review copy provided by author via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
August 1789. The Rights of Man. Liberty. Equality. Idealism. Patriotism. A new age dawns. And yet, old hostilities persist: England and Spain are on the brink of war. France, allied by treaty with Spain, readies her warships. Three youths – the son of an English carpenter, the son of a naval captain, and the son of a French court tailor – meet in London, a chance encounter that entwines their lives ever after. The English boys find themselves on the same frigate bound for the Caribbean. The Frenchman sails to Trinidad, where he meets an even more zealous Spanish revolutionary. As diplomats in Europe race to avoid conflict, war threatens to explode in the Caribbean, with the three youths pitted against each other. Will the dawn of the boys’ young manhood remain bright with hope? Or will it become tainted with their countrymen’s spilled blood?
The reader is introduced to the three main characters of A Tainted Dawn when they have a chance encounter at a tailor's shop where Edward is having mourning clothes made for him. This brief interaction sets the tone for the entire novel. Edward and Louis take an instant dislike to each other and Jemmy is struck with admiration for Edward due to a small kindness.
Edward is the most sympathetic of the boys, in my opinion. His story is also the most detailed and so I was better able to relate to him and to his circumstances. His father has recently died and although he is the heir to his father's house, his grandfather is made his guardian against his mother's wishes. We see Edward's father's family only briefly, but they don't seem like nice people and while reading about them I had visions of the worst type of Dickensian villains. Edward is immediately put on a ship and sent off to sea in the hopes that he would never return, thus freeing up the property for his paternal family to enjoy.
Louis is the son of a prominent court tailor and seems like a very pampered, spoiled brat, to be honest. I found it very ironic that he considers himself such a revolutionary and yet he has a generous allowance and is dressed in the finest clothes and goes to a fine school. Louis has only one thought and that is revolution. He hates Edward and considers his an Aristo -- after one brief meeting. Louis spends his time with another revolutionary and avoiding school. He doesn't seem to do much except imagine how great a revolutionary he will be. Eventually, his father sends him away because of his behavior and he ends up in Trinidad with a couple of men from the militia.
Jemmy is just a young boy who tries to make money as a street musician to make up for the money his father, a carpenter, wastes on drink. He has a sister who has some issues and is the apple of her father's eye and a drain on Jemmy's energy because she is always running off and he has to find her. His reason for going to sea seems to be the least likely, to me. He is angry at his father about a fight they had and he takes off to sea.
Jemmy and Edward end up on the same frigate for a while, but on different social levels. One of the most interesting aspects to this novel, for me, was the attention paid to the very strict social structures. While I was aware of the role social status played in life during this period, it had never occurred to me how rigid these would be aboard ship. While this is definitely a nautical based story, I don't think it romanticizes life aboard ship. In fact, the author gives abundant detail to just how brutal and hard life at sea could be.
In addition to all the nautical adventure, there is also a lot of history covered in A Tainted Dawn. In fact, that aspect was probably my favorite. There was so much going on in Europe and in the various colonial holdings during this period. As the book makes clear, things are building towards war, and there is much to consider and keep in mind while reading this book.
Because this is the first book in the series, I am guessing that Edward, Louis, and Jemmy will encounter each other again and have more involved stories as the series progresses. There is a lot of potential with this story and I hope that we learn much more about these boys as they grow and adventure across the seas.
ABOUT THE AUTHORB. N. Peacock has had a life-long passion for history. Her childhood hero was Lord Nelson. Her second passion was writing, which equally early on won her an honorable mention in a national Read Magazine contest for a short story about Bunker Hill as told from a British correspondent’s view. She majored in Classical languages as an undergraduate, and went on to get graduate degrees in International Relations and Agricultural Economics respectively. After college, she worked for USDA’s Economic Research Service and wrote for their Situation and Outlook Reports.
She returned to her love for history and writing when, as sandwich generation mother caring for children and elderly parent, she came up with the idea of writing about history from different perspectives. This was the start of A Tainted Dawn and the Great War (French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars) series. She currently lives in Manassas, Virginia, close to the Bull Run battlefield, with her husband and family, and also Mr. Orlando Cat and Fiona, the Famous Flying Golden Retriever.
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