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History Before the Declaration of Independence - an Editorial Review of "Hatfield 1677"

Hatfield 1677 book cover

Book Blurb:

Colonist Benjamin Waite, a devoted husband, father, and skilled military scout in King Philip’s War, reluctantly obeys orders to guide a brutal attack against a camp of Algonquian Natives.

After the catastrophic event, Benjamin is burdened with guilt and longs for peace. But the Algonquians, led by the revered sachem Ashpelon, retaliate with vengeance upon Ben’s Massachusetts town of Hatfield, capturing over a dozen colonists, including his pregnant wife Martha and their three young daughters.

Hatfield 1677 is a tale of three interwoven yet diverging journeys of strength and survival. Benjamin is driven by love and remorse to rescue his family; Martha is forced into captivity and desperately striving to protect her children; and Ashpelon is willing to risk everything to ensure the safety and freedom of his people.

Based on the lives of the author’s ancestors, this riveting and unforgettable novel gives voice to three vastly different experiences in North America during a time before the creation of the Declaration of Independence. Then, the land was but a wilderness and a battleground; equality was not yet perceived as self-evident; and liberty and happiness were nothing more than dangerous pursuits.

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Author Bio:

Laura C. Rader author photo

After retiring from teaching English and history I am now a full-time historical fiction writer. When I'm not writing, researching, or reading, I like to study genealogy, attend neighborhood book club meetings, take forest walks with my Rough Collie, and visit with my adult daughter. Originally from California, I live twenty miles north of Raleigh, North Carolina.

Hatfield 1677 is my first novel, based on the lives of my 9th great grandparents.

Editorial Review:

Hatfield 1677 is a historical fiction novel set during early colonial America. Readers are taken on a harrowing journey as they are embroiled in the disputes between the Native Indians and English settlers.

Ben Waite, an English settler, is ordered to go into battle against the River Indians due to the Indians theft of their cattle and horses. However, the score settling is taken too far as Ben and the other soldiers end up slaughtering women and children as opposed to other Indian Warriors. The guilt and horror of these crimes haunt Ben throughout the entire novel. Marching into battle, Ben has the following reflections, “We marched in the footsteps of our dead, having learned little from their sacrifice and doomed to echo their fate.” Unfortunately, those in charge do not seem to learn from past mistakes. Additionally, those following and carrying out orders do not seem to feel as if they have the volition and ability to take control of their lives and refuse to engage in heinous acts. Little does Ben know that this is only the beginning and his fate is about to take a turn for the worse.

Martha, Ben’s wife, along with her children and several other settlers are taken as captives by the Native Indians as revenge. This endless and tragic score settling is reflected in Ashpelon’s reflections as he thinks about the English children they have kidnapped, “The English children we kept by our small cooking fire. They were our wampum, our gems for trading. Whether ransomed back to their English parents or sold to the French to the north, they would bring a high price. Or perhaps we would keep some. To replace the ghosts of our children, slaughtered by the English at Peskeompskut and in so many other massacres.” Readers can truly feel the perspectives of both sides. The pain of the Indian’s as well as suffering of the English captives is palpable throughout the novel.

While Martha and the other settlers are on a perilous journey to Canada where the Indians want to sell them as servants to the French, Ben is on a mission to save them. His mission, however, is blighted over and over again by bureaucracy, sickness and various other obstacles. Readers can feel Ben’s impatience and desperation as he perseveres in his battle to rescue his family, “Time pressed on me, a gargoyle hunched on my shoulder, mocking me. Martha and my girls had been lost to the wilderness for more than a fortnight, prisoners of desperate enemies, their trail growing colder each day. It tormented me that I could not yet pursue them. Recalling the book of Exodus, I prayed God would bring my family back to me on eagle’s wings.

Hatfield 1677 is both an informative and entertaining read painting a full picture of colonial America. Themes of freedom, true love, faith and the grit of the human spirit to overcome hardships are prevalent throughout the novel. All that either side seems to want is true freedom to live in peace without having to look over their shoulder or be drawn into power struggles. Many of the events which take place appear to be occurring outside of the character’s control. Whether that is the weather conditions, being in captivity, or bureaucracy, all of the characters come face to face with what seems to be the capricious hand of fate. Despite this, regardless of the religion or creed, all characters seem to maintain their faith in something bigger and more bountiful than themselves. This is evident in Martha and Ben reciting verses from the Bible for strength and comfort as well as Ashpelon and his community engaging in their practices and dances, calling upon higher spirits to bless them and their journey.

The imagery the author employs is evocative and powerful, truly drawing readers into a trancelike state as they allow the passages to unfold around them. The likening of childbirth to the seasons as Martha reflects on the harsh winter hammers home the intensity and pain of it as well as the amnesia that always seems to follow such struggles, “The first true snowstorm of the year was the most awesome yet painful of all. In the same way as child birth, I recalled the magic each time but forgot how brutal it could be. The budding and melting and breezes of spring, ripening into the blazing bounty of the summer, easing into the crimson glory of fall and the hard-earned harvest, made my memory of the bleakest season seem like a bad dream. Now, as always, winter roared back in that first furious storm.” This description strikes at the heart of the bitterness of winter whilst also being tinged with the magic and awesomeness of nature presenting itself in full force. Likening it to childbirth further emphasizes this point in a whimsical and imaginative way.

The author showcases her talent and skill in presenting both the Native Indian’s and English settler’s sides with a deep sense of neutrality, compassion and understanding. This is further assisted by the fact that the author shifts perspectives seamlessly from Ben, to Martha to Ashpelon, one of the Native Indian leaders. Readers get a complete picture of why each character is doing what they are doing and the greater forces at play in the background of their lives.

Overall, Hatfield 1677 was a thoroughly enjoyable read, immersing the reader in the tumultuous and treacherous journey that Martha, her fellow settlers and the Native Indians find themselves on. Readers hearts are shattered on multiple occasions as they witness unimaginable tragedies. It is one of the author’s strengths to truly draw readers into the thoughts, feelings and inner landscapes of all characters within the story. Readers feel Ben’s desperation, the frost-bitten toes of the children and the aching pain in the Indian’s hearts as they mourn their lost children which haunt everyone as the story unfolds. The author sets the scenes beautifully and builds the tension gradually, leaving readers on tenterhooks as to what the final outcomes will be for all involved.

Hatfield 1677 was a gripping, heartwarming, and a times heartbreaking, the author crafting a tale brimming with courage, fortitude, endurance, love and magic.


“Hatfield 1677” by Laura C Rader receives four stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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