Archive for the ‘Book reviews’ Category

Shinin’ Times! by Edward Louis Henry

The fur trade played a pivotal role in the development of the American West. From the 1600s, France and England had competed for the best spots to trap beaver and other fur-bearing animals and ship the pelts home for enormous profits. Certainly the opportunity for America to join in this seemingly inexhaustible fur bonanza was one of the reasons that President Jefferson was eager for Lewis & Clark to stake U.S. claims to the Upper Missouri and the Rocky Mountains.

While I knew this historical background, I’d never given much thought to the young men who actually ventured into the wilderness and lived as mountain men. Who were they? Why did they choose to live such a hard life? How did they learn what to do in time to survive? What would it have actually been like to leave behind everything familiar and live such a free and elemental life?

About the time that our first novel, To the Ends of the Earth, came out, I had the privilege of reading and reviewing Edward Louis Henry’s excellent first novel, The Backbone of the World, on our old and long-gone website, and we later exchanged copies of our second novels. Like us, Ed has battled the indifference of the publishing industry to meaty American historical fiction, and so you can imagine how delighted I was to be contacted by his new publisher with a copy of his third novel, Shinin’ Times!

Shinin’ Times! explores the peak years of the fur trade, from 1828-1833, and continues the story of our picaresque hero Temple Buck, who at the ripe old age of 23 has graduated from wilderness newcomer to grizzled veteran of the Rocky Mountains. Henry writes the book as a first-person “memoir” by Temple, with an authenticity that can easily make you forget you are reading a work of modern fiction. The story begins with Temple returning to St. Louis to “re-up” for another trip up the river, and the sights and smells of the frontier gateway come to life, complete with a trip to William Clark’s farm on the outskirts of town.

Before long, Temple has embarked on his journey into the wilderness in the company of a wry Shawnee chief who happens to be his biological father, and Micah, a former slave turned expert gunsmith. As they join up with old friends at “rendezvous” (the annual fur-trade gathering of buying, selling, and carousing), the international nature of the rough-and-tumble early West comes alive — Americans, Irish, and French rub elbows with Indians of many tribes and dispositions, and in Henry’s skilled hands lovable fictional characters mingle effortlessly with real-life historical characters like Jedediah Smith and William Sublette.

Temple’s world is one of rough and raw beauty. In St. Louis, he finds comfort and pleasure in the arms of the always-randy and dramatic Lucette, a mixed-race madam from New Orleans, but lasting love and the final transition from boyhood to maturity come with Rainbow, a Salish woman who becomes the love of his life. Violence and death are ever-present, and Shinin’ Times! dramatizes countless battles with Indians who attack the fur trappers. The reality of the kill-or-be-killed ethos of the frontier is presented with matter-of-fact starkness, unmarred by either defensiveness or politically correct apologies by the author.

While focusing on Temple and his story, Shinin’ Times! and its predecessors are unlike any novels I have ever read. Henry has done it again, creating a fully realized alternate reality. Ed Henry is a mountain man reenactor as well a writer; perhaps that accounts for his ability to channel historical and cultural details into a total immersion experience, a time machine of the imagination.

I have some minor bones to pick with Henry, including wordiness truly worthy of the 19th century and the overuse of dialect to distinguish among the kaleidoscope of nationalities. But these are minor flaws in what is shaping up as a titanic achievement in historical fiction. A fourth book, Glory Days Gone Under, is planned to take Temple (and us) through the storied final years of this uniquely American saga.  Shinin’ Times! is a fascinating novel, well worth picking up for everyone interested in the early American west.

Purchase Shinin’ Times! and other novels by Edward Louis Henry at Christopher Matthews Publishing.


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An Artist in Treason by Andro Linklater

An Artist in Treason by Andro Linklater

I recently finished reading Andro Linklater’s fine biography of General James Wilkinson, An Artist in Treason. What a smooth operator Wilkinson was! Throughout his life, Wilkinson knew how to curry favor with powerful patrons. Despite decades of being in secret collusion with the Spanish government – he was known in Havana as “Agent 13” – Wilkinson still  managed to hang on to his post as commanding general  of the U.S. Army through four different changes in administration. The tale of how he did that is something worthy of Shakespeare.

Wilkinson was born in 1757 to an aristocratic Maryland family fallen on hard times. His father, a wealthy planter, fell into disastrous debt and died at the young age of 33, leaving his family to survive on the charity of relatives. Wilkinson idealized his father as the perfect country gentleman, seeming to harbor both resentment at the family’s diminished status and a ravenous desire to recreate his father’s wealth.

