Being as the preface so notes, an “… account of Angelica TenBroeck’s flight from New York City during the late War of Independence, her would-be lovers, and a bluebird quilt” , “Independent Heart is as wayward as its’ title.

It begins straightforwardly enough at an elegant ball, appearing for the first couple of chapters to be one of those mannered romance novels; the beautiful and spirited heroine, the studly and devastatingly attractive yet mysterious hero…and the menacing, Snidely Whiplashesque villain determined to assault the heroines’ virtue. Well, actually, they both are determined to assault Angelica TenBroeck’s virtue; it’s just that the hero has got a bit more couth about him… which is why he is the hero, of course. That, and the fact that Angelica is all wobbly in the knees about Jack – er, whatever his surname and rank is, anyway. It changes several times during the course of the book, according to whatever situation he is trying to talk his way out of, and with whom.

When Jack er – Whatever rescues the fair Angelica from the vile clutches of Snid – oops, Major Armistad of His Majesty George III’s army of occupation in New York, gallantly promising to return her safely to her uncle’s household behind the Rebel lines in the upper Hudson River valley, the story takes a turn from light and frothy romance into something more substantial. This might strike some fans of romance as somewhat disconcerting. It’s rather like biting into a cake covered with sweetened whipped cream and instead of being something light and crisp, discovering that there is a historical novel underneath, rather more like a like dense and solid slice of fruitcake.

But very rich historical fruitcake it is, deftly written and very well researched, if concealed under a layer of romantic frosting which might initially put off the fans of straight historical novels. Angelica and Jacks’ flight from New York turns into one of those interesting, picaresue jorneys, through a part of the country today not particularly renown for being wild, wooly or otherwise lawless. That it might once have been is part of the eye-opener, as they encounter gun-powder smugglers, a band of Scotch-Irish rievers, Rebel and British soldiers, kindly Tory sypathizers and a kindnapped minister who discovers that given sufficiant whiskey, he can indeed preach a powerful blood and thunder sermon.

The fact that there was a clash of cultures between the Dutch and the Scotch-Irish settlers just as much as a clash of politics adds a layer of complexity not usually found in straight romance novels. The actual details of 18th century living – food, cleanliness, conditions of travel on horseback, and personal safety – are also addressed in rather more depth than usual. The device of Angelina’s bluebird quilt patches, to which she continues adding at every stop, all during her adventure is a clever linking device. But even when they reach her uncle’s farm, there is no safety for either one of them. There is still a war on. Jack and Angelica’s participation in the whole messy business of divided loyalties and near-civil war is obligatory. And thereby hangs the rest of the story; somewhat less of a fluffy costume romance and more of serious historical. But not to fear – the ending is mostly happy, just as the first chapter promised.

“Independent Heart” is available at Amazon.com, and through Juliet Waldron’s website www.julietwaldron.com .

Sgt Mom is a freelance writer, who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her own latest book, to Truckee’s Trail is available here. More about her other writing is at her website, www.celiahayes.com.

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