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12 / 30 books. 40% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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28 / 51 states. 55% done!

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10 / 25 books. 40% done!

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65 / 104 books. 63% done!

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44 / 52 books. 85% done!

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71 / 165 books. 43% done!
Thursday, May 04, 2023

Newest Amy Harmon Historical My Favorite So Far

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

In the wake of her father's abandonment and her mother's inability to provide for her children, 10-year-old Deborah Samson becomes an indentured servant. Her mentor, a kindly clergyman, reassures her that she will be treated well by the Thomases—and she is, more or less. Although her serving responsibilities in the home mean she's never quite part of the family, Deborah fits in well with the ten rambunctious Thomas boys. Tall, strong, and plain, she's a tomboy with little in the way of femininity or fragility. With an insatiable hunger for knowledge, Deborah is bursting with the desire for freedom, adventure, and real-life experience, a seemingly impossible goal for someone of her lowly station and protected sex. 

When war breaks out, the Thomas boys start enlisting one-by-one. Deborah's heart shatters each time, not just because of worry for her "brothers," but because she wishes she could fight by their sides. In 1782, she gets tired of waiting. Donning her brothers' old clothing, she enlists in the army under a false name. An enthusiastic "Robert Shurtliff" heads off to war, eager to fight, especially under the leadership of the respected General John Paterson. In addition to the challenge of keeping her identity a secret from the men around her, Deborah is soon dealing with the gruesome realities of war, which is nowhere near as glamorous as it seemed from the sidelines. Desperate to prove herself on the battlefield while not drawing undue attention to herself, she is dismayed to find that she's somehow attracted the admiration of General Paterson. As proud as she is to be assigned his aide-de-camp, being in his constant presence is unsettling to say the least. She's hiding several major secrets from him, including her growing romantic feelings for the handsome widower. How can she make sure he never discovers what she's concealing? And what will happen when he—inevitably—does? If she survives the war, what will the future hold for an unusual woman like herself?

A Girl Called Samson is the newest historical novel by Amy Harmon. This is the third book I've read by her and my favorite one so far (although I do really love Where the Lost Wander). Deborah Samson was a real woman who truly did disguise herself as a man in order to serve in the Revolutionary War. Although Harmon tells a fictionalized version of Deborah's story, it's based in the remarkable truth about an extraordinary woman. In Harmon's hands, at least, she's a compassionate, brave, forthright, and passionate heroine who's both sympathetic and admirable. The author imbues her with a complex personality, a diverse range of emotions, and enough challenging experiences to prove her grit and fortitude, all of which make her a well-crafted character who comes alive on the page. John Paterson (also a real person) is just as likable and appealing. The sparks flying between the two are felt almost instantly, but their bond is built over time, giving their relationship a realistic warmth and depth. Besides their budding romance, there is plenty of action and other turmoil in A Girl Called Samson to keep the tale exciting, compelling, and, of course, heartbreaking. In addition, Harmon's prose is vivid, even poetic, but it's never sentimental or overdone. All of these things combine to create an engrossing, resonant novel that shines light on people who really lived, breathed, and loved their country so much that they did remarkable things in its defense. A Girl Called Samson is a gripping must-read for any historical fiction lover.


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence, blood/gore, mild sexual content/innuendo, and mild language (no F-bombs)

To the FTC, with love: I received an e-ARC of A Girl Called Samson from the generous folks at Lake Union Publishing via those at NetGalley. Thank you!

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