With the American Revolution as a backdrop, debut novelist Dearmon offers an enjoyable, old-fashioned love story set in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Readers meet feisty, outspoken 17-year-old Priscilla Parr in August 1773, not long after British Parliament authorized the Stamp Act, which didn’t sit well with Colonists. When the family of Priscilla’s childhood friend Thomas Eton moves back to Williamsburg from Richmond, the friendship between the two teenagers is rekindled. This relationship between Priscilla, daughter of a Loyalist, and Thomas, son of a Revolutionary, frames Dearmon’s depiction of the fracturing friendships and families of the Colonial privileged class as sides are drawn for or against the Revolution. Hidden beneath the congenial, ever so polite social events are rivalries, espionage, villainy and treacherous betrayals. With one exception near the end, Dearmon doesn’t take her readers to the war itself. Following Priscilla, she stays focused on the home front. While the revolutionaries make their plans and begin to take up arms, hearts are chastely aflutter as young women continue to search for proper husbands and eligible men search for appropriate wives. Priscilla, with her streak of independence and an innate understanding of human machinations, is the endearing guide through the social mores and upheavals. Her intellectual curiosity is drawn to the rather boisterous political debates she overhears among men. Although she thinks it naïve to believe that an uprising against the king could be successful, she is gradually drawn into the fray by Thomas, who is committed to American independence. Eventually, she will have to make a painful, costly decision. Dearmon writes in the style of late-18th/early-19th century authors, replicating the linguistic formality of the era both in dialogue and narration. The work reflects an assortment of literary styles: part comedy of manners, a bit of epistolary text and a good measure of family saga. A healthy supply of plot twists propels the story forward.
An ambitious first offering from a new talent.