Friday, March 23, 2012

Review of Molly Lake Chronicles, Book Two: Barely Afloat

Much has been written about the major conflicts in American history, such as the American Revolution and the Civil War. Everyone knows who fought whom and who won. However, how many of us really understand what caused these events? What were the social and economic conditions at the time and what events led up to the extreme feelings of discontent and anger on either side? In The Molly Lake Chronicles, Book Two: Barely Afloat, the author, Samuel Endicott weaves an exciting, historically grounded tale around the lives of Molly and Jean-Luc St. Alembert in New York in the Fall of 1760, when the over-taxation by the British Crown is threatening the success of many businesses and causing great hardship in the American colonies. The Crown is tightening its control of the colonies in order to increase revenue to pay off the growing war debt, and the colonists, tired of being continually oppressed, are starting to plant the seeds for rebellion.

Barely Afloat is actually the second book in a series of adventures experienced by the Alemberts, so I was a little concerned at first that I might feel out of the loop having not read the first book. However, the author carefully inserts some details from the Alemberts’ past which helps merge the two story lines nicely, so that I felt like I was revisiting old friends.

This is historical fiction done right because it takes accurate historical facts and works them into a fictional plot with a good dose of suspense and excitement thrown in to make it interesting. When you are reading a story centred on the everyday people of a certain time period enduring real challenges, it makes it far more fascinating and easier to understand than reading about the same events in a textbook. I found myself rooting for the characters because even though it takes place in a different time period, I could relate to the struggles of this young couple trying to maintain a strong relationship while making a success of their lives in the midst of hard times. It’s not really much different from today really – we all struggle to make ends meet while the government imposes one new tax after another and the cost of living just keeps skyrocketing.

The essence of the plot is the quickly developing feelings of discontent in the colonies on the one hand struggling to co-exist with the patriots who still stand behind their King. Molly and Jean-Luc, for instance, have very different political views. Molly is fiercely loyal to England while Jean-Luc is a Frenchman and strongly opposed to England’s tyranny which makes it obvious that there is potential for a rift to develop between them, especially when Molly is approached by an English naval officer to act as a spy for England to gain information about organized tax evasion in the colonies and Jean-Luc is recruited by a French spy to work against England and help in the fight for independence. However, neither tells the other what they are up to. I particularly loved Molly’s character because of the traits she demonstrated right from the opening pages of the book. She is a quick thinker and very clever when it comes to swift plans of action, and she is as tough as nails and certainly not afraid of conflict. It quickly becomes apparent that she is a force to be reckoned with!

What I truly loved about this book was that Endicott doesn’t leave out a single aspect of the growing conflict. We have the angry colonists who think the new tax requirements are excessive and unfair, the English patriots in the colonies who think the dissenters are simply ungrateful, the short-tempered Royal Governor who started out with good ideals and then lost his way, the British tax collectors who will do anything to make money and gain the Governor’s favour, the French paladins who have been sent to the colonies to stir up trouble, the Dutch patroons who control everything along the coast, and their tenant farmers who can’t get ahead as a result. It was very interesting to note that the colonists (including the Dutch patroons) were angry over oppression by the British while at the same time the small time tenant farmers were tired of being oppressed by the rich Dutch landowners who originally settled the colonies.

Molly and Jean-Luc are like danger magnets, so many times finding themselves in situations where they did not realize their lives would be in peril. This results in a story that is like a roller coaster ride of suspense from one dangerous situation to another, until the exciting conclusion. Overall, this is a very satisfying read in every respect. It is historically accurate, exciting and suspenseful, and engages the readers’ emotions from start to finish. I highly recommend it.

Samuel Endicott was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1949 and earned degrees from both the University of Mississippi and the University of California. He is also a graduate of the Army CGSOC and the Naval War College and as an army ranger and paratrooper went on to serve in the combat engineers from 1975 to 1995. He enjoys golf, sailing, and tennis and resides in Virginia with his wife, Elaine.

Reviewer: Cindy Taylor,

Title: The Molly Lake Chronicles, Book Two: Barely Afloat

Author: Samuel Endicott

Format: paperback

Publisher: Griffin Press

October, 2011

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