaches the trenches, the color and intensity of the narrative hightens. I like that you don’t go overboard with high flown phrases or TMI about the nastier details of nursing or life at war. There’re a gracious plenty to adequately illuminate what’s going on without too much to gross out.

However, there is a tendency to include sign posts of upcoming plot points. When you included information about how nurses could be injured moving from one railroad car to another, I knew sooner or later Rose would be injured thusly. Ditto when Rose blithely tells another nurse that Red Cross trains were never bombed and that she wanted to go to Russia as an adventure because nothing would happen there. It was like road construction signs warning of upcoming detours and delays.

The story is about much more than just Alex and Rose. It’s chock-a-block with other characters though they do all center on Rose and Alex. While I like having a rich blend of secondary characters to fill out the plot, in the end, it felt as if a lot of these people were in the story enough to annoy me trying to remember who they all were without being much more than cardboard figures trotted out when you need to heap another roadblock in the road to Alex and Rose’s final happiness. I needed either more or less of them.

And my weren’t there roadblocks galore. Marriages, babies, class differences, adultery, parental expectations, the evil villain, supposed death, injuries, and disinheritance along with the war and its attending horrors were all things for Rose and Alex to overcome. I don’t mind that true love never runs smooth and that the heroine and hero will have to work for their HEA but as I read along, it felt like a check list of soap opera points that needed to be included.

And let’s look at the villain of the story. I won’t mention a name but it will be obvious to readers whom I’m talking about. Like a bad penny he keeps turning up throughout the story, right when he’s needed to sow discontent and act as one of the aforementioned roadblocks. And though I can see that he can’t be made to pay for his crimes and misdeeds before the end of the book – since he needs to be available to wreck more havoc – I’ll be honest and say that his ultimate fate pissed me off. “What?!” I sputtered. “He does all these things, causes all this trouble and *this* is how he’s made to pay?” Okay, I can see that his class and connections would protect him to some degree from official condemnation and accountability but for me he needed to pay, and pay dearly, even if only privately, for what he’d done.

So, the abundance “I knew it was coming” Murphy’s Law events plus the seemingly endless obstacles to our HEA lessened my enjoyment of the book.
The story is technically well written, I wanted to know what would happen, wanted Alex and Rose to find their happiness, appreciated the time you took with research and how nicely it’s added to the story but when I close a book slightly depressed, it’s not a good sign. I’m sure readers who want to watch a heroine and hero triumph over a mountain of obstacles on the way to final bliss will like it better but for me it’s a C-.

~Jayne

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