Not only are there not a lot of books about Colonial America and the American Revolution, but in the United States there are even less from the side of the Americans who were Loyalists and what happened to them. Of course, we don’t like anyone messing with our picture perfect history in America, but as we know, history isn’t just what we make it (ignore or cover-up), and eventually the truth comes out and people look at the bigger picture. That’s good, because it’s a part of where we all live today. In completing my history degree in college, we learned quite a bit about the American Revolution and Colonial America, but not so much from the other side. I think it’s interesting to get the complete picture, no matter where you are from.
With that said, I was happy when I read about Elaine Cougler’s Loyalist series, and was impressed, shocked, and interested when I read her first book The Loyalist’s Wife last year. Here is my review if you’d like to take a peek. She’s Canadian, with her story loosely based on her ancestors (note: the area the British kept where the Loyalists in the story lived eventually, became part of Canada), and follows a couple who were American Loyalists (loyal to the British Crown) and what occurs as they fight against (and endure) the American Revolutionists. In my last review, I called her brave and bold, as she really shows a truth about what people endured at the hands of American soldiers, and show us an alternative side to the war and the displacement of families of people who thought they were doing the right thing.
As she’s had a planned trilogy, her second book just debuted, called The Loyalist’s Luck. From the opening of the first page, she writes in a way that made me read with lightening speed, for at every turn of the page, a new drama, twist, or turn, was occurring. I didn’t think the lives of these people could endure much more! Though I get what is probably the true meaning of her title (as the British won some battles due to luck, they say), I’d also say it could be this family’s “just their luck” type of phrasing too, as it seemed that they didn’t always have the best of luck.
Elaine carries the story through dialogue, interspersed with paragraphs of detailed settings and surroundings that really gave me a visual of the area, whether it be the desolate Loyalist camp, a waterfall off in the woods during a walk, a new piece of land by the river and a grist mill, or various other scenery. As I am from Ohio, which is not that much different across Lake Erie and in Niagara, I could imagine the desolate forest being forged into plots, the growing of gardens, the building of the mill, the transportation on poor and bumpy roads, but how vast the beauty of the nature might have been.
However, there was so many things happening in the novel that I don’t think that Lucy and her husband, John, or their family, really had time to enjoy much of it! By the end I felt what I had read at the beginning had been a long time in the future (and I read the book in one day!). That’s not a bad thing as it kept the pages turning, I just felt bad for this family. I know that is probably the life that most of these people had, being displaced, new land grant issues, men going off to war at a moment’s notice leaving hard work to the women who also raised their children, death of loved ones from war or death of children from accidents and disease, and never knowing who you might meet up with from your past at the local Trading Post or leaning up against a tree nearby.
I don’t want to give away all the happenings in Elaine’s book, but it will certainly keep you on your toes and your emotions on a roller coaster. Reading about this couple and their growing family–their gentleness, love, and good hearts–made me feel for all these people who were caught up in the Revolution and on through the Treaty of Ghent in 1814. It really lasted such a longer time for them than the American Revolution. They lost so much of themselves during it and went through so many hardships. Elaine really creates a connection with them to the reader in her work. We do lose a little dimension from the whole host of other characters due to the forward movement of the plot and centering on the two main characters, but overall it all worked out fine to make it a well-rounded novel.
Elaine also did a large amount of research on time and places, using real places in her novel, and on how the people might have been living at the time. She gives us a clear picture of their lives. She could have maybe let the novel breathe a little and slowed down in spots to give us a bird’s eye view or more of a history lesson, but in reality without her giving these spots of normal activity, the book was still almost 300 pages and she was trying to pack almost the entire lives of Lucy, John, their children, and their grandchildren into the novel so she had to keep it moving. The novel, though very sad and brutal in places, also was filled with warmth by this couples unconditional love, strength, and survival in a wilderness full of war. Their love for their children and small grandchildren was also endearing and I like how Elaine ended it.
The best part of the book for me was Lucy. Her endurance, trust, fortitude, independence, and compassion really made me appreciate her character. She dealt with so much betrayal and loss, but raised her family strong enough to deal with their own losses. I’m fully ready to read about the older years of Lucy and John and the story of their son William in book three.
I recommend reading Elaine’s trilogy by purchasing book one, The Loyalist’s Wife, and get to know Lucy, then move on to the action-packed book two, The Loyalist’s Luck. Elaine’s writing will give you a bird’s eye view into another time and place we don’t always read about and propel us into a time we couldn’t imagine living in. She shows us how everyday common people’s lives were changed and impacted by political battles. It’s full of page-turning historical drama and is a lasting testament to early British-American settlers who ended up Canadians.
The Loyalist’s Luck, Synopsis~
Series: The Loyalist Trilogy
Genre: Historical Fiction
When the Revolutionary War turns in favor of the Americans, John and Lucy flee across the Niagara River with almost nothing. They begin again in Butlersburg, a badly supplied British outpost surrounded by endless trees and rivers, and the mighty roar of the giant falls nearby. He is off on a secret mission for Colonel Butler and she is left behind with her young son and pregnant once again.
In the camp full of distrust, hunger, and poverty, word has seeped out that John has gone over to the American side and only two people will associate with Lucy—her friend, Nellie, who delights in telling her all the current gossip, and Sergeant Crawford, who refuses to set the record straight and clear John’s name. To make matters worse, the sergeant has made improper advances toward Lucy.
With vivid scenes of heartbreak and betrayal, heroism and shattered hopes, Elaine Cougler takes us into the hearts and homes of Loyalists still fighting for their beliefs, and draws poignant scenes of families split by political borders. The Loyalist’s Luck shows us the courage of ordinary people who, in perilous times, become extraordinary.
Elaine Cougler, Author
Bringing to life the tales of Loyalists in the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 is very natural as Elaine’s personal roots are in those struggles, out of which arose both Canada and the United States.
For more information please visit Elaine Cougler’s website.
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