Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Colonel's Lady by Laura Frantz

Okay, guys,  The Colonel's Lady  was one of my favourite reads of the year. It was excellent!: well-written, acute and natural flow of its historical setting, excellent, believable characterization and a bit of a mystery that had me  guessing 'til the very end.  The Irish dialect given to the dashing Col. Cassius Clayton McLinn was pitch-on (my brother's gorgeous Irish fiancee was in the room as I read it by the tree over Christmas and hearing her immediately set Cass's accent in the realm of believability for me) and the themes of yearning, truth and re-discovering faith were well met in a crude Fort defended by Cass and his band of intrepid blue-coats.

Frantz does well at painting the canvas of a time period she knows well. As in Courting Morrow Little and The Frontiersman's Daughter (both excellent books), Frantz paints a portrait of Kentucke in the 18th Century: a crude beginning of the now-United States and home to the Shawnee tribes she describes and writes so well. As in the aforementioned book, the Shawnee-White relations are explored here and well. I loved learning a little more of the history as outlined in the capture of Five Feathers and his ilk.  Frantz paints the warriors as brave, true and insightful: lending charisma to their characterization while respecting their love of land and peace.

Indeed, the real calamity of the story is ushered in by Col. McLinn's twin brother, Liam: nicknamed Lucifer by Gen. George Washington and most of the other officers on the frontier and beyond for his primitive and brutish tactics.  I was very much put in mind of the film The Patriot and the rather garish tactics of Col. Tavington: a redcoat set on destroying the Americans with his flashily jingoist Loyalist pride.

Roxana Rowan is determined to make it to Fort Endeavour: despite the war-like climate of the journey in order to reunite with her father: scrivener to the reputed Col. McLinn.  When Roxana arrives at the fort she sets to finding home as she waits for her father's unit to return.  Under the friendship and supervision of Bella, the African American servant to the fort, she learns her way around the kitchen, settles into her father's empty cabin and provides the remaining men at the fort with delicious meals.  When Col. McLinn returns, he informs her that her father was killed in action and Roxana, knowing she has no other family, no prospective fiance and no solid future, takes her father's position as McLinn's scrivener.  Fort life is painted in harsh and enduring tones as Roxana and her new community attempt to survive the wild conditions of the Kentucke frontier.

My favourite scenes included the slow-developing romance between Roxana and the fiery McLinn.  His familial background and his inhabitance at the glorious Stone House above the fort were beautifully painted. I also quite enjoyed any scenes wherein communication with the Shawnee provided pages of negotiation.   McLinn's honour dictated he try to understand his Shawnee prisoners and reach agreement to ensure the safety of both parties.

The scenes leading up to the major battles in the novel were also exceptionally written. I was captivated by the story from its very beginning and refreshed by a setting so unfamiliar to Christian historical fiction.  While there is a strong element of faith in the novel, it is subtly threaded rather than preached. I felt quite heartened spiritually by the plight of this strong and charismatic heroine as she navigated a world so new to her.  Also heartening was how her steadfast and strong faith encouraged and challenged the Colonel so conflicted by his past and the looming war.

This was an exceptionally well-written novel with an acute historical sense and characters you will be sad to leave after the turn of the last page.  I quite understood Roxie's yearning for hearth and family and was touched by her imaginative painting of the Stone house and the books and furniture inside. Indeed, when she first is able to cross its threshold, I felt quite as excited as she at the prospect of exploration.  This is not the only aura of suspense and the slow exposition of a spy-enemy within the Fort complex is well-written and kept hidden until a startling revelation at the end. Moreover, pieces of McLinn's past (the story takes Roxie's perspective in the forefront) is slowly meted out to us so that we are in turn surprised and delighted by the revelations of his history.

I really enjoyed this novel and encourage you to seek it out: as you seek out the first two historicals of this talented author. I cannot wait for Frantz's next novel!

Visit Laura Frantz's blog (I subscribe to it and there are lots of goodies: as well as entries on her historical research and love of period costume)
Purchase The Colonel's Lady on Amazon.


Kailana said...

Glad you enjoyed this book!

Unknown said...

I love this book so very, very much! Great review!

Laura Frantz said...

Rachel, You never disappoint:) First, thank you for taking time for TCL. Second, your insights and a-ha moments and your appreciation are so very welcome. You actually "got" the book in the way I hoped a reader would. Not all do. If I could list my top 10 reviews of the year, yours would be right up there alongside Ruth!

And thanks, too, for introducing me to Lynn Austin. I'd not read a book prior to your recc but now I have:)