REVIEW: The Scarlet Coat by Angela K. Couch
Surrounded by the musket fire of the American Revolution, Rachel Garnet prays for her family to be safe. When the British invade the Mohawk Valley and her father and brother don’t return from the battle, she goes in pursuit of them. She finds her brother alive but her father has been killed at the hand of the enemy. Amidst the death, how can she ignore a cry for help? Rachel reluctantly takes in a badly wounded British officer. But how long can her sense of Christian duty repress her hatred for his scarlet coat?
Passages of Scripture and fleeting images of society are all Andrew Wyndham recalls after he awakens to the log walls of his gentle prison. Even his name eludes him. Rachel Garnet insists he is a captain in the British army. He mourns the loss of his memory, but how can he hope to remember war when his “enemy” is capturing his heart?
Andrew’s injuries are severe, his memory slow to return, and the secret of his existence too perilous to ignore. As Rachel nurses him back to health, his hidden scarlet coat threatens to expose the deeds of her merciful heart, and Andrew is forced to face a harrowing decision—Stay hidden and risk losing the woman he loves or turn himself in and risk losing his life.
Dear Ms. Couch,
Whenever I see a book set during the American Revolutionary War, I try to at least read the blurb. Once plentiful, books utilizing this conflict seem thin on the ground now. I guessed that it would be an inspie so decided to read the excerpt, which sort of reminded me of parts of “Drums Along the Mohawk,” to see just how selfless our heroine was going to be portrayed. The first chapter convinced me to give this one a whirl.
Saving a British officer might be the Christian thing to do and would also avoid having his death on her conscience but this is a time of war and could be seen as an act of treason even though both siblings fully expected him to die within days. Most everyone in the valley had lost kin in the battle or to raiders and as her brother Joseph reminds his sister, the Tories who had lived there had been driven out in vicious actions since the war started.
Their mother’s Christian teaching sunk in though and neither sibling – despite their grief, fears or exhaustion from nursing him – can let this man be killed or turned over to the “tender mercies” of life as a POW. They might want to whack him out of frustration when he attempts to leave too early in his healing so as to relieve them of the danger of his presence but they won’t see him die.
It’s impressive that we actually see Rachel and Joseph working and the effort that would have gone into homestead chores of the day. This wasn’t an easy life under the best of circumstances and neighbors pitched in for all to survive. I did pause over the description of Andrew’s shirt – open front with buttons.
Since this is an inspie, there’s no sex and little physical intimacy but we do get to watch Andrew and Rachel come to respect each other then fall in love over the course of his two month recuperation. Initially Andrew’s amnesia plus his physical dependence on the Garnet siblings allow him to begin to see them as more equals and somewhat negate what would be – in England – the glaring social differences between them. Also, Andrew might have been a first son from the privileged class but he’s not an aristocrat – important later in his decision making – and his overriding goal has always been to be a clergyman. A hoity toity Brit he isn’t. But he does have responsibilities and a promise made that he feels it his duty to fulfill.
So how will all the obstacles be overcome? Actually fairly believably. Some bits of information had been sprinkled along the way, preparing some fortuitous but not outlandish events. A few things happened which sound legit and which cleverly swing the final perceptions and events of the story leading to the HEA.
One complaint is that the ending doesn’t address the legitimate concerns raised by the earlier worry of the Garnet’s neighbors seeing them as loyalists for hiding Andrew. He has proven himself to the American military authorities and the person who stirred up the locals regarding the possibility of him being a spy has been dealt with – I think – but I needed some sign or comment from Rachel or Joseph that the neighbors were ready to accept Andrew into the fold.
All in all, I liked this one. The main characters aren’t plaster saints but have their moments of doubt and weakness. There is a fair amount of scripture quoted but it does play a role in showing Andrew’s true calling and helping Rachel back to the faith that was shaken by the deaths of her parents. Most of the historical stuff didn’t sound any “far out” alarm bells for me and the ending didn’t rely on deus ex machina machinations. I’m looking forward to the sequel and seeing events in southern theater of the war. B
I am also an American Revolutionary War junkie and am always looking for someone, anyone! who will write using this time period. (Hello! Donna Thorland!!).
Your review had me digging through my book logs and I found Bruce Lancaster, who wrote historical fiction with a strong romance. He was a specialist in the American Revolution (though he also did frontier and Civil War set stories) Lordy! Back in the early ’60s I read and re-read all of his books that my library had available. I have no idea how they would hold up if I were to read them today, but I have very fond memories of them, especially ‘The Secret Road’.
Betty Cavanna, who wrote YA romances back in the ’50s and ’60s did one historical (which I own and still re-read) titled ‘A Certain Magic’–British occupied Philadelphia. The young heroine is a Quaker who is friends with the Shippen sisters. Sweet, as befits a YA book of that era, but a lovely, lovely romance.
@Barb in Maryland: Barb, I’m sorry your comment got caught in a filter and I just now fished it out. Thanks for the recs – am off to Amazon to check out prices.