Friday, April 5, 2013

Book Review: Like Chaff in the Wind by Anna Belfrage


Matthew Graham committed the mistake of his life when he cut off his brother’s nose.  In revenge, Luke Graham has Matthew abducted and transported to the Colony of Virginia, there to be sold as indentured labour – a death sentence more or less.

Matthew arrives in Virginia in May of 1661, and any hope he had of finding someone willing to listen to his tale of unlawful abduction is quickly extinguished. If anything Matthew’s insistence that he is an innocent man leads to him being singled out for the heaviest tasks.

Insufficient food, grueling days and the humid heat combine to wear Matthew down. With a sinking feeling he realises no one has ever survived the seven years of service – not on the plantation Suffolk Rose, not under the tender care of the overseer Dominic Jones.

Fortunately for Matthew, he has a remarkable wife, a God’s gift who has no intention of letting her husband suffer and die, and so Alex Graham sets off on a perilous journey to bring her husband home.

Alex is plagued by nightmares in which her Matthew is reduced to a wheezing wreck by his tormentors. She sits in the prow of the ship and prays for a miracle to carry her swiftly to his side, to let her hold him and heal him before it’s too late. God, however, has other things to do and what should have been a two month crossing becomes a yearlong adventure from one side of the Atlantic to the other.

Will she find him in time? And if she does, will she be capable of paying the price required to buy him free?

Troubador Publishing | December 12, 2012 | 392 pages

My Review

3.5 Stars

In Like Chaff in the Wind, the second installment in Anna Belfrage's Graham Saga, opens in 17th century Scotland, with time-traveling Alex Graham settling comfortably into family life with her husband Matthew and infant son at Hillview, their beloved home.   But Alex's contentment is soon shattered when Matthew is forcibly abducted and sent to Jamestown, Virginia as an indentured servant.   Knowing the law can do little to secure her husband's release, Alex sets out for the colony determined to free him.   Forced to toil in unbearable conditions, the only thing keeping Matthew from losing all hope is his belief that Alex will come for him.   The high-seas, however, prove to be more than Alex bargained for and her arrival in Jamestown is delayed by many months.   Will Alex arrive before it is too late? 

Well-written, easy to read and fast-paced with lots of action, Like Chaff in the Wind should appeal to fans of historical adventures, historical romances and time travel stories.   One of the greatest strengths of this novel is its characters.  Alex and Matthew are well-developed, sympathetic figures and Belfrage does a good job of showing how much they love and care for one another.   Although she now lives in the 17th century, Alex's outlook on life has been shaped by the 21st century world from which she comes.   As a result, I enjoyed seeing how she reacted to and dealt with 17th century social conventions.  Matthew on the other hand is a product of the 17th century, and I appreciated that Belfrage gives him a world view consistent with the time in which he lived.  While Alex and Matthew are the focus of this novel, the supporting characters are also memorable, particularly Magnus, Alex's father who remains in the 21st century mourning the unexplained disappearance of his daughter, and Mrs. Gordon, the Graham's housekeeper who accompanies Alex on her voyage to Jamestown. 

While this novel can be read as a stand-alone, I recommend readers interested in this saga start with the first book, A Rip in the Veil.  The first novel explains to readers how Alex came to be in the 17th century in the first place, and provides the context behind the secondary story line concerning Alex's father and son that runs through this book.  As such, I think readers will get more enjoyment out of Life Chaff in the Wind if they have the background provided by the first novel. 

Note: I received a copy of this novel as part of the author's Virtual Book Tour in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Like Chaff in the Wind is on tour!  Check out the tour schedule here.  
You can also follow the tour on Twitter at #ChaffintheWindVirtualTour

About the Author

I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical -  both non-fiction and fiction.

I was always going to be a writer - or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am - I have achieved my dream.

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