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Setting Sail for the New World - an Editorial Review of "On the Wings of the Red-Tailed Hawk"

Book Blurb:


Embark on a gripping and tumultuous journey alongside Sarah Bailey, as she and her husband Jonathan set sail for the new world, filled with hopes and dreams of a better life. However, their voyage takes an unexpected turn as they become lost and face a scarcity of food. As if the hardships were not enough, a devastating winter sickness claims the lives of many, leaving Sarah widowed and responsible for her husband's brother.

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Author Bio:

Gail Combs Oglesby was born and raised in the western Detroit suburbs and lived for many years in California, and Texas. She now calls the suburbs north-west of Nashville her retirement home which she shares with her husband and fur kids

She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of San Francisco in Human Resources, as well as a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Coast University.

For over thirty-five years she worked in leadership roles in Human Resources and from that experience published “HR Confidential: An Insider’s Guide to Finding and Getting a Great Job.”

When not working, the passion that has obsessed her for the last fifty years has been genealogy. Originally the goal was to solve a family mystery, which took nearly forty-years to uncover. Today, access to online databases and DNA has helped her, and thousands of others to make those connections to the past and Gail can often be found helping others with their search.

Through that work she developed a deep admiration for what our ancestors, especially the women, have endured so that we could be here today. It is now her mission to bring their experiences to life through her writing and to celebrate the ordinary women whose accomplishments were anything but ordinary. Her debut novel is available now on Amazon.

Editorial Review:

The moaning wakes me up, a sound like an old woman in the last moments of her life—gasping, writhing, a torment of body and soul. It is a sound that is now so familiar it is almost comforting; it means we are still afloat. I lean over, careful to not wake Jonathan, who lies ever so still next to me. So still, in fact, I watch for a moment to see the comforting rise and fall of his chest. On his other side, his brother Abraham lies flat on his back, arms over his head as young men do. I press my cheek against the cool, musty wood of the hull, the dampness a welcome relief from the oppressive air filled with the smell of lamp oil, sweat, and vomit. How many days now? I’m beginning to lose track. Fifty-eight? No, sixty, I think I overheard Mrs. Fowler say this morning. Sixty days from England, sixty days farther from the life I’ve known, from the people I love, from the life that, while not perfect, was nearly perfect for me.

Gail Combs Oglesby's "On the Wings of the Red-Tailed Hawk" is a remarkable piece of historical fiction that transports readers back to the early days of America. It starts immediately in the thick of things, and the first chapter title is very fitting, “So it begins…”.

This narrative is a blend of meticulous research and creative storytelling which follows Sarah Bailey's journey from her homeland to the New World, encapsulating the trials and tribulations of early colonial life.

The first line of the book is strong and vivid, bringing the reader right into Sarah Bailey's world. The first paragraphs are masterfully written, laying the groundwork for the drama and adversity that follow. Oglesby's skill as a storyteller is demonstrated by her ability to capture the reader's attention right away.

I also liked that the book opened with an excerpt from the poem “The Story Tellers” attributed to Della Joann McGinnis Johnson. I really enjoy this poem and was happy to see it here, and I feel it sets the tone perfectly for the type of story we are about to read.

Provisions are running low, no water with which to clean ourselves and precious little ale left to drink, and much of that goes to the crew to revive them from their heavy labors. The days and nights seem to blend in the monotony that has become our life. How much longer? No one seems to know, or if they do, they are not saying. The light is beginning to filter through the narrow slits in the upper edges of the walls, sending small shafts of yellow into the hazy darkness. It will be time for morning prayers soon. I lie against Jonathan’s back, warming myself with his heat that radiates through his clothes. “You couldn’t sleep again?” he whispers softly.

The compelling storyline will also pull you into the story and keep you turning the pages. The plot is compelling and hits home on an emotional level. The story of Sarah's transformation from an optimistic traveler to a widowed survivor in a hostile new world is gripping and holds the reader's attention. Her struggles—from the lack of food to the deadly winter illness—are depicted with a realism that pays tribute to the early settlers' hardships.

Oglesby's book is well-edited and formatted, ensuring a seamless reading experience. You won’t find typos and grammatical errors that pull you out of the story. The attention to detail in editing reflects the overall quality of the book.

Amen,” we say in unison as we slowly rise from the floor to set about the day. I reluctantly hand the baby back to Mary.

Where did your thoughts take you, dear Sarah?” asks Mary.

Not far.” I laugh softly. “Just thinking about the Strangers. What do you think they think of us?”

That we are the source of their livelihood,” says Mary confidently. “They will help us build a town, a church, and schools so we can have a real life in the new world.”

Throughout the book, Sarah Bailey's character growth is particularly noteworthy. Her story of going from a hopeful immigrant to a strong survivor is fascinating and believable. The well-developed secondary characters, such as Sarah's husband Jonathan and his brother, give the story more complexity.

I also appreciate the excellent continuity, with each event and character decision logically flowing from what precedes it. This coherence adds to the authenticity of the narrative, allowing readers to fully immerse themselves in Sarah's world.

Without revealing too much, the ending of "On the Wings of the Red-Tailed Hawk" is deeply satisfying. Whether it veers towards happiness or sadness, it stays true to the story's spirit and provides a fitting conclusion to Sarah's journey.

The novel stands out for its focus on ordinary women of the past, a group often overlooked in historical accounts, specifically when it comes to early colonial life. This perspective is refreshing and adds a unique dimension to the genre of historical fiction.

By nightfall we have made it to the river, but the crossing is slow with many, many wagons lined up to use the only bridge, and we can do nothing but wait. Thankfully, one of the little boys with us spotted his family also waiting to cross, and he was most gratefully reunited with them. That leaves us still with four little ones whose families’ fates are unknown and whom we must care for until… I cannot think about it right now. Mr. Arnold’s face flashes before my eyes. As the roof began to cave in, he looked at me for a moment, his eyes filled with fear and regret for the life that he instantly knew would not be. My heart aches for him and the child, that poor child. I cannot even recall if it was a little boy or a little girl. So many people, so many children, so much death and destruction. It hurts to breathe, it hurts to think, it hurts to live.

Oglesby has excellent writing skills. Her skill at incorporating historical elements into an engrossing story without going overboard is impressive. Because of the evocative and detailed writing, Sarah's experiences come to life on the page.

"On the Wings of the Red-Tailed Hawk" has a cleverly written plot arc with a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Every stage of Sarah's trip receives sufficient attention, guaranteeing a smooth and seamless progression of the story.

For lovers of historical fiction, "On the Wings of the Red-Tailed Hawk" is a must-read. A captivating narrative that inspires and teaches in addition to providing entertainment, has been masterfully written by Gail Combs Oglesby. This book is a significant contribution to the genre since it allows readers to witness the hardships and victories of early American settlers through Sarah Bailey's eyes.


“On the Wings of the Red-Tailed Hawk” by Gail Combs Oglesby receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company



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