Title: Midwife of the Blue Ridge
Author: Christine Blevins
Publisher: Berkley an imprint of Penguin
Release Date: 2008
$14.00 U.S./15.50 CAN
How I Read It: Trade Paperback from Publisher
Rating: 4 Crowns
From the villages of eighteenth—century Scotland to the colonies of America, Christine Blevins takes us on a richly imagined, perilous adventure, as one woman seeks the life she deserves…
They called her Dark Maggie for her thick hair, but the name also has a more sinister connotation. As the lone survivor of an attack on her village, she was thought to be cursed—and unfit for marriage.
Maggie is not cursed but gifted with quick wits, skilled in medicine, and trained as a midwife. Venturing to the colonies as an indentured servant, she hopes to escape the superstitions of the old country, help women bring new life into the world, even in the most primitive and isolated corners of an unsettled land—and find a home of her own.
What she discovers is a new world fraught with new dangers—and, having given up her own freedom to join a people that yearn to be free, she must rely on her talent for survival now more than ever…
(from the back cover)
Maggie seems to be viewed as a harbinger of death, which has earned her the name Dark Maggie. After the death of Hannah, the woman who was kind enough to take Maggie into her home and teach her the trade of midwifery, Maggie is alone. Meeting a “Spirit”, a man who sprits away Scots to the Colonies as indenture servants, in a tavern Maggie decides that four years of service is a fair price for freedom and sets sail aboard the Good Intent as human cargo.
Whilst on the ship Maggie is quick to make friends as well as prove her skills of medicine. She is also quick to catch the eye of the rogue Cavendish, a nobleman who is being sent to America as a form of punishment. Refusing his advances he promises that he will buy Maggie’s contract once the Good Intent docks.
Thankfully it is the frontiersman, Seth who purchases Maggie’s contract so that she can aid his ailing wife. Unaware of the hardships of the frontier, Maggie sets out with Seth as they trek to his home in Kentucky (Kenta-kee), where a new set of challenges await.
This novel is a highly enthralling account of what life on the frontier was like, the hardships that were faced, as well as the constant fear of attack. I knew that when I started reading the novel that freedom would be a prominent theme throughout the book, although I was surprised that self-discovery was also a prominent element and we see that in aspect of it truly come to life in the struggle that Simon Peavey goes through. But considering the displacement that the wars caused that shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
I am not a big reader of historical fiction that is set in America so I wasn’t sure that what to expect with this novel, yet I was eager to give it a go due to the fact that the main character, Maggie, was Scottish. I must say that I am glad that I have read this as it truly was a great novel, one that makes you stop and think of the hardships that the people of the frontier faced.
The Main Characters:
Maggie Duncan- Maggie, for me, was a very likable character, which was a good thing seeing as this was her story. She was determined to make her own way in the world and when she found an opportunity to do so she jumped at it. To willingly enter into indentured servitude you had to have a sense of determination and you could clearly see that she was determined and persistent. She was also outspoken and highly witty. If she would have been written as a milquetoast this novel would have never made it to the printers because it was her fight spirit that sets this novel apart from others.
Tom Roberts- For me Tom was the ideal frontiersman. He was a man with no connections, no solid place to call home, no one to answer to, content to live off the land bouncing from place to place as his trade dictated. He thought that he knew what he wanted until Maggie came into his life and made him question everything he thought was correct. Tom was likable to a point and then you just wanted to shake him, or hit him over the head with a stick, while screaming ‘what do you think you’re doing?’.
Julian Cavendish- Every novel needs an antagonist and in this novel Julian fits the description to a t. He may be a viscount but that doesn’t hide that fact that he is a total creep. Every time he entered a scene he made my skin crawl.
Seth Martin-For every action there is an equal an opposite reaction, and Seth Martin was the complete opposite of Julian Cavendish which balanced the book nicely. I would love to see a prequel to this novel that featured Seