About This Book
When unexpected circumstances leave Honor Penworthy destitute after the death of her grandfather, she is forced to leave her Maryland plantation—and the slaves she hoped to free—and seek refuge with a distant relative. With no marketable skills, her survival hinges on a marriage arranged through the Quaker community to local glass artisan Samuel Cathwell. Samuel is drawn to Honor, but he has been unwilling to open his heart to anyone since scarlet fever took his hearing as a child.
A move west brings the promise of a fresh start, but nothing in Honor’s genteel upbringing has prepared her for the rigors of frontier life with Samuel. Nevertheless, her tenacity and passion sweep her into important winds of change, and she becomes increasingly—though secretly—involved in the Underground Railroad. Samuel suspects Honor is hiding something, but will uncovering the truth confirm his worst fears or truly bring them together as man and wife?
Set against the backdrop of dramatic and pivotal moments in American history, the Quaker Brides series chronicles the lives of three brave heroines, fighting to uphold their principles of freedom while navigating the terrain of faith, family, and the heart.
Honor is the first in a new series of Historical Romance novels about Quaker women in important eras of American history. In this first story, Lyn Cote presents an early abolitionist determined to help runaway slaves, but whose husband may not share her convictions. Though the historical setting of the book was confusing and the conflict not quite as developed as I would have preferred, the strong characters more than carry this story to its heartwarming conclusion.
The writing was technically strong, with a good balance between prose and dialogue. Some of the character descriptions began to feel a little redundant after a while, but overall the writing style suited the story very well. I was especially pleased with how the dialogue was handled with Samuel, since he was deaf and didn’t speak. While I didn’t entirely buy how amazingly fast Honor learned sign language, it worked well and the dialogue flowed easily. The story also flowed well, though it was a bit episodic as Honor moved from Maryland to Pennsylvania to Ohio, from single to reluctantly married to in love. But all the scenes flowed smoothly from one to the next, and the pace never sagged.
Honor and Samuel were very well-written characters and I liked them immediately. As a romance, both their points-of-view were distinct and balanced, and it was always clear whose head I was in at any given time. I liked that Honor is a pacifist Quaker who struggles with her temper, and Samuel is a glassblower. Honor is a strong believer; so strong, in fact, that she loses her home and her inheritance for standing up for her Biblical principles and abolitionist beliefs. Samuel, on the other hand, is angry at the God who took away his hearing and his speech, and the church that ostracized him as a result. In both these characters, the author presents strong spiritual elements of trusting God even in difficult times. The secondary characters were also well-written, particularly Royale.
Most of the external conflict in the story revolves around Royale, a freed slave who is repeatedly hunted and threatened by slave catchers, and toward the end the abolition plot is expanded to include other slaves who begin to seek refuge at Honor and Samuel’s house. Most of the time, however, Honor and Samuel are observers to these external conflicts instead of participants. I would’ve preferred to see them more directly threatened and thus have more to lose/face higher stakes: for example, Honor’s abolitionist tendencies could cost Samuel business, or someone tries to destroy his glassworks in retaliation, etc.
In terms of the romance, Honor and Samuel’s marriage of convenience storyline is certainly nothing new, but I enjoyed the unusual aspects of her being a feisty Quaker and him being deaf. I felt their strong characterizations brought a fresh angle to the romantic tension of two people who fall in love only after they’re married. However, their trust issues and personal insecurities began to feel a little repetitive as the book went on; I would’ve liked to see their internal conflicts over becoming romantically involved grow and evolve a bit more.
My only real complaint with this story is that its description on the back cover described it as being a story about the Underground Railroad, which led me to believe this was a Civil War story, perhaps akin to Jessamyn West’s classic A Friendly Persuasion. However, it turned out this story was set in the 1820s, which became even more problematic for a historian like me since the term “Underground Railroad” wasn’t coined until the 1830s. As a result, I’m afraid this story’s setting was rather vague and undeveloped for me. While I appreciated the insight into glassblowing and its dangers, which was clearly well-researched, I would’ve preferred a slightly clearer story world overall—or at least a better back-cover description to help set this story in its proper generation.
This is the first Christian historical fiction novel I’ve seen about Quakers, so even if it isn’t 100% original, it’s rare enough to be refreshing to me. Despite dealing with such a tragic and violent issue as slavery, there is very little objectionable content in this book. All the descriptions of the ex-slaves’ lives in captivity are delicately described. This book will appeal to readers of all ages who enjoy clean historical novels with strong characters and compelling action. It would be an excellent novel for teens and young adults who are unfamiliar with this era or with the early roots of the abolition movement in this country. This story was highly engaging, and is one I would gladly recommend to my family and friends.
Available September 1, 2014 from Tyndale House