Independence Day

DC4th For our American readers and AAR folks, yesterday was Independence Day and many of us are enjoying the day off today. As always around this time of year, I find myself thinking about Revolutionary War history and realizing that I haven’t read much fiction set during this time period. For such a time of new beginnings and hopefulness, it would seem to be the perfect setting for a romance. It’s a shame more authors don’t use it.

Over email, other folks at AAR and I got to discussing our favorite colonial and American Revolution-set novels. Though few of us had not read much set during these time periods, most of us both in the USA and overseas had particular favorites we remember warmly. It would appear that while we may not find many books with these settings, the ones we do find stand out.

Several of us especially enjoyed young adult books we had read. I discovered Ann Rinaldi’s Time Enough for Drums in high school, and really enjoying it. This story of a family split over whether to support the English or the revolutionaries stuck in my mind for years after I read it. Blythe Barnhill has a soft spot for Sabrina, a novel by Candice F. Ransom from the Sunfire series set in South Carolina during the Revolution, and both Maggie Boyd and Lee Brewer greatly enjoyed the classic Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes. And rounding out the list of childhood favorites was the children’s book Ben and Me by Robert Lawson, which was recommended by both Maggie Boyd and LinnieGayl Kimmel.

And then there were the romances! Rike Horstmann called classic romance Celia Garth by Gwen Bristow “delightful” and stated that, ” I
must have read it about five times during my teens, and I learned
almost all I know about that period in the South from it.” Bessie Makris counts herself another fan of this novel. Karyn Monk’s The Rebel and the Redcoat received mentions from several people as well. Blythe Barnhill counts it as one of her favorites, and Lee Brewer and Lea Hensley like it as well.

Not surprisingly, other reviewers’ minds went immediately to the Outlander books. Andi Davis is a fan of the series, and Jane Granville commented of the detailed colonial and Revolutionary War history found in the later books that, “It’s all just so interesting — and I’d much rather learn history through the lens of a novel.” In addition, to Outlander, several of us(myself included) also thought of Pamela Claire’s colonial novels. Heather Brooks has read the DIK-reviewed Untamed several times over and Lea Hensley and Jean Wan are fans of it as well while Cindy Smith has Ride the Fire, also by Claire, on her keeper shelf.

Rounding out the list of favorite books, one of my most dearly remembered Revolutionary War-set historicals is the classic Dawn’s Early Light by Elswyth Thane. It kicks off her Williamsburg series and is a rather sweet romance set against the background of Revolutionary Williamsburg. And the other favorites chosen? An oldie by Jude Devereaux called The Raider, which Maggie Boyd couldn’t help mentioning and Chase the Dawn by Jane Feather which Jean Wan states that she “LOVED” round out the list.

And what about you? What are your favorite colonial and American Revolution-set novels? For those of you overseas, what are some pivotal moments in your country’s history that you would love to see portrayed in romances?

– Lynn Spencer

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23 Responses to Independence Day

  1. Colonial America and the Revolution are big favorites of mine, but colonial settings are thin on the ground at the moment. Can’t for the life of me fathom why, as I’ve always found that period of American history absolutely fascinating, on all sides of the picture. Growing up in Westchester County, NY, that era still lived on for me in every visit to the John Jay homestead, in buildings and landmarks built before the Revolution and a local musem where I could see relics of the birth pangs of our country.

    Which is why, when I went to write my own first published e-book, My Outcast Heart, colonial NY was the most natural place in the world to begin. I would love to do more colonial settings someday and very likely will.

    For reading, the above suggestions are wonderful. I’m especially fond of Pamela Clare’s titles and foresee many rereads in my future. Valerie Sherwood’s Lovesong/Windsong/Nightsong trilogy (all about one couple) create a wonderful sense of the southern colonies, high seas and islands.

    I’m raeding this while out and about, but will check the colonial section of my keeper shelves when at home for more suggestions.

  2. Barb in Maryland says:

    Oh my, the number of hours I spent in high school devouring books set during the American Revolution!
    Though mostly out of print, Bruce Lancaster wrote a number of novels that featured good action and a nice romance: The Secret Road is one of the ones I remember.
    Betty Cavanna, who wrote mostly contemporary YA boy/girl high school romances,did one historical–A Touch of Magic–that is set during the British occupation of Philadelphia.
    Barbara Michaels set one of her time-warp type books during the American Revolution–called Patriot’s Dream. It even features an inter-racial love story with a happy ending(!)
    And the one I read over and over is Janice Meredith by Paul Leicester Ford, alas, also long out of print.
    Inglis Fletcher set most of her books in colonial North Carolina; Toil of the Brave is set during the Revolution.
    And I recall a really great one about Francis Marion (aka The Swamp Fox), but can’t remember title or author–though I do remember the Disney mini-series, starring a very handsome and dashing Leslie Nielsen.

    I agree that Gabaldon’s later books do a really good job with this period. And Pamela Clare’s (which are more set during the French & Indian Wars) are a good read. Joan Wolf did one in 1990 titled The Rebel and the Rose.

    That’s all I can think of right now.

  3. Magdalen says:

    I’ll recommend Come What May, by Leslie LaFoy. It’s set during the period, and has some connection to the political dealings in Virginia leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. But it’s also a good old-fashioned Wish Out of Water & Making The Best Of It story.

  4. JoAnn Ross says:

    Oh, that’s an easy one! Here’s another vote for The Raider, by Jude Deveraux, which was the 2nd historical romance I ever read. I was leery of trying it because I’d been burned with the first historical I read, where the hero and heroine spent 90% of the book apart and whenever they were together he was horrid to her (it was one of those old 70s rape romances.)

