The Tory Widow
by Christine Blevins
(Berkley, $15.00, PG-13)  ISBN 978-0425226018
***
The Tory Widow is a historical novel with a romance thread, not a historical romance.  Readers, take note.  While there is plenty of history to go around, and the plot is engrossing if you enjoy stories set during the American Revolution, the romance definitely takes a back seat.  That said, this is a pretty good book.

The story opens in New York City, 1766.  It’s a bright May morning, and Anne Peabody is about to be married to a much older man, a printer, who will ensure her father’s own success in the printing business.  Her bride price?  Spare parts for her father’s printing press, print type, and ten reams of paper. When a young man named Jack Hampton sweeps Anne into his arms and kisses her, in celebration of the repeal of the Stamp Act, Anne is stunned.  Jack disappears, and Anne is married.

Ten years later, Anne is now the Widow Merrick. With her husband and small son dead, she continues to operate her husband’s printing business, and she mostly prints Tory propaganda.  Anne cares little for the Tories and stays neutral, but their printing orders help her business to survive.  One night her shop is ransacked by the Sons of Liberty, and Anne comes face-to-face with Jack Hampton again.  With her shop in ruins, Anne realizes she can no longer operate it as a printing business without facing constant harassment from both sides.  So, with the help of her friend, Sally, Anne reopens the shop as a coffee shop.  And she makes sure that Jack Hampton gets the worst she has to offer during his frequent visits.

Anne won’t be able to stay neutral for long. Lexington and Concord loom and war is breaking out around her. When Anne decides her heart is with the Patriots, and Jack in particular, the stage is set for her involvement in espionage against the British.

Readers who enjoy a strong historical thread in their books will find The Tory Widow to be quite engrossing. The book isn’t without a few clichés, such as the prostitute with a heart of gold who also loves Jack, and the sassy best friend, but the storytelling is smooth. Jack is no perfect hero, either, and it’s not an instant romance between Anne and him. Anne’s other suitor, a British officer, at times treats her better. 

My other quibble is that the ending is too drawn-out. The author apparently needed a way to extend it, because she has the climax turn on Anne becoming hysterical over a lost object and Jack, of course, returning to fetch it for her, thereby putting everyone on danger just when they are finally close to safe ground. Frankly, this was just too ludicrous for belief and made both Jack and Anne look like idiots.  The book dropped down a notch on our rating scale right there. 

The Tory Widow will appeal to many, however. Christine Blevins leaves the door open a bit for a sequel, and it will be interesting to see what she comes up with next.   

--Cathy Sova


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