General Horatio Gates, by Gilbert Stuart

General Horatio Gates, by Gilbert Stuart

Wilkinson’s army career began during the Revolution, where he made a habit of cultivating powerful patrons who helped advance his own career. A smart and charming young man, brimming with confidence, young “Wilky” comes across as an 18th-century version of Eddie Haskell. Ironically, Wilkinson’s first mentor was the soon-to-be-turncoat Benedict Arnold, whom he dropped in favor of Horatio Gates when Arnold’s star began to fade. Gates became something of a surrogate father to Wilkinson, but that relationship also soured. When the young officer’s indiscretion inadvertently revealed the existence of a group of high-ranking generals known as the “Conway Cabal” who were conspiring to remove George Washington as head of the Continental Army and replace him with Gates, Gates tried to discredit Wilkinson to save himself. Wilkinson responded viciously, and the two men’s friendship ended in an ugly and theatrical duel.

"Mad Anthony" Wayne

"Mad Anthony" Wayne

Anybody but Wilkinson would have been cashiered at this point, but his charm and confidence – not to mention a modicum of ability, rare in the army in those years—made his military career all but unsinkable. After some time in civilian life following the revolution – a time when he made contact with Spanish officials in New Orleans and agreed to help advance The Spanish Conspiracy in exchange for cash – he rejoined the army in 1791, assuming he would end up its commander. Instead this job fell to “Mad Anthony” Wayne, whom Wilkinson hated as a bitter rival and relentlessly sought to undermine. It was not until Wayne’s death in 1796 that Wilkinson finally got his wish, ascending to the coveted post of “commander-in-chief” of the U.S. Army.

It is astonishing to realize that every president Wilkinson served under, from George Washington to James Madison, was well aware of Wilkinson’s vanity, treachery, and allegiance to the Spanish crown. In a time when the mere existence of a standing professional army was a matter of extreme controversy, Wilkinson’s predictability was a valuable asset. The men in the White House banked on the fact that if you stroked Wilkinson’s ego nicely enough, he would ensure that the army remained party-neutral and under civilian control.

The president who seems to have had the most smug certainty about Wilkinson’s pliability was Thomas Jefferson, who might have felt differently had he known that Wilkinson had tipped the Spanish government off to the fact that the Lewis & Clark Expedition would be passing through Spanish territory. The Spanish sent out three attempts under Captain Pedro Vial to kill or capture Lewis & Clark’s party. Had they succeeded, the history of U.S. western expansion might have played out much differently.

Aaron Burr

Aaron Burr

Even Jefferson’s certainty was shaken in 1806, when the president found himself waiting in trepidation to see whether Wilkinson would keep the army loyal to the United States or throw it behind the empire-building conspiracy of former Vice President Aaron Burr. Burr connived with Wilkinson and others in a scheme to raise a military force to separate the western states from the U.S. and invade  Mexico. This was no pipe dream, but a well though-out plan that had the backing of political and military luminaries such as Andrew Jackson. But when plans went awry and Wilkinson knew his involvement was about to be exposed, he unceremoniously decided to save his own hide. Declaring himself the savior of the nation, Wilkinson threw Aaron Burr under the bus and exposed the conspiracy to the world.

Wilkinson’s talent for flattery and play-acting is on great display in these two passages from Linklater’s book, describing Wilkinson’s role as star witness in the trial of Aaron Burr. The first encounter between Wilkinson and Burr – betrayer and betrayed—was electrifying. Here is how author Washington Irving described the scene:

Wilkinson strutted into court and took his stand in a parallel line with Burr on his right hand. Here he stood for a moment, swelling like a turkey cock and bracing himself for the encounter of Burr’s eye. The latter did not take any notice of him until the judge directed the clerk to swear General Wilkinson; at the mention of the name Burr turned his head, looked him full in the face with one of his piercing regards, swept his eye over his whole person from head to food, as if to scan its dimensions, and then cooly resumed his former position, and went on versing with his counsel as tranquilly as ever. The whole look was over in an instant, but it was an admirable one. There was no appearance of study or constraint in it; no affectation of disdain or defiance; a slight expression of contempt played over his countenance.

