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HFC Editorial Review of "Answering Liberty's Call" by Tracy Lawson

“Here the Blue Ridge Mountains rolled away to the east, the north, and the south. To the west, the last rays of the setting sun turned the horizon orange and pink. Silhouetted against the fading light, his profile put me in mind of a Roman emperor I once saw in a book and it tinged my surge of affection with foreboding. I married a farmer. A preacher. I had not expected him to become a warrior.”

And yet, this is who Anna Stone married. The twenty-nine-year-old wife of rebellious Baptist-preacher-turned-soldier, who is determined to carve a life for her three children while Benjamin joins the forces at Valley Forge under the command of General George Washington. But things turn awry when Anna receives a message from him with news of smallpox, severe chilling weather, with little food and less warmth to keep him and her brothers alive. Her love for this man, her strong and passionate husband, drives her to do what most women in her day and age would never imagine. She kisses her small children goodbye, leaving them in care of her family and housemaid, and strikes out across three states to bring supplies to the ailing men of Valley Forge.

Her uncle takes advantage of the situation and asks her to carry a message to some family members in Leesburg... but after delivering the message, she is swept into a plot of intrigue, of spying, and of secret plans that could spell dire consequences for the entire Continental Army, and the ruin of George Washington. Liberty is at stake, and she must answer the call just as sure as her own husband answered the call when he first left for the conflict against Britain.

But a woman travelling alone magnetizes unsavoury characters along the way, and her very life is in danger when she determines to uncover the dangerous plan. And the descriptive passages throughout the book drive you forward – fluid, captivating, and sometimes, visceral.

“... a body pickled in a cask of rum for a month is no sight for a woman – or anyone, I don’t mind saying, one whiff was enough to make me lose my taste for rum altogether.”

Anna faces so many challenges along the way, with her chin lifted high in the utmost show of bravery. She is a strong leading character who inspires, and the compelling way the author weaves the backstory with appropriate flashbacks is beautifully done. So often flashbacks stop the flow of the story from moving forward. This one does not. Somehow and quite remarkably, Ms Lawson manages to push the reader forward even as Anna reflects on the days leading up to her marriage to Benjamin, and of wading through the emotional turmoil she experiences along her vivid history. The unravelling of Anna’s story and the deep, abiding love she has for her husband flows as strong and sure as the mighty Potomac River, and I found myself eager to discover what might happen next; so much so that I finished this in one sitting.

All the emotions are traversed along this journey with Anna – of love, honour, loyalty, respect, fear, betrayal, and ultimately, freedom not only for this newly founded United States, but for the men at Valley Forge, and for a lone woman whose only desire is to find herself in her husband’s arms, even if for just one more moment in time.

So much history unfolds along the way, and Ms Lawson does a great job of weaving the historical characters, the well-known legends, into the story, from the powerful presence of Washington to the astute Hamilton, and a glimpse at the flamboyance of “Granny Gates”, the man who many wished as Washington’s replacement. And all told from the point of view of this brave unknown real woman of history, the author’s own sixth-great-grandmother – proof that there are so many tales to be told and uncovered in history!

“Until I met Benjamin Stone, I knew no one who embraced the idea that liberty was for everyone.”

This story is incredibly crafted and you get a true sense of the life and times of mid-18th century women and men. Everywhere you turn, from a simple homestead to the alehouses (called ‘ordinaries’ in American history), and to the blossoming of a New World, of a new government rising on the horizon of the American Revolutionary War.

Ms Lawson takes us back in time, but also connects the reader and history by showing the same kinds of conflicts affecting people then and today – heroism, loss, conflict, and the joys of children, wives, husbands, and friends – all supporting each other in a way that brings about hope for the future.

The founding fathers of the United States brought about a new government based on the ideals of liberty, and Ms Lawson reveals one of the strong women behind this call – Anna Stone, a brave woman who stands beside them in the annals of time, not only in the greater picture, but in her own family’s legacy. I’m sure she would be proud knowing her 6X great-granddaughter wrote such a remarkable story of her life.

This is a remarkably compelling read; a five-star story awarded the “Highly Recommended” award by The Historical Fiction Company.


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