4 out of 4 stars
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Set towards the end of the Revolutionary War, A Devil of a Time by Gretchen Jeannette introduces the reader to the invading British army's effects on Colonial America. The author mixes romance with historical fiction and mystery to create a captivating story.
Clarice Wade is a young mother and mistress of a struggling tobacco plantation in Williamsburg, VA. Her husband, Andrew, is plagued by demons of his past and has taken to the bottle to drown his sorrows. An old friend of Andrew’s, Niall McLane, a disgraced war veteran, enters into the young couple's lives. Soon a bizarre love triangle ensues between Clarice, her husband, and Niall. Add a deranged serial killer to the mix, and you have a tale that keeps you guessing! Niall McLane made his fame as a brutal fighter during the war. He is now under suspicion of killing innocent people. Is he the killer? Will he be arrested or can he clear his name?
The setting is lovely. The author gracefully weaves aspects of the time period into the story, from medicine to the hardships of running a tobacco farm, to the effects of the war on the land and people. We also see what it is like to be a woman in the late 1700’s; she at the mercy of her husband’s whims. I found these aspects really interesting and informative; I loved learning about the details of the everyday lives of people during this period.
The characters are well developed and stay true to form throughout the story. The most tragic is that of Andrew. The author did a great job of showing redemption of this character in particular. I alternated between hating him and feeling sorry for him, which I believe was the author’s intention. The budding romantic relationship between Niall and Clarice was well written and exciting.
The plot is thoroughly developed and paced appropriately. I found myself on the edge of my seat for most of the book. I would put the book down and then immediately pick it up again. The ending was along the lines of what I expected but I really enjoyed the twists and turns that the plot took to get there. There is intense action and violence, including flashbacks of the characters’ pasts that give the reader insight into their current actions. These were some of my favorite parts of the book, as it really built the characters into believable people.
Seeing the killer’s motivations and the other characters obliviousness made me want to scream. I think that the author’s move to reveal the killer early on instead of making it a mystery was a great one. It was chilling to read about this person’s thought process!
Themes include trauma and war, alcoholism, domestic violence, and mental illness. These are things that people still struggle with today. These issues brought the time period into perspective, as people haven’t changed that much.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. Fans of historical fiction, crime, and especially romance will find much to like in this gripping tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end!
A Devil of a Time
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