Thomas Jefferson by St. Memin

Thomas Jefferson by St. Memin

And here is how Wilkinson described it, and a letter to President Thomas Jefferson:

I was introduced to a position within the bar very near my adversary. I saluted the bench and inspite of myself my eyes darted a flash of indignation at the little traitor, on whom they continued fixed until I was called to the Book; her, sir, I found my expectations verified—this lion-hearted, eagle-eyed Hero, jerking under the weight of conscious guilt, with haggard eyes in an effort to meet the indignant salutation of outraged honor; but it was in vain, his audacity failed him. He averted his face, grew pale, and affected passion to conceal his perturbation.

Despite Wilkinson’s testimony, Burr was acquitted. And in  keeping with his reputation as a general who “never won a battle but never lost a court-martial,” Wilkinson survived an inquiry into his own role in the matter. But he fooled no one. The Burr conspiracy left an indelible stain on his high-flying but sordid career, which ended only when the U.S. military was completely overhauled after the War of 1812.

Linklater does a great job using Wilkinson’s life as an indictment of the entire era he represented – an era when the U.S. Army was amateurish, starved for cash and leadership, and heavily politicized.  Of Wilkinson’s final court-martial –an inquiry into military blunders on the Canadian frontier during the war of 1812 – Linklater gives us this damning summation:

…with the hindsight of history, what seems overwhelmingly obvious is that the wrong accusations were leveled against him. Even the one charge of which he was certainly guilty, covert treachery to the United States, was less damaging than his overt and repeated betrayal of the army. Yet no court could try him for acquiescence in its political neutering and financial strangulation because the instigators were Presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

These words are a fitting capstone to this shabby life story which is both tragedy and farce. It makes you give quiet thanks for our modern-day, well-trained, professional U.S. Army.

Order "The Fairest Portion of the Globe"

For more interesting reading on Wilkinson, I recommend our two novels, To the Ends of the Earth and The Fairest Portion of the Globe. Wilkinson appears as a major character in each. I must say, I was gratified to read Linklater’s book and confirm that our characterization of Wilkinson was right on the money. It’s hard to get enough of this fascinating “finished scoundrel.”

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Flight from Monticello, by Michael Kranish

I’ve been on a Thomas Jefferson kick lately. There’s so much to learn and try to understand about this fascinating, enigmatic, and contradictory man. I just finished reading Flight from Monticello by Michael Kranish and really, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Kranish tells a story that was almost entirely unknown to me: the story of Jefferson as the wartime governor of Virginia. In 1781, the British, led by the traitor Benedict Arnold, mounted a major invasion of the state, and one objective was clear: Get Thomas Jefferson. How Jefferson escaped, how and why the British overran the state, and how they were stopped at Yorktown make for truly delightful reading.

 This is a book worth savoring for its many untold stories. One of the most astonishing concerned the aftermath of the stunning American victory at Saratoga, New York, in 1777. As a result of the victory, the Americans had taken prisoner over 5000 British and Hessian (German mercenary) troops. In those days, it was generally a tradition to “parole” prisoners of war on the condition that they promise never to take up arms in the conflict again. But after about 1000 prisoners were released to Canada, Congress realized that the chances of the British honoring such a ban were practically nil.

Congressional representatives from Virginia made an audacious proposal. They suggested that Virginia would build a sprawling prisoner-of-war camp near Charlottesville, home of Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson and others believed that housing thousands of enemy soldiers would result in a bonanza of federal money into the area. In addition, the soldiers would buy local goods, and craftsmen among the prisoners could be put to work on local plantations. Jefferson, a fine violinist who was ever restless about the lack of cultural peers in Virginia, also voiced the hope that some fine musicians among the Hessian officers might be willing to play with him.

Hessian Prisoners of War (Courtesy National Archives)

The prisoners reached Charlottesville in January 1779 after a grueling winter march from their previous barracks in Boston. As one Hessian officer wrote, “Never have I seen men so discouraged and in such despair as ours, when, tired and worn out from the long trip and the hardships, they had to seek shelter in the woods like wild animals.” But before long, the crude, leaking shelters known as “Albemarle Barracks” became home to some 4000 men — making the encampment the largest “city” in Virginia, nearly twice as large as the capital at Williamsburg.

Jefferson was worried about the scandalous conditions, which soon prompted calls to move the barracks away from Charlottesville. He estimated that the POW camp was pumping about $30,000 a week into the local economy (well over $300,000 a week in current dollars). As spring arrived, conditions improved, mostly due to the efforts of the prisoners themselves, who fixed up the barracks, planted gardens, began to raise livestock, and constructed their own store, coffeehouse, church, tavern complete with a billiard table, and a theater with a sign reading “Who would have expected all this here?” A number of the German prisoners simply walked away from the prison to intermarry with local girls or move out west to begin new lives.

