The Loyalist’s Wife by Elaine Cougler
Author: Elaine Cougler
Genre: Fiction (Historical / 18th Century / New York / American Revolution / Marriage / Pregnancy / Self Sufficiency / War)
Publisher/Publication Date: CreateSpace (6/20/2013)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: A young couple is pulled apart during the American Revolution as both face tribulations violent and unexpected.
Reading Challenges: E-book, Historical Fiction, War Through the Generations
Do I like the cover?: I don't -- I don't think it quite fits the plotline or the mood of the story.
First line: John watched his smiling Lucinda carry the pail of water into the cabin and thought how lucky he was to have fallen for her.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow.
Why did I get this book?: Love me some American Revolution-era hist fic!
Review: I was immediately intrigued by this historical novel, set during the American Revolutionary period, with its POV squarely focused with the Loyalists. I don't recall seeing another historical novel with a Loyalist bent since Christine Blevins' two novels about her Tory widow, Anne Merrick, and those books aren't wholly pro-UK. Cougler is descended from a Loyalist fighter, as it turns out!
Taking place between April 1778 through the spring of 1780, the novel follows a young married couple, John and Lucinda (Lucy) Garner, who have a small cabin in rural New York. John joins the Butler Rangers -- a militia group hoping to quickly beat back the Continentals before the end-of-summer harvest -- while Lucy remains at their small homestead.
What was to be a brief, relatively painless campaign turns into a greater ordeal for both, as John's wartime experiences are far more gruesome than he ever imagined, and Lucy's isolation made all the worse as the seasons tick on and danger threatens from multiple fronts. (I'm being kind of vague to keep from spoiling things.)
The writing style is straightforward, although occasionally too simplistic for my tastes (I sometimes felt as if rather intense moments were breezed over now and then, to my disappointment; I would have loved to dig in and really sit with some of these deeply distressing times!). The point-of-view switches every few chapters from Lucy to John, which I found a little maddening; while I appreciate what it does to build tension, it made me want to scream when the switch happened at a particularly tense moment or when I was really 'in' one particular character's psyche.
However, Cougler very effectively conveyed the immense anxiety of Lucy's plight -- that being alone in the wilderness wasn't made dangerous just from the wildlife, for example, or even a household accident -- and her articulation of grim guerilla battles had me even feeling sympathetic toward the Loyalist rangers.
She had killed a cow, hung it, and butchered it. She had raised a crop of corn, some wheat, and some hay, and harvested them all by herself. She had fended off a thief trying to take her land. Well, not alone, but she had been strong. As she sat at the table by the light of one candle, listening to the logs crackle and burn in the stove, her hands crept to her face. She held her head and whispered, "Oh, God." (p94)There are some nice extras in this book: two pages of references, nearly three pages of discussion questions, and a one page teaser from the next book.
While the first in a planned trilogy, this one ends on a rather definitive note -- satisfying for those of us who find a cliff-hanger ending to be cruel! -- but has me intrigued about what happens next. I found this book to be a zippy, emotional story that had a familiar-ish setting but unusual orientation for our hero and heroine, so those who like American Revolution-era novels but want to see it from a different view point should consider this book!