    Anyway, I LOVED the Raider, which was a Clark Kent/Superman/Zorro type story with the hero, Alex Montgomery, being a foppish town drunk by day, the patriot all the British Redcoats were desperately hunting for by night. Of course the heroine couldn’t stand him in drunk mode, but couldn’t resist The Raider. I immediately became a Deveraux fan girl.

    I so wish those Americana novels would make a comeback. At least western historicals have begun showing up again. OT, but I just discovered Carolyn Fyffe’s Where the Wind Blows, which I’m enjoying.

  5. Lynn M says:

    Count me as a fan of Johnny Tremaine. I remember reading the book for school and I also remember the Disney movie. I’ve been trying to get my kids to read it but no sale so far.

    There is another book I remember from my youth that I loved so much I tracked down a very hard to find used copy. It’s called “The Iron Peacock” by Mary Stetson Clarke and it is set in colonial times although in the late 1600s rather than the 1700s so maybe it doesn’t count for this discussion. But it’s about a girl who is coming from England to the colonies with her father, and he dies on the voyage over leaving her to become an indentured servant to pay off her passage. She falls in love with a fellow indentured servant. It’s a great book, if you can find a copy.

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  7. RobinB says:

    Glad to see a mention of “The Rebel and the Redcoat”, as well as the series by Pamela Clare that is set in colonial Virginia. Karyn Monk has written some wonderful historical romances, but I haven’t seen anything recent by her; I wonder why?

    The “Outlander” series books that are set in colonial America are certainly historically accurate (one would expect nothing less from Diana Gabaldon). However, I must confess that I prefer the part of the story that is set in Scotland–maybe that’s because that’s the first part of the saga when I first became enthralled by the saga!

  8. Evangeline says:

    I love this period. Like you, I was introduced to the setting (and American history in general), by Ann Rinaldi, and I count The Raider as one of my favorite romances, period. Laura Lee Guhrke’s The Charade was enjoyable as well. I also don’t understand why this period in US history isn’t utilized in historical romance! Ah well, I hear that Beverly Jenkins’ Midnight (Sept or Oct 2010 release) is set during this time period AND it features African-American characters!

  9. Evangeline says:

    I can’t believe I forgot to mention Betina Krahn!

    The Paradise Bargain – set during the Whiskey Rebellion
    Passion’s Ransom/Just Say Yes – set before the Revolutionary War, but still full of sedition
    Luck Be a Lady – I think it’s set in the 1780s

  10. I second the recommendation of Betina Krahn. I was just about to recommend The Paradise Bargain, a wonderful historical romance (set in 1794, after the Revolution, but it has a similar flavor).

    Sally Gunning’s three historical novels about pre-Revolutionary Cape Cod and Boston are all excellent (Widow’s War, Bound, Rebellion of Jane Clarke). I grew up in New England, with its history all around me, so am always on the lookout for historicals about the period.

  11. Oops, left a typo in my own name there :)

  12. Susan/DC says:

    It’s set in the UK, not the US, but the American Revolution is an important part of the backdrop of Diana Norman’s “Taking Liberties”. There is much discussion of what the term liberty means in both personal and political terms, but the talk is organic to the book and never feels like a lecture. In fact, it got a DIK review here at AAR. IMHO Norman is one of the best authors out there at making you feel like you are living through an historical period and don’t know how it will turn out (even if you went to see fireworks last night to celebrate American independence).

  13. Barb in Maryland says:

    For readers not in the know, Diana Norman is now writing medieval mysteries as Ariana Franklin (the Adelia Aguilar/Mistress of the Art of Death series).
    All of her Historicals written as Diana Norman are great, especially the one you mentioned.

  14. Mitzi H. says:

    I’ve been reading some of the earlier books by Heather Graham (North American Women Series) and enjoying them very much.

    Also some of Marsha Canham’s novels are also based during the Revolutionary
    War and they are FANTASTIC….Across A Moonlit Sea and The Iron Rose (both about privateers during this period).

    The Outlander Series and Pamela Claire’s historicals are among my very favorites too!!!

  15. AndyR says:

    Rising Wind by Cindy Holby is set some time before the war and IIRC the battling is with Indians.

  16. Michael says:

    Catherine Coulter’s Devil’s Embrace was set during the Revolutionary War

  17. Some great reading recommendations here. I read Johnny Tremain as a child and absolutely loved it. I remember crying at the end over Rab. My copy is still here somewhere, I know. I’ve been looking for it so my elder son can read it. He had to do a school project on Rebellion and chose the American Revolution, so I thought it would fit in. Must be in a box somewhere.
    One of my favourite historical romances is Catherine Gaskin’s Sara Dane, which is set during the early British settlement of Sydney. It’s a bit of a disconnect now in some ways, because so much of the wild country she describes in the book is now suburbs!


  18. Priscilla says:

    Elswyth Thane’s Dawns Early Light remains one of my all time favorites of the revolutionary period. Ann Rinaldi wrote a couple of books set during that time period.
    Sara Donati wrote Into the Wilderness and it was set in 1792. That series goes up through the War of 1812 and I think there may be one after that.
    The Revolutionary period, Early Colonial Days and the Civil War Period are some of my favorite time periods.
    As many have mentioned Diana Gabaldon’s books set in that time period are excellent.

  19. AAR Lynn says:

    @Lynn M – Oh, I love The Iron Peacock! And did you know that there is a companion book called Piper to the Clan which is about the heroine’s boyfriend and his journey to the colonies? That one is good as well.

  20. Mary Stiehler says:

    This post made me think of a series I read as a teen, The Kent Family Chronicles… Haven’t given it a thought till now. BUT Diana G. Novels are the best.

  21. Janet W says:

    Jessica at Read React Review did a rolicking review of The Raider (a terrific book!). And how about Patricia Potter — she wrote some wrenching books set around time of Revolutionary War didn’t she?

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