William Phillips (1731-1781). Phillips died during the invasion of Virginia and is buried in Petersburg, Virginia. Jefferson called him "the proudest man of the proudest nation on earth."

Meanwhile, thanks in part to Jefferson’s lobbying, the officers were permitted to rent some of the best homes in Charlottesville for their lodging. Jefferson soon became close with Brigadier General William Phillips, a stout and ruthless artillerist, and Baron Frederick von Riedesel, the Hessian commander. Riedesel was even joined at the mountainside estate of Colle by his three daughters and his statuesesque wife, who shocked Charlottesville society by riding her horse astride.

Music formed the foundation of friendship between Jefferson and the Hessians. Before long, just as Jefferson had dreamed, he was playing duets with a Hessian violinist, while Mrs. Jefferson played the pianoforte and the Baroness led dances. Apparently, Jefferson saw nothing disturbing in forming close friendships with officers who had led brutal charges against American soldiers. He also apparently thought nothing of the intimacy with which the British and Hessians were coming to know the rivers and roads around Charlottesville, even allowing Phillips and Riedesel to leave Charlottesville to travel to Berkeley Springs, 134 miles further into the interior of the state, to visit a health resort.

In the summer of 1779, Jefferson became governor of wartime Virginia and had to leave Charlottesville for the seat of government in Williamsburg. Not long after taking office, he received a furious letter from George Washington, commander of the Continental Army, demanding to know why hundreds of British and Hessian prisoners were simply packing their bags and walking away from the lightly-guarded camp in Charlottesville. Though embarrassed, Jefferson was convinced Phillips and Riedesel knew nothing of the escapes.

Later in the year, the two officers were exchanged for American prisoners. Riedesel and his family ended up in Canada, where the Baron served as a senior military official. As for Phillips, Jefferson looked forward to socializing with him again in times of peace. And Phillips would indeed return to Virginia: as commanding officer of a force of 4500 with orders to invade the state and take Thomas Jefferson prisoner.

Albemarle Barracks was belatedly closed by Governor Jefferson in the fall of 1780, as the state lay open to invasion. The remaining prisoners were marching north to Fort Frederick, Maryland, where they were held until the end of war. As in Charlottesville, a number of the Hessians remained behind and settled in the United States.

Flight from Monticello tells a story that is complex, fascinating, and at times even funny. This is a must-read book for any history lover!

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Strange and Dangerous Dreams by Geoff Powter

Strange and Dangerous Dreams by Geoff Powter

I recently read Geoff Powter’s Strange and Dangerous Dreams: The Fine Line Between Adventure and Madness (Mountaineers Books, 2006). A clinical psychologist and avid climber, Powter has written a thoughtful study of a group of people who were driven – by fear, obsession, mental illness, and other psychological booby traps – to attempt extreme adventures: climbing Mount Everest, sailing or flying around the globe, being first to reach the North or South pole. Some of the people Powter profiles succeeded brilliantly in their quests but went on to lead sad, troubled lives. Others deluded themselves, made awful mistakes, and died needless, pathetic deaths in search of their unattainable goal.

I picked up this book because one of the people Powter writes about is our own Meriwether Lewis. He includes Lewis in the section of the book titled, “The Burdened,” along with polar explorer Robert Scott, who perished in the Antarctic in 1912, aeronaut Solomon Andrée, who died in an attempt to reach the North Pole by balloon in 1897, and amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst, who faked a round-the-world sailing trip in 1969, went insane, and perished (it is believed) by suicide.

Not to take anything away from this worthy book, but in my opinion, Lewis simply does not fit. Do any of these three men sound like Meriwether Lewis?

Robert Falcon Scott

Robert Falcon Scott - "Scott of the Antarctic"

Robert Scott was a career man in the British Royal Navy, whose troubled family background burdened his life and created an overwhelming sense of “duty.” Tapped by the Royal Geographic Society to lead the British effort in the race to the South pole, Scott let his obsession with detail and his rivalry with Ernest Shackleton tarnish his first Antarctic expedition. When Norwegian Roald Amundsen announced his intention to be first to the South pole, Scott again led the British effort to beat him – but he eschewed Amundsen’s use of sled dogs, fatally delayed his trip until weather conditions worsened, and doggedly led his men to a futile death, weeks after Amundsen had reached the pole.

