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The roles of strong women throughout various periods of history are highlighted in following three novels. Each features a young woman thrown into unusual circumstances and whose actions and responses have a lasting effect on not only her own life, but on the lives and freedom of others. Yes, each story includes a touch of romance, but far more history or suspense. All three of these well-written stories will appeal to a broad audience of men, women, and older teens.
BORN TO TREASON BY E. B. WHEELER
The English Reformation period was a difficult time for the Welsh people. The protestant Queen Elizabeth banned Catholicism and ordered the execution of her sister, Mary, a devout Catholic. Many of the Welsh people were also devout Catholics and resented the English and the English government’s rule over Wales. To harbor a priest, say a Catholic prayer, or retain any of the symbols of that faith was punishable by death. Nonetheless, a strong underground persisted in keeping the faith alive, communicating with Rome, and in aiding priests who had gone into hiding. Sometimes these groups were guilty only of small acts and other times they entered into horrendous acts of violence.
In E.B. Wheeler’s Born to Treason Joan Pryce is Catholic and clings desperately to her faith for comfort and stability in her life when her father is executed for attending a secret mass. Her father’s house and property are inherited by a distant cousin and Joan is sent to live with her godfather and his family. Little by little she is drawn into the intrigue and defiance that could cost her life. On a trip to conceal papers in a cave, she discovers three children desperately trying to find a way to survive and get to Italy where they have family. She undertakes hiding them and helping them in their quest. She too, considers leaving the country and is encouraged by a priest to flee to Italy and become a nun.
The man she was betrothed to as a child has changed. His face is hideously disfigured and he has become cold and distant. He also has no sympathy for the Catholic revolutionaries, yet there is something about him that stirs old memories and invites her trust.
Wheeler has drawn her characters with a great deal of sensitivity. They are strong though conflicted as they face difficult choices involving patriotism, faith, freedom, love, and the threat of death or imprisonment if their choices are contrary to the edicts of the power wielding monarchy. With so much at stake, when even small acts of common decency can be interpreted as treason, it is difficult to know whom to trust.
Wheeler tells a powerful story historical fiction readers will love. It’s well paced, has an exciting climax, and is meticulously researched. It presents a dilemma people of many other cultures and faiths have or now face in choosing to worship according to the dictates of their personal convictions. It also carries a subtle message that there is more than one way to fight. It also hints that sometimes endurance is mistaken for capitulation when they aren’t the same thing at all.
E. B. Wheeler is a descendant of Welsh ancestors on one side of her family and crypto -Catholics on the other. She grew up in Georgia and California. She has degrees from both Brigham Young University and Utah State University. This is her second published novel, though she has written magazine articles, short stories, and essays. She and her husband are currently raising their family in northern Utah.
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BORN TO TREASON by E.B. Wheeler, published by Sweetwater Books an imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc., 234 pages, soft cover $14.99. Also available for e-Readers
PETTICOAT SPY by Carol Warburton
Unlike most young women of her time Abigail Stowell is educated, politically involved, and something of a rebel. It’s 1775 and men like her father are gearing up to oppose England. Abigail is pulled into the fray when she accepts the charge to carry a message to Boston for the Patriots. That action leads to others until she is established in the home of a prominent Tory caring for his invalid wife. Spying on the enemy isn’t her sole reason for accepting the assignment. She has developed more than a passing interest in discovering whether or not a young lawyer is safe and is eager to work with him in protecting the colonies’ interests and her own.
It doesn’t take long for Abigail to discover her charge isn’t really sick, but is being heavily sedated and starved by her husband and the disagreeable doctor he hired to keep her from revealing a terrible secret and the location of a hidden cache of powder and balls. She has to be extremely careful to restore the woman to health, help her through withdrawal, and keep the woman’s husband from learning what she is doing. The most dangerous phase comes with getting the information, herself, and the woman safely past the blockades separating Boston from the rebels.
Warburton creates a number of strong characters in this story who are distinct and realistic. Abigail cares deeply about people and her home and is sympathetic to others. She’s impulsive and works hard to think first before she acts, but doesn’t always succeed. She has the same yearnings and dreams as other young women, but is impatient with some of the dictates of social propriety. The black family, servants in the Boston household are strong, clever, and great characters. The healer back in Abigail’s hometown is an interesting woman; partly doctor and partly village witch. The invalid wife is another character the reader won’t want to underestimate. Gideon, Abigail’s love interest, the author has portrayed as both a tease and an all-business undercover spy. All are determined, even at the risk of their lives, to free the colonies of foreign rule.
Much has been written about this turbulent period of history and Warburton has succeeded in presenting a well-researched picture of a time when neighbors and even members of a single family had differing views concerning overthrowing English rule. She handles well the minor elements of life in that time period such as chores expected of family members, transportation, women’s place in society, medical care, and much more. Even with her attention to historical accuracy, she creates a strong plot filled with suspense and plenty of action.
Carol Warburton and her husband live in Utah. They served a mission together to the Australia Adelaide Mission and she has held numerous ward and stake callings including being an ordinance worker in the Oquirrh Mountain Temple. Their six children are grown and have blessed them with a dozen grandchildren. She worked for thirteen years for the Salt Lake County Library and she has authored seven novels.
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PETTICOAT SPY by Carol Warburton, published by Covenant Communications, 282 pages, soft cover $16.99. Also available for eReaders and on CD.
WITNESS IN THE DARK by Lynne Larson
Lynn Larson’s newest novel Witness in the Dark is Suspense, but comes awfully close to being Horror. Jenny Brodie has come home to her Tooele, Utah, rural home for the summer following her freshman year at BYU. Her father is the ward bishop and her boyfriend is planning to leave in August to serve a mission. She is asked to teach the six-year-olds in Primary and her very first lesson is the biblical story of Joseph being sold into Egypt.
While horseback riding in the Utah west desert one afternoon Jenny stops to visit one of the children in her Primary class. The little girl is mute, poorly dressed, and rarely shows any emotion. They walk into the barn looking for the child’s father and stumbles into witnessing a murder. Fearing for her own life, she runs pulling the child with her, but before she can reach her horse, the little girl pulls free of her grip and runs in the opposite direction. Jenny is captured and flung into one of the old mine shafts that dot the desert. The sixty foot fall onto a layer of tumbleweeds leaves her severely injured, only semi-conscious, and in darkness.
Jenny’s family and the community frantically search for her without success. The man who threw her into the pit covers the evidence of his crimes and realizing she is still alive taunts her and threatens to shoot anyone who comes near the old mine shaft and drop boulders into the pit if she reveals her presence by making any sound. Only one person can help Jenny, but what can a six-year-old mute child who can’t even write do?
This story places greater emphasis on action and situation than on character development, though it does delve into faith, its growth, and trust in God. The characters, particularly Jenny, are likable and the reader will care what happens to her and will identify with various characters as they face the possibility she is no longer alive.
The story begins a little awkwardly due to not being revealed in strictly chronological order and because some scenes seem to be told more than shown. After the first few chapters the story flows better and is one that will leave the reader spellbound. It’s hard to forget the imagery of lying injured at the bottom of a mine shaft without food or water and hearing the voice of someone you love above you and being unable to answer because of fear for that person’s life.
Lynne Larson taught school in Southern Idaho for nearly thirty years. Along with teaching she has been a contributor to both regional and national publications. Since retirement she has published a half dozen novels. She graduated from Brigham Young University and received an MA from Idaho State University. She and her husband now live in Utah. Their three children are grown.
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WITNESS IN THE DARK by Lynne Larson, published by Covenant Communications, 193 pages, soft cover $14.99. Also available for eReaders and on CD.