A Civil War–era thriller that revolves around espionage and romance.
Despite Canada’s professed neutrality during the Civil War, Confederate spies used it as a safe refuge from which to conduct their operations. Raiford Young, a Union soldier, is tasked with going undercover to gather intelligence about their plans and movements. In New York, his hotel is set ablaze by Lt. John William Headley, a Confederate agent, and Raiford rushes to save a family trapped by the encircling fire. He manages to rescue the two young children, Beatrice and Frederick Cutter, but their father dies. A young woman, Anathea Brannaman, helps Raiford, and the two of them decide to transport the children into the care of their grandparents, who live in Guelph, Ontario. Raiford quickly realizes that traveling with a family provides a perfect cover for his covert mission. Once in Canada, he must contend with foiling dangerous plots meant to compel President Abraham Lincoln into peace talks and concessions. This is the author’s fifth novel, all of them set during the Civil War. Stoddard Schofield (Savannah Bound, 2014, etc.), a trained librarian and archivist, artfully combines events and people both real and imagined in this volume. Her research is remarkably thorough and painstaking. In addition, the plot propels itself like a cannon shot, maintaining a fleet pace from start to finish. Nevertheless, the highlight of the work is the sensitive and nuanced characterization; both Raiford and Anathea contend with past heartache and struggle to resolve their internal conflicts in order to accept their attraction to each other. Raiford’s wife died just three months after they were wed, and Anathea, who grew up an orphan, flees from a cold, abusive husband who dominated her life. Sometimes, the dialogue can be a touch leaden and overly earnest. Raiford wonders aloud to himself, “Heavenly Father, you know how I grieved when she died. You don’t want me to endure that again, do you?” And the historical summaries that the author provides, breaking from the narrator’s voice, are more intrusive than edifying. Despite these minor missteps, the book is an entertaining, and sometimes affecting, fusion of fiction and history.
A compelling and historically sound tale that follows a Union spy.