Miss Emily Harrison, a Quaker from Ohio, has accepted a role as governess for the slave-owning Bennington family in Virginia in the early months of the Civil War. My first impression of Emily was of a self-righteous, judgemental and naÃ¯ve young lady, someone who has been raised in an insular anti-slavery environment and who hasn't yet learned that life isn't all black and white. I found her to be an unlikeable heroine, and that affected the whole book for me. That's not just my opinionâ€”Emily's employer calls her "stubborn, wilful, and opinionated", and Mr Alexander Wesley Hunt, her love interest, says "things aren't as simple as your small, narrow mind would like them to be".
It didn't help that we didn't find out Emily's personal history until well into the story (why was she, as a Northerner, working in the South?). It was also never adequately explained how and why she got involved with the Underground Railroadâ€”I thought this subplot could have had substantial impact, whereas it actually seemed like a contrived way of getting Emily in the right (wrong?) place at the right time.
I understand that she is against slavery from a biblical and ethical viewpoint. But that's no reason to be rude to a slave who is merely trying to do his job. It's not as though he chose to be a slave. I found her initial assumption that every black person was a slave annoying, and asking a black man whether he was a slave bordered on insulting, not just to the man she is asking but to his employer (or and owner)â€”her host. Perhaps it might have come across better if her actions had been balanced against a Christian faith, but they weren't. While Emily was a Quaker, there was no indication of any personal faith in Godâ€”her religion appeared to be little more than a set of rules.
When it's good, the writing is as good as anything I've read. But then it slips from active scenes into passive telling, backstory and omniscient point of view, which brings the forward pace to a grinding halt, and it then takes an age to get going again. And while both the main characters did change during the five years covered by the book, I felt I was being told they had changed, rather than shown. The Quaker and the Rebel had a promising blurb, but overall, the plot and characters aren't strong or interesting enough to overlook the faults.
Thanks to Harvest House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.
Emily Harrison is a Quaker who believes no person should be the property of another. After the death of her parents, she is hired as a governess by Dr. and Mrs. Bennington, a wealthy Virginia family--Confederates. She leaves her Ohio home to live in Virginia where she secretly carries on her parents' work with the Underground Railroad.
Alexander Hunt is the nephew of the Benningtons. Seemingly uninvolved in the war, he is actually a colonel in charge of the rangers who raid Union supplies to help Confederate soldiers. He is, in fact, the notorious Gray Wraith.
Sparks fly when Emily and Alexander meet. Despite their differences, though, an attraction grows. How can two such different people fall in love? Will their love survive the secrets they each harbor? What will happen when the war ends? Will the Gray Wraith be captured? Will Emily hang for treason?
Mary Ellis has woven an intriguing historical story of honor, trust, and love. Readers will care about the characters and feel compelled to continue reading until all the issues are resolved. I highly recommend The Quaker and the Rebel to fans of historical fiction, inspirational fiction, and romance. If you are not a fan of one of these genres, you may just become one! Thanks, Mary, for another great story!
The Quaker and the Rebel is a very enjoyable book. It's entertaining, educational, and well paced. The characters feel very real with their emotions and problems. The hero and heroine both have to wrestle with their roles and beliefs about the Civil War and realize that things aren't always what they appear to be. Mary Elis did a great job with the story plot, conflict, and resolution. Her characters suffered, as real-life people do in war, which I think lends to the credibility of the eventual satisfying ending.
THE QUAKER AND THE REBEL by Mary Ellis, published by Harvest House publishers, is a delightfully different Civil War-era love storyâ€”different in that it wasn't the usual conquering-Yankee-officer-falls-for-feisty-Southern-belle story that historical readers saw a lot of decades past. In Ellis's novel, the heroine is a fiery Abolitionist who takes a job in a southern household so she can help slaves find their way to the Underground Railroad and freedom, only to fall in love with a Scarlet Pimpernel-like rebel officer who conducts raids on the Yankees while appearing not to have joined the Cause at all.
I liked that neither the hero, nor the heroine, nor the southern household was stereotypical. Heroine Emily Harrison is not perfectâ€”at the beginning she is haughty and judgmental about slave-owning southerners, and undergoes great character oath as she falls in love with hero Alexander Hunt and learns that all situations are not as cut-and-dried as they may first appear. Her employers have actually already freed most of their slaves, who remain to work for pay. Alexander falls for her because she isn't one of those fawning Southern belles, and she can't help but fall for him because he is gallant, daring and handsomeâ€”not at all the lazy, spoiled rich man he first appeared. Alexander and Emily have to experience danger and betrayal before they reach their happily-ever-after.
I love Civil War-era romances, and I'm certainly a fan of this one. I'm hoping this is the first of many from Mary Ellis set in this time period!
This book was provided free for review from the publisher.
The premise really drew me in for this book. I mean, really...a conductor in the Underground Railroad falling for a Rebel leader? How intriguing!
A devout Quaker, Emily took the job as governess intending to convince slaves to take the first step towards freedom and views the South as the enemy, especially after her parents were beaten and her fiance killed. Alexander Hunt is the son of a wealthy horse breeder, and as the elusive Gray Wraith, his non-violent band of rangers raids deliveries of medicine, food, and money, which he hands over to the Confederate army.
"If I run into the Gray Wraith, I shall shoot him between the eyes and spare the Union Army the task." ~ Emily
It took awhile for me to understand how Alexander could fall for haughty Emily. But it came to me in a light bulb moment. Emily stood out from the crowd of Southern belles clamoring for Alexander's attention, so different, so willing to risk her life for her anti-slavery beliefs. As the Gray Wraith, they were kindred souls, just on opposite sides of the war.
But during her employment with the Bennington's, Emily discovered that things weren't as she initially believed. The Bennington's and the Hunt's treated their slaves with respect, and had allowed many to buy back their freedom. Alexander even championed their release. They welcomed her into their family, shattering her notion that all slave holders were privileged and shallow, and her opinions, and her attitude, changed over the course of the book.
As an avid romance lover, The Quaker and The Rebel started off a bit slow for me, but I'm so glad I kept reading. What it lacked in actual romantic wooing and sweet words (after all, there was a war going on!), it made up for in depth and character growth. The Quaker and The Rebel transcends romance. It's about the ugly stains of prejudice; it's about how we allow past experiences or other people's opinions to poison our attitudes and control our thoughts. It's about a family and how they accepted Emily and her narrow-minded self into their midst, and then pardoned her sins and showered her with love and grace when she most needed it. Don't pick up The Quaker and The Rebel expecting just a romance. No. Because you'll get a whole lot more.
Disclaimer: Sending a big thank you to Mary Ellis and Harvest House Publisher for providing me with a copy of The Quaker and The Rebel for review. The opinions expressed here are my own, and I received no compensation.