Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Tory Widow

(400 pages, Berkley Trade Paperback, ISBN 978-0425226018)

I meant to finish and review Christine BlevinsThe Tory Widow a month ago, but I’ve been busy reading a slew of entries for the Lake Writers Essay Contest. Consequently, I’ve read The Tory Widow a chapter or two a night over the past two months. With the contest heading into the final weeks of judging, I’m finally getting my personal reading time back—and I finally finished Blevins’ book.

 The Tory Widow, released last month by Berkley, is a blend of history, romance, danger, and intrigue.

 Set in 1777 New York, The Tory Widow covers both America’s quest for independence as well as widow Anne Merrick’s personal quest for independence. Anne, whose young son and Tory-sympathizer husband have died, wants to avoid another marriage of convenience arranged by her father and to make a success of her printing business.

 Anne Merrick’s war within is mirrored by the war without.

 Shortly after her marriage, Anne first encounters Jack Hampton, a member of the Sons of Liberty, when he kisses her on the street. A decade later later, she encounters Jack again when he and his patriots destroy her printing press. Eventually Anne and Jack become infatuated with each other, and her allegiance shifts to the Americans.

 Neither the course of true love nor that of the patriots’ fight for liberty runs smooth.  While Anne battles her war within, Jack battles the war without. Anne must fight her jealousy of prostitute Patsy Quinn who captures Jack’s attention, and Jack must fight for liberty in clandestine activities that take him away from Anne for months at a time. His advice to Anne when the city is occupied by King George’s troops and patriot-sympathizers have fled: “Be a Tory.” Anne assumes the persona of a good Tory widow who operates a tea-shop. Eventually, she is forced to quarter British soldiers in her shop.

 The Tory Widow is not a sweet romance of a sentimentalized period of history. It is earthy, gritty, and sometimes brutal; indeed, some of the language is R-rated. All this, however, succeeds in making the story more believable—more real.

 The Tory Widow is a good read. Through her skillful use of dialogue, rich use of historical detail, and complicated plot, Blevins captures the spirit of both the times and of her protagonist. 

And she makes history come alive. 


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