Solomon Andrée

Solomon Andrée

Solomon Andrée, a Swedish engineer and physicist, became obsessed with his idea of reaching the North Pole by balloon. Despite problems with his balloon’s design, poor weather conditions, and lack of experience, Andrée launched his balloon from Svalbard, Norway in July 1897, accompanied by two companions, an Arctic explorer and a photographer. Despite Andrée’s rigid faith in the technology he had embraced, the balloon quickly became covered with ice and crashed after two days, it’s demise heartbreakingly documented by the photographer. The trio then spent months attempting to trek south by foot over a nightmarish, drifting icescape, poorly equipped for the awful Arctic winter that eventually closed in on them. Their fate was unknown until 1930, when their last sad camp was finally discovered.

Donald Crowhurst

Donald Crowhurst

Donald Crowhurst was a British businessman who entered a solo, round-the-world yacht race piloting his home-built boat, the Teignmouth Electron. Badly in over his head, both physically and financially, Crowhurst decided against scrapping the race and instead entered into an elaborate deception to make it seem like he was sailing around the world. As the weeks went by and it seemed increasingly likely his ruse would be discovered, Crowhurst apparently descended into madness. His wrecked boat was found, adrift and abandoned; it is assumed he jumped overboard and drowned.

Aside from his sad end, it is hard to see how any of these men resembles Meriwether Lewis in anything but a superficial way. Like Robert Scott, Lewis was a disciplined career-military man, but unlike Scott, Lewis’s expedition was marked by careful leadership, detailed and sensible planning, flexibility, and a notable lack of rivalry. Like Solomon Andrée, Lewis had faith in technology, but even Lewis knew when to abandon his iron boat when his plans didn’t work out. Like Donald Crowhurst, Lewis faced disappointment (not finding the hoped-for all-water route to the Pacific), but he remained scrupulously honest and true to his mission. Instead of losing his own life and the lives of his men in a spectacular or pathetic flameout, Lewis led his men over four thousand miles, lost only one (to appendicitis), and brought them back in triumph, justly hailed as a hero.

The crash of Andrée's Eagle, 1897

The crash of Andrée's Eagle, 1897

Despite his success, Lewis’s story hardly has a happy ending, any more than the other three men. While I disagree with some of Powter’s conclusions, this line in the book rings true: “Whatever happiness Lewis had found on the trail began to fade as soon as he drew up to the St. Louis wharf.” Brilliant in the wilderness, Lewis was less well-equipped for the sometimes dismal burdens of civilization. To explain Lewis’s post-expedition troubles, I prefer the explanation offered by Clay Jenkinson in his brief study, The Character of Meriwether Lewis. Jenkinson describes Lewis as suffering from the “Buzz Aldrin Syndrome.” When you’ve been to the moon, what’s next?

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New Review from Roundup

The Fairest Portion of the Globe

Visit our "Buy Now" page to save on a set of both our novels.

There’s nothing better than a good review — unless it happens to be from a fellow writer. To win the respect of someone who knows how much work it is to write a book, and the sweat that goes on behind the scenes, is just about perfection! That’s why we are particularly pleased with this review of The Fairest Portion of the Globe from Roundup, the publication of the Western Writers of America. (And if you like the fiction or non-fiction of the West, I highly recommend you check this group out. The review section of the magazine alone will greatly expand your horizons.)

Conspiracy, revolution, betrayal, adventure. This huge historical novel has it all, with even a little romance included. Set in 1793, the American Revolution would seem to be over, while the French are fighting their own battles. However, the Louisiana Territory, under control of the Spanish, is a bone of contention between all factions.

In a story that pits many of the big names of the day against each other, the reader is treated to a political thriller with a cast of characters that includes Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and his brother George Rogers Clark, James Wilkinson, the highest placed traitor in American history, Thomas Jefferson, botanist Andre Michaux, and, most importantly, Citizen Edmond Genet, who seeks political asylum in America. An incendiary personality, within a short time Genet manages to provoke Great Britain and Spain, weaken the new American government, and nearly cause another war. Basely closely on known facts, you may never look at America’s early years in the same way.

Written by a team of sisters, Mary Clare and Liz Clare, under the name of Frances Hunter, the book is a masterpiece of research and writing. Everyday minutiae abounds. Who knew the French carried such influence in the states that Americans greeted each other with the honorific “citizen”?

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The Fairest Portion of the Globe

Visit our "Buy Now" page to save on a set of both our novels.

We got a great review for The Fairest Portion of the Globe that just made our week. This comes from the quality book review blog, Under a Blood Red Sky. Thank you to our reviewer, Tammy, for your kind and encouraging words. And we hope and pray (Tammy is a teacher in Nashville) that the floodwaters are receding and that the city recovers soon. Here is the review.

