Shunning caricatures of American revolutionary patriots as heroes and British loyalists as traitors or cowards, novelist McFarland (Seasons of Fear, 1983, etc.) shows in this absorbing narrative of three lives that the prerevolutionary crisis in Boston in 1774--75 had all the complexity and tragedy of a true civil war, and neither side had any monopoly on courage, virtue, or villainy. In the 1770s, Thomas Hutchinson, Benjamin Franklin, and Josiah Quincy seemingly had much in common: All were prominent native Bostonians (although Franklin had spent his adult life in Philadelphia), all were devoted to America, and, at least at the outset, all were committed to the British Empire and its tradition of law, property rights, and individual liberty. Quincy, a fervent and tubercular patriot who died as the crisis turned into outright war, worked for independence from the outset but represented the British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre and initially deplored the patriot mobs. Hutchinson, Massachusetts's last royal governor, emerges in McFarland's account as a moderate and intelligent conservative. But, out of touch with Americans' national aspirations and convinced that the better course was cooperation with Britain, he was violently driven out of Boston by mobs and watched helplessly from his London exile as the crisis erupted into war. Franklin was a previous advocate of empire whose son was royal governor of New Jersey and who had spent ten years in London as an agent for several of the colonies. He became embroiled in scandal when he stole and clandestinely circulated several letters of Hutchinson's that showed the royal governor's callousness toward America. Humiliated before the Privy Council in a speech by the solicitor general and stripped of his perquisites, Franklin was to sever his last ties with Britain and become one of the founders of the United States. A compelling narrative that reads like excellent fiction, but also a reminder of the suffering and moral dilemmas that Americans faced during the American Revolution.