13 February 2012

Review: Before the Scarlet Dawn by Rita Gerlach

Following the death of her father, Eliza Bloome must find a place to live and a livelihood. She seeks work on the Havendale estate nearby, hoping to catch the eye of the handsome Hayward Morgan, recently returned to England from the Maryland colonies.

Eliza and Hayward enter into marriage - one of convenience from Hayward's point of view, but from genuine love from Eliza's. With Hayward being cut off from his inheritance over the marriage, the couple leave immediately for Hayward's estate in Maryland. Eliza longs for Hayward to fall in love with her, but Hayward is a product of his upbringing and believes that love is a weakness that men should not feel.

Soon after their arrival in Maryland, Hayward leaves to support the revolutionary cause leaving Eliza and two servants to manage River Run and cope with war, separation, the threat of Indian raids and a handsome (unmarried) neighbour who falls in love with Eliza.

Eliza is impulsive but has a heart for God and a solid love for her husband and their baby daughter. She often struggles as she is left to face trials and loss without Hayward’s presence or support, and despite almost no communication from him during the years he is away. She is an obedient wife even when faced with situations where obeying was a difficult choice to make, and I admired her for this. But she is not without her faults, and one mistake changes everything. If you would like to find out more about Eliza, she was interviewed on Margaret Daly's blog (well, as Eliza is a fictional character, Rita Gerlach actually provided the answers).

My problem was that I did not find Hayward to be a likeable character. In the beginning he was proud and arrogant, without any personal faith, and he later added stubborness and unforgiveness to his character traits. He must have had some positive characteristics for Eliza to love him so much, but I never worked out what they were. The male characters were all secondary in that there was little from their point of view, and little character development.

Although the beginning of Before the Scarlet Dawn suggests it might be romantic, it is really historical fiction. It is unusual in that the historical attitudes are more accurate than in many books. Unfortunately, these are not the historical attitudes that we admire. So while I do recommend Before the Scarlet Dawn as a novel worth reading, I must also point out that it is not a sweet and light-hearted Colonial romance. If that is what you want to read, I would suggest A Bride Most Begrudging by Deeanne Gist.

Thanks to Abingdon Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

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