First off, let me say that author Frances Hunter now has a fan for life.

Now that that’s out of the way, I am more than delighted to give a glowing review for The Fairest Portion of the Globe, a novel about Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, before their history making journey through the West. Hunter’s novel is set in 1794 when the two young men meet at Fort Washington; it doesn’t take long for them to develop a tight bond amid the machinations of the French, the Spanish, and their own army as the struggle for control of the Mississippi River explodes around them. Clark, living in the shadow of older brother George Rogers Clark, finds himself prisoner of the Spanish; Lewis, young and headstrong, forges forth on a rescue mission with disastrous results. Along the way, we also get to know Clark’s sister Fanny, French botanist Andre Michaux, General Mad Anthony Wayne, and even a young William Henry Harrison as the novel moves from one larger than life personality to the next.

This novel is so sweeping and grand that it’s almost impossible to describe. Hunter has done the research fully and the story reflects that, yet the storyline is never bogged down by too much information. Indeed, the characterizations of the historical figures are so vivid, so richly layered, that they literally leap off the pages while propelling this complex tale forward. There is humor and tragedy; there is proof that government has always been slow and overly burdened by political policy. I came away with a much clearer sense of the way our great country was explored and settled, and the price so many paid, including the Native Americans. Above all, I came away with feeling that Lewis and Clark were real people, not just names in a dusty old history book.

Frances Hunter’s The Fairest Portion of the Globe is one of the rare historical fiction novels that takes the known history and makes it come alive through believable dialogue and actual events well told. I felt completely enveloped in the time period and lives of the characters. It’s been a long time since I’ve been quite this dazzled by historical fiction. Highly, highly recommended.


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New Review from Mrs. Giggles

The Fairest Portion of the Globe

Visit our "Buy Now" page to save on a set of both our novels.

Mrs. Giggles is one of the longest-reigning book reviewers on the Internet, and one of the toughest. It could fairly be said that she is the Simon Cowell of book bloggers. So we were thrilled by our positive review in her pages! Take a look:

In 1793, Edmont Charles Genet arrives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States of America. Intoxicated by the warm welcome of the locals that seem to hail him as a hero of freedom, he soon decides that he is less impressed with President George Washington, who seems a bit too… non-republican, let’s just say, for his liking. At any rate, Citizen Genet is more concerned with a greater mission: to free Louisiana from the Spanish tyrants and deliver it to France, surely the center of all that is good and what not.

Citizen Genet has no ally in President Washington, but the Secretary of State, a Mr Jefferson, privately agrees with him that having freedom of access into Louisiana would be a great thing indeed as the strategic location of that place will be great for trades and all. However, America must remain neutral on all appearances – anything that goes wrong will be blamed squarely on those involved openly in the plot.

Several players are drawn into Citizen Garnet’s plot. We have George Rogers Clark, a troubled former General in the Revolutionary who hopes that he will pull off a heroic stunt to redeem himself. His younger brother Young Lt William Clark will eventually befriend a man called Meriweather Lewis (who are also featured in the author’s previous effort To The Ends Of The Earth). They and several other secondary characters will find their lives changed as they find themselves knee deep in Citizen Genet’s grand plan to further the glory of France.

The writing in this book is definitely top-notch, with a well-balanced sprinkling of humor amidst fast-paced action scenes and quiet scenes of heavy emotional drama. I am not familiar with the actual history of these events, so I can’t vouch for the historical authenticity of the story. I can say, though, that is an interesting and entertaining historical fiction. I especially find Citizen Genet’s portrayal intriguing – he comes off as a buffoon at times, but there is definitely a calculating sharp mind in his head. As for the others, they are likable types with various degrees of angst. I still feel that the author is better at creating male characters than female ones, as the principal female character comes off like a one-dimensional martyr more than anything else, but still, there are plenty of entertaining males to go around, heh.

Here is what I suggest – read this book first before reading the author’s previous effort, because then you will get a well-written fun ride detailing the chronological development of the relationship between Clark and Lewis.

Rating: 88

By the way, it’s probably been five minutes since we mentioned it, so if you’d like to buy, our books are available through Amazon, or you can buy direct from our publisher and have the book shipped out the next day — autographed by ol’ Frances Hunter hersel(ves)! Check out the incredible deal if you buy the set of both novels — you save a whopping $12.95!

Want to buy it for your e-reader? Both novels are available in a variety of formats, including Kindle, from Smashwords. Download them instantly today!

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