Monday, February 06, 2006

Hochstetler's Native Son~Reviewed

Joan Hochstetler
ISBN 0-310-25256-3
368 Pages

Reviewed by Erin Valentine

Elizabeth Howard is a beautiful, strong-willed, and devoted patriot. Thanks to family ties with the British, she is uniquely able to spy for the Sons of Liberty. As a courier known only as Oriole, Elizabeth places her life in danger time and time again as she seeks information on munitions and troop movements. It is her heart, however, that is endangered when she meets Jonathan Carleton, a captain in the Seventeenth Light Dragoons and a respected member of the British Regulars. Will Carleton discover that the spy he seeks is, in fact, the woman he loves? Will Elizabeth be able to guard her heart as well as her secrets?

J.M. Hochstetler reminds me of my best history teachers; she delivers detailed, impressive information about the Revolutionary War in such an entertaining package that only when I finished the novel did I realize how much information I had absorbed.

Like Mel Gibson's film The Patriot, Hochstetler's presentation of the tensions and events leading to the war are gritty and realistic - no sanitized, textbook version here, folks. Characters on all sides of the issues are presented as complex human beings, torn amongst ties to their families, their land, and their king.

The novel's protagonist, Elizabeth, uses her charm and intelligence to spy on British officers, and despite the obvious acknowledgement that she is proud of her efforts and committed to the cause for freedom, she is deeply aware that the people on whom she spies are friends, many of them former neighbors who have known Elizabeth her entire life.

When Jonathan Carleton is billeted in her family's Boston town home, Elizabeth finds it increasingly difficult to deny her attraction for the man. They are equally matched in wit, character, and good looks, and she must finally acknowledge that he is the one man she could love. Of course, there is a little matter of his being the one who is assigned to discover and capture Oriole, the role Elizabeth created and assumes as she spies.

God's plan for our lives and how we follow it is an important theme in this book. Elizabeth is impetuous, taking chances that could leave herself and others in peril, but she loves the thrill of the chase. When one particular decision nearly ends with her capture and places Jonathan's life in jeopardy, she must finally accept the need to seek God's will in her life.

Daughter of Liberty is an exciting, well-crafted read. I thoroughly enjoyed the dance between Jonathan and Elizabeth as they fall in love, and I was fascinated by the historical information. The action moves quickly most of the time, slowing down a little during battle scenes, but never enough to lose my attention. I can recommend this particular effort to anyone, especially fans of Revolutionary history, who will find it remarkable.

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