For Love & Liberty; Untold Love Stories of the American Revolution was recommended to me on Twitter. Overall, it was a good suggestion. Four different novellas make up the collection with a very attractive ebook price. I did not love it enough to recommend it at the print price. Each author (save one) was forced by the instability of the time period to end with a HFN moment instead of a HEA. I had mixed feelings on that, although I think it’s close to impossible to write a HEA during a time of war and slavery. I’m going to review each novella on it’s own, both for ease of understanding and for the inevitable day they’re split out as individual titles for sale.
First up is Alyssa Cole’s Be Not Afraid. It was so close to an A but toward the end we dropped into B territory. Either way, it’s the strongest story in the collection. Kate and Elijah could have carried a full length book on their own. Kate is a former slave who has joined the British forces for their promise of freedom. With nothing and no one to swear loyalty to she seeks only freedom. Elijah is a slave who has enlisted in the name of his master under a personal promise of reward. Both seek the same result from two different forces. Much of the conflict between them lies in who has the right of it. Is it Kate, who puts her faith in the British government’s word, or Elijah who puts his in the hands of a man he has known to be more honorable than his other owners? I loved the detail and the solid sense of self each character had. There is no good choice for either of them, knowing what they know at the moment in time they live. Keeping Be Not Afraid from full swooning was Inexplicable Sex Time and an oddly chosen HFN point. In a story so wonderfully constructed the insertion of romantic convention felt forced. Buy this one either as a single or as the collection. It’s worth it. A-
Next came A Sweet Surrender. Lena Hart brings a wounded British soldier under the care of an Oneida healer. There were things I actively loathed about A Sweet Surrender. Siara falls in love with James while he is largely an imaginary figure for her. Much of their tale unfolds with him knocked cold. When he does awaken, we discover that Siara’s other choice is a forced marriage to an abusive man she should despise. I don’t know why Siara is so accepting of her fiancé’s shortcomings. She seems to understand that she has individual value. I’m not certain that her half-breed status is the detriment in the Oneida community that it is in the white world. I wondered why a woman of skill and literacy was so resigned to a life of violent mistreatment. It feels as though Siara escapes with James rather than loves him. My other issue with A Sweet Surrender was the ease with which James changed his life. I didn’t feel we had enough information about him for that to feel earned. The HFN is unique, one I had never seen suggested in a romance. Because of it’s novelty I had to consider if I was reacting to the idea of it or the execution of it. The HFN fit both the characters and their options. B
Rebels At Heart was a total miss. Kate McMurray‘s characters felt stale and stagnant. Charles is a flamboyant dresser pretending a social status he never held. Isaac is a freed slave who prefers to blend into the crowd. I just can not with Rebels At Heart. Whatever you think probably happens? That’s what occurs. There were no surprises and nothing to root for in this tired tale of clichéd opposites. Neither can commit to a plan beyond being together, leaving their HFN something they’ll think about tomorrow. D
I wanted to like Home, Stacey Agdern‘s tale of a young Jewish couple, more than I did. Rebecca Gomes has a father who fears the discrimination and persecutions his family fled from in Spain has arrived in New York. His urgency to move to Philadelphia disrupts the wedding plans Rebecca has her heart set on. She wishes to be married in New York, amongst all their friends, instead of in Philadelphia with whatever members of their congregation join the Rabbi and her father in flight. Because she doesn’t yet know her fiancé’s own plans, Rebecca’s panicked insistence on an instant wedding (along with her father’s out of hand rejection of the same) makes little sense. They are both capricious in their ultimatums. Rebecca asks her fiancé to ruin her, thinking it will force her father’s hand. There’s not enough context for anything in the plot’s construction although the HEA is the most concrete of all the tales. B-
*This Post first appeared at Love In The Margins.