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The Red Pearl*

Turn for the Worse

I have read one other historical fiction book by this author which I liked immensely. I was not so fond of this book. Let me see if I can put it into words what I didn’t like. I guess I’ll start at the beginning. While this book’s blurb does not state it explicitly, a violent rape is at the core of this story. The author did say “assault” in the book description, but I think when something like this is in a story, the author really needs to put a trigger warning in the blurb because people who have suffered from something like rape most likely do not want to read a story where it is a fundamental, pivotal aspect. We not only see the rape itself but its aftermath as it ripples through the woman’s life. I honestly don’t think it was necessary for the story. The author could have made the heroine a patriot by nature (and in opposition with her neutral husband); she didn’t need to have this sort of impetus. I also didn’t like that it continued on throughout the entire story, the constant threat of the man (as the victim could not bring herself to tell her husband) and the woman’s constant fear.

Parts of the novel are definitely reminiscent of the AMC channel show “Turn,” which I absolutely adored. The heroine, Lucy, is married to a tavern owner, and much of the action of the story takes place in the tavern, The Red Pearl. I don’t like the way that life was portrayed for women in the colonies. I hope it wasn’t accurate. The heroine’s marriage was arranged for her, and her husband mostly sees her as a worker in his tavern whom he has sex with, not the way that we typically see marriage nowadays. The poor woman works really hard, when she’s not attending meetings with her patriot friends (see below), and still he complains—about her cooking, about how long it takes her to hang the laundry, and about how she doesn’t bring enough firewood at the end of the night. Hard to imagine such a marriage.

This is a relatively short book, and I don’t feel like the characters developed or there was enough action in the story. The most interesting action took place off-screen, so to speak.  So, much of the story is really just showing daily life in the tavern where Lucy is overhearing some Tory plots, which she then turns over to her brother who is in the military. He first doesn’t take her seriously, but mysteriously people act on her information. The book felt mostly just like a series of meetings, of the Tories in the tavern, Lucy with her military contact and former boyfriend, Lucy and her best friend, and Lucy and a group of patriot women. With so much inaction—just talk—I felt like the story just kind of fell flat. For that, and the pervasiveness of the rapist and Lucy’s constant terror of him, I cannot recommend the story.