Saturday, February 1, 2003

Review of "The Rebel's Pledge": A peak at 17th Century England and America's Maryland

Reviewed by Bonnie Toews

Rita Gerlach has remarkable talent as a writer. She captures the past and makes it live for today's readers. At the same time, she remains true to life in 17th Century Maryland and England during the English rebellion--in dialogue, social mores and historical fact. Rita's characters become like family--you don't want to leave them at the end of her novel--so if she continues to use them in future stories, readers will welcome them back into their literary lives.

"The Rebel’s Pledge"
begins in 1686, just as the English Rebellion against King James is at its height. Mathew Hale is one of the rebels who is caught and faces execution. By Royal Decree, however, he escapes the hangman’s noose to be sentenced to live out his remaining life as a slave in the colonies. On a Maryland plantation, Hale’s new owner Edmund Carey learns his slave is the son of a man who saved his life during the English Civil War. When Indians attack Carey’s home and ravage his land, Hale saves his owner’s life. Carey is so grateful that he frees Hale from slavery. With a chance to go anywhere he pleases, Hale elects to stay with Carey as his foreman. When Carey becomes very ill, he beseeches Hale to go to England to fetch his estranged daughter so she can see him and the plantation that she will inherit before he dies. At Green Glade Manor in England, Laura has lived under her rich uncle’s guardianship. This brother of her mother is an ambitious man, and betroths her to an aristocrat, a man whose fortune he hopes will benefit both of them. Unfortunately, Laura’s fiancĂ© is a man with his own hidden agenda, and when Hale arrives, she escapes with him to America and to her father. In love, she and Hale marry, but soon afterward, Laura’s spurned aristocrat lover accuses Hale of murder and kidnaps Laura from her plantation home. Now Hale must make his way back to England to clear his name, find his wife, discover the real murderer and confront the man who wants to destroy his and Laura’s life together. Can he forgive the man who brought so much pain to his family? Or will he become the thing he despises?

Thus, the true drama begins, pitting Laura and Mathew Hale in a duel of conflicting class distinctions and treachery that stretches across two continents. From the opening page to the last word, this poignant love story is set in the midst of swashbuckling suspense. What a way to learn about American history! Through the heart of fiction. I predict, in time, Rita Gerlach will become an adored household name to readers and fans of historical fiction.

Reviewer's bio: Bonnie Toews is a national award-winning business journalist whose articles and editorials have appeared in Canadian magazines and newspapers. Through a career that has ranged from teacher to editorial director of a major publishing company in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, she now freelances and writes fiction novels as a hobby.

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