The Quaker and the Rebel, by Mary Ellis

book coverEmily Harrison’s life has been turned upside down. At the beginning of the Civil War, she bravely attempted to continue her parents’ work as conductors in the Underground Railroad until their Ohio farm was sold in foreclosure. Now alone, she accepts a position as a governess with a doctor’s family in slave-holding Virginia. Perhaps she can continue her rescue efforts from there.

Alexander Hunt is the doctor’s handsome nephew. While he does not deny a growing attraction to his uncle’s newest employee, he cannot take time to pursue Emily. Alex is not at all what he seems—rich, spoiled, and indolent. He is the elusive Gray Wraith, a Quaker leader of Rebel partisans. A man of the shadows, he carries no firearm and wholeheartedly believes in Emily’s antislavery convictions.

The path before Alex and Emily is complicated and sometimes life threatening. The war brings betrayal, entrapment, and danger to both of them. Amid their growing feelings for each other, can they find faith in God amid the challenges they face and trust in the possibility for a bright future together? 

Here we have the story of a young Quaker woman, firmly opposed to slavery, taking up a governess position in a Confederate state during the Civil War. I couldn’t figure out why she would do this, and began to hope early on that she was either a Union spy or an Underground Railroad conductor. We learn that she did have a plan in mind when she took the job, but that discovery is late in coming. In the meantime, we have someone who isn’t happy to be in a slave state, or to be served by slaves, and manages to insult both white and colored alike with her opinions. Her employers and hosts are fairly progressive when it comes to the issue of slavery in that they have a system in place for their slaves to earn their freedom. As one character points out, however, changing a culture and a way of life isn’t something that can happen quickly. Furthermore, not every slave wants to escape. One reminds Emily of the reality that an escaped slave is in danger even in a ‘free’ northern state. Better to stay a slave and earn your manumission papers.

The Quaker and the Rebel starts off slowly but does pick up pace once the romantic elements are brought in to the plot. It didn’t help that I was confused over Emily’s motives. For a good part of the story, Emily is patronizing and presuming. She believes slave owners are evil and that every colored person working for them must be a slave. Alex Hunt takes delight in seeing her proven wrong, but he’s torn between a presumed duty and loving her. How can he marry a Yankee woman when he’s aiding her ‘enemy’? Both Alex and Emily keep secrets from each other and, in the course of the novel, make questionable calls on the issue of trust. Ultimately, however, I saw two people looking to be needed, appreciated and loved. This is what drove them.

Mary Ellis’s novel covers the majority of the war starting with mention of the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas), although it stops short of the fall of Richmond and the surrender at Appomattox. Readers get a glimpse of life in the Shenandoah Valley during the Civil War. While the area’s inhabitants tried to continue living in the way to which they were accustomed they were also aware that danger was, at times, very close. Ellis includes some good Civil War resources in her opening acknowledgements, and these should serve her well in her future books of Civil War Heroines series.

Thank you to Harvest House Publishers for my free electronic copy of The Quaker and the Rebel, which I downloaded from NetGalley. No review was required.

Read an excerpt from The Quaker and the Rebel

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers

Publication Date: 01 January 2014

Page Count: 352

Read more on:   Mary Ellis’s Website   Harvest House’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble

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