Sunday, February 12, 2012

Book Review: The Tory Widow by Christine Blevins

On a bright May day in New York City, Anne Peabody receives an unexpected kiss from a stranger. Bringing news of the repeal of the Stamp Act, Jack Hampton, a member of the Sons of Liberty, abruptly sweeps Anne into his arms, kisses her-and then leaves her to her fate of an arranged marriage...

1775: Nearly ten years have passed and Anne, now the Widow Merrick, continues her late husband's business printing Tory propaganda, not because she believes in the cause, but because she needs the money to survive. When her shop is ransacked by the Sons of Liberty, Anne once again comes face to face with Jack and finds herself drawn to the ardent patriot and his rebel cause.

As shots ring out at Lexington and war erupts, Anne is faced with a life-altering decision: sit back and watch her world torn apart, or stand and fight for both her country's independence and her own.

Synopsis courtesy of

My Review

3.5 Stars

The Tory Widow, the first novel in author Christine Blevins American Revolution series, is set in New York City in the early days of the Revolutionary War.  At the start of the conflict, Anne Merrick is a young widow struggling to keep her late husband's printing business alive by publishing British propaganda, even though she doesn't necessarily believe in the propaganda herself.   When her print shop is attacked by the Sons of Liberty, lead by the dashing Jack Hampton, Anne begins to question her actions.  In so doing, she becomes increasingly drawn to both Jack and her country's struggle for independence from British rule.  When the Patriot army is defeated in New York, and the city falls under British occupation, Anne decides to remain in her home and convert her print shop into a coffee house that caters to British officers.   While outwardly playing the part of dedicated loyalist, Anne does whatever it takes to glean important information from the British and pass it on the Patriots.  In so doing, Anne puts her very life on the line in the cause of liberty.   

Overall, The Tory Widow is an enjoyable read.   Blevins paints a vivid portrait of life in New York City at the start of the Revolutionary War, both before and during the British occupation.   One of the greatest strengths of this novel is Blevins' ability to convey the British as the enemy without painting them as a one-dimensional evil force.  Even though they sit on opposite sides of the conflict, Anne comes to respect some of the British officers with whom she crosses paths and recognizes that if not for the war she would have little quarrel with them.  One of the principal weaknesses of this novel, however, rests with the development of Anne as a character.  At the opening of the novel, Anne is portrayed as dismissive and disapproving of the Sons of Liberty and their cause.  Many years later, at the start of the war, while no longer disapproving, Anne still seems reluctant to support the Patriots.  The arrival of Jack Hampton into her life changes this, and Anne seemingly goes from a reluctant bystander to an ardent patriot almost overnight.  It would have been beneficial to the story for Blevins to have included a little more insight into the rationale behind Anne's abrupt embracing of the patriot cause, as it seems to come out of nowhere.  Furthermore, some of Anne's actions don't seem consistent with her established character, nor with how a respectable woman of the age would have behaved -- war or not (e.g. mooning the British with a bunch of prostitutes from the roof of a brothel).    Nevertheless, these weaknesses didn't detract significantly from my enjoyment of the story.  While Anne herself could have been a bit better developed, the novel's secondary and tertiary characters, whether they be patriot or British, hero or villain, shine and I look forward to finding out what's next for them in the novel's follow-up, The Turning of Anne Merrick.
Recommended for fans of the historical fiction genre interested in the Revolutionary War period. 

Note: The book comes from my own personal collection.