Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Keowee Valley

Author: Katherine Scott Crawford
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: complimentary Kindle ebook copy via NetGalley
Published by: Bell Bridge Books
First Published: September 27, 2012
First Line: "My story begins before the fall, in that Indian summer time when the hills are tipped with oncoming gold, and the light hangs just above the trees, dotting the Blue Ridge with gilded freckles."

Synopsis: It's 1768 and Elspbeth Quincy "Quinn" MacFadden is a 25 year old woman living in Charleston, North Carolina.  Orphaned at a young age she has been raised by her grandfather along with her cousin Owen.  Quinn has been given everything most girls would dream of but Quinn longs for more.

When she is told that her cousin, Owen has been kidnapped by natives she vows to do everything within her power to find him.  Against her grandfather's wishes she travels to the edge of the frontier to search for her cousin and, if truth be told, to gain some independence and go on the adventure that she's been craving.  

She makes her way to the Blue Ridge Mountains and begins to set up her own homestead and await the arrival of a native tracker who can help her find her cousin.  Jackson Wolfe, a half Cherokee, half Irish young man, is a tracker who knows the area well.  When he arrives and assures her that he can find her cousin and negotiate his freedom from the Iroquois.

Jack and Quinn begin an adventure that will put them in danger as they attempt to free her cousin.  As the war looms, Jack must make an important decision.  Does he accept the position as native translator with the British Army or follow his heart and go against the King, committing treason?

Set in the vivid backdrop of the American frontier this book is full of adventure, romance and memorable characters.

My Thoughts:  I must admit that I was impressed, and more than a little surprised, that this was Katherine Scott Crawford's debut novel.  This is a well-written novel full of adventure and romance all set in one of my favourite historical settings.

That said, as I started reading this book I began to see many similarities between this book and one of my all-time favourite historical fiction series, "Into the Wilderness" by Sara Donati.   Since I adored "Into the Wilderness" I knew that Ms Scott Crawford had her work cut out for her if she wanted to impress me.  While the era she chose, the storyline and even her main characters were quite similar to the other series I'm happy to report that Keowee Valley holds its own and brings with it a new take on adventure/romance reads.   

One of the things that struck me from the get-go is that the writing is so descriptive and vivid making it easy for me to picture exactly what it was like in the frontier.  The storyline combines action and interesting characters that you want to root for.

The characters were interesting if not a little 'too good to be true'. Quinn is a very independent, feisty young woman who was able to set up her own homestead with little to no issues (which I found a little hard to believe). Seeing her struggle with her independence would have made me enjoy her character even more.   I loved the 'voice' she gave to the book and seeing the new world through her eyes was interesting.

Similarly, Jack is the perfect guy. The body of a Greek god, smart, brave ... a little hard to imagine such a perfect guy.  But I was OK with that because he did make for a good male lead and I enjoyed seeing his internal struggle with being stuck between the two worlds he lives in.

As many of you know I'm not a big romance reader.  I honestly think it's a very hard genre to get 'right'.  And by 'right' I mean not dripping with cheesy love scenes or saccharine prose.  I feel all icky and honestly uncomfortable when reading 'bodice rippers' where the sexual escapades take centre stage relegating the actual storyline to the literary fringes.  "Keowee Valley" balances the sweet romance (without the cheesy love scenes - just aptly placed love scenes) with the adventure and pace of the main storyline.  While Jack and Quinn's romance happened fairly suddenly it's a believable relationship.  Would I have preferred for them to have time to grow their relationship a little slower?  Maybe.  I do love me some 'will they/won't they?' between main characters to build up that lovely tension between two strong characters.

One of my favourite parts of the book (while sadly brief) was seeing more about life in a Cherokee village. Seeing their view of the impending war was interesting as was how they felt at being labeled 'savages' when they, in their daily lives, were a more peaceful (not to mention more sanitary) people who gave their woman much more freedom and respect than the white population.

All in all, Katherine Scott Crawford has impressed me with her debut novel.  She has successfully combined the drama of this historical period with romance and some 'edge of your seat' scenarios.  Keowee Valley ends with some unanswered questions leaving me to believe (and hope) that this is the first book in a series. I do love ending a book and not wanting it to stop.  For me, that's the mark of a good read.  I look forward to seeing more from this author.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Note: My sincere thanks to Bell Bridge Books, Katherine Scott Crawford and NetGalley for providing me with this complimentary ebook in exchange for my honest review.

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