#BookReview — A Devil of a Time by Gretchen Jeannette
A Devil of a Time
By Gretchen Jeannette
Captain Niall McLane might think he has survived the worst that could happen to any man, but as the bloody American Revolution draws to a close, he finds his troubles are just beginning. When Niall becomes a suspect in a grotesque murder, his reputation as a merciless Indian fighter and scalp hunter turns the public against him. Worse, the real killer has only begun to rampage, his sights set on those close to Niall. Now the hunt for evil is on. Niall's only allies are Andrew Wade, a hopeless drunkard tormented by his act of cowardice, and Andrew's young wife, Clarice, a woman of mettle who captivates Niall's heart. After another murder occurs, Niall manages to stay out of jail, but can he protect Clarice from the formidable creature prowling in their midst? From the mysterious forests of Kentucky to a graceful Virginia plantation, from the fevered heat of battle to the hope and struggle for renewal, A Devil of a Time weaves a tale of courage, betrayal, and forbidden love, of three men grappling with the demons of their past, and the remarkable woman destined to change all their lives forever.
“He no longer remembered what he was like before The Wolf was spawned…”
Some people hear their inner voice with great clarity — for some, it drives them crazy. If Captain Niall McLane is to have any semblance of a normal life, then he must silence his inner wolf. But, in the heat of battle, that is easier said than done.
Niall has not known peace since the day the Shawnee took him and his father captive. But as he looks into the eyes of his best friend’s wife, Niall feels the foreign sensation of finally coming home. And for a time, the wolf inside of him is silent.
However, The Wolf will not be silenced for long, and if Niall no longer heeds his demand for blood then The Wolf will find another to command…
From a desperate battle between the American Rebels and the Shawnee on the Ohio Frontier to a shocking discovery of the identity of a murderer, A Devil of a Time by Gretchen Jeannette is in all ways a Historical Fiction triumph.
A Devil of a Time is a luxuriantly detailed and emotionally charged portrayal of a battle that changed everything. The sprawling, stirring narrative found me reaching for the tissues on more than one occasion. This is the kind of story that demands your attention and will undoubtedly earn your respect.
Jeannette gives her readers an intimate insight not only to her protagonists’ thoughts, feelings, fears, and hopes for the future but also an insight into the secondary characters and the antagonist as well. The numerous voices employed in telling this story gives the narrative a richness that would have been very difficult to obtain through a single perspective. By using multiple points of view, Jeannette has also created a sense of sinister foreshadowing, and as the novel progresses, there are hints of the tragedy that is about to unfold. The brutal prologue immediately makes the reader ask themselves how will Lieutenant Andrew Wade, a brave yet inexperienced officer, survive a war when the enemy uses nature to conceal their positions and does not follow the rules of war? How will Andrew endure not only the physical injuries he received at the hands of the Shawnee but also the psychological damage that would, in the future, plague the life of not only Andrew but everyone around him?
The psychological damage of warfare is an element that Jeannette explores very thoroughly in this book. Andrew, in his desperate desire to vanquish his demons, finds comfort at the bottom of a bottle. Whereas Niall McLane tries a different approach. Andrew’s tragic fall from grace, his inability to get through the day without being drunk, is in stark contrast to Niall’s who is desperate to calm the beast inside of him — the beast that the Shawnee have named Swift Wolf Seizing Prey. Niall recognises the beast that he has become, and he fights this demon inside of him with the same relentlessness as he did the Shawnee. Andrew, on the other hand, makes excuses and apologies, which do nothing to address the underlying problem. I thought the depiction of both Andrew and Niall was sublime and both of them stirred my sympathy, especially because this book is set in an age where Post Traumatic Stress Disorder did not even have a name let alone any sense of understanding.
The heroine of this story is Clarice Wade, Andrew’s wife. Clarice endures, not because she wants to, but because if she allows her emotions to overcome her, then all is lost. Her story is especially tragic because she is so loving and so forgiving. But as she watches Andrew slip away from her, the only person she can turn to is Niall, Andrew’s best friend. Clarice’s depiction was wonderful. This is a woman who comes across as very strong, very capable, but underneath the façade is a woman who is as lost as her husband. Her own private grief she has to bear alone, and her desperate desire to bring joy back into her household is thwarted by her husband’s inability to get through an evening without disgracing himself. The man she married was not the man who came back from war, which in itself was utterly heartbreaking, but to be so coldly rebuked made her story all the more heartrending. If it were not for Niall, I doubt Clarice would cope with her desperate situation. He unwittingly becomes her rock, her refuge. Clarice and Niall’s story is one born of despair but also hope — hope that things will get better and that this unbearable suffering shall, one day, pass.
The historical detailing in this novel is staggering. However, what this book is not is a balanced account of what became known as the Western Theater of the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783). By not portraying the desperation of the Shawnee to hold onto their ancestral land actually gives this book a sense of authenticity. History tells us that the Shawnee did not support the American Rebels, and they did clash with them, and this Jeannette has portrayed in all its horrifying detail. The Shawnee are the enemy to the characters in this book. They are also the cause of much suffering, so to paint them in a light other than the way Jeannette has, would have defeated the point of the story. If anything, this novel confirms the fact that history is never simple, but it is, instead composed of a complicated network of truths and lies. Putting the depiction of the Shawnee to one side, the description of what life was like in a Virginian tobacco plantation in the late 1700s is masterfully portrayed. There is a strong sense of time and place in this novel, which has to be commended.
The graphic depiction of battle and the brutal, almost ritual, murders that occur throughout this novel are explicit. There are scenes that some readers will find very distressing. Some passages deal with issues such as adultery, rape, and injustice. This is a novel that will shock, but at the same time, it is a story that one cannot turn away from. I had to keep reading. I had to know how this book was going to end. It is an enthralling read, from start to finish.
The tone of the narrative and the novel’s extraordinarily complex psychological exploration gives this book an air of desperation, an air of menace. However, once started this novel is impossible to turn away from. The pages practically turned themselves as I watched in helpless surrender as the protagonists are hurtled towards a destination which demands a sacrifice. There are no winners in this story, only survivors. The characters are also the product of their time — adultery is not only frowned upon but punishable. However, domestic abuse is something that is brushed under the carpet. A Devil of a Time was absolutely brilliant from start to finish. I loved the tangled web of lies and subterfuges and the unquenchable passion between two very lonely souls who find comfort in each other’s arms.
If you are looking for your next enthralling Historical Fiction read then look no further than A Devil of a Time by Gretchen Jeannette. You won’t be disappointed.
I Highly Recommend.
Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.
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A Devil of a Time
Gretchen Jeannette was born in 1955 in Wilmington, Delaware. She lives and works in Chester County, Pennsylvania, an area rich in Revolutionary War and Colonial American history. Her enduring interest in 18th Century America began at a young age, inspired by the novels of Dale Van Every and Allan Eckert, whose timeless tales of adventure and romance capture the essence of early American lore. Eager to read more such stories, to her disappointment she had trouble finding them on bookshelves, so she decided to write one of her own. Thus began a journey fueled by her passion for breathing life into history through believable characters, authentic historical details, and plots woven with adventure, romance and suspense.