Before the Scarlet Dawn, by Rita Gerlach

book coverIn 1775, Hayward Morgan, a young gentleman destined to inherit his father’s estate in Derbyshire, England, captures the heart of the local vicar’s daughter, Eliza Bloome. Her dark beauty and spirited ways are not enough to win him, due to her station in life.

Circumstances throw Eliza in Hayward’s path, and they flee to America to escape the family conflicts. But as war looms, it’s a temporary reprieve. Hayward joins the revolutionary forces and what follows is a struggle for survival, a test of faith, and the quest to find lasting love in an unforgiving wilderness.

Eliza has no choice. Her father is dead, she has no other family, and she must be out of the vicarage so the new family can move in. A man of standing wants to marry her, but his attention is merely physical. Eliza must have love. Or so she thinks. After she overhears Hayward’s proposal being rejected because it involves a one-way trip to the colonies, Eliza believes herself to be in love with him and proposes he marry her instead. He accepts, but only because he is desperate enough to want a wife to manage his homestead in Maryland while he’s fighting the English. He doesn’t love her, never says he loves her, but Eliza now has a home.

Life in the colonies isn’t exactly easy. There are Indians about, too-attentive bachelor neighbors, and no one is happy when Eliza makes mention of His Majesty at a social event. Events in Boston hasten Hayward’s departure, although Eliza convinces him to at least stay until their child is born. After he leaves, she hears nothing for more than two years. Then, one day, the local minister brings news that no wife ever wants to hear…

Eliza is a strange character. She won’t marry her suitor in Derbyshire, even though she would live in comfort for the rest of her life. He is open about his physical desire for her, but Eliza is adamant that she won’t marry unless love is involved. Which is why it is totally confusing to the reader that she’ll willingly marry Hayward even though he makes no declaration either. At times she comes across naïve, while at others she appears coldly calculating. Hayward isn’t much better. Does he love his wife or doesn’t he? And when she commits a major sin, you’re left wondering whether or not he has forgiven her. I don’t think he knew himself.

There’s no closure or happy ending to this book, but this is the first in the Daughters of the Potomac series so no doubt Gerlach intends for the story of this disjointed family to continue in future novels. For the casual reader, it means the book isn’t good as a stand-alone. Still, it fills a couple of hours and yes, I did feel the emotion when Hayward rode away to war without a single look back to his wife and child.

Publisher: Abingdon Press

Publication Date: February 2012

Page Count: 400

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I downloaded my free copy of Before the Scarlet Dawn from Abingdon Press on the NetGalley website. I was under no obligation to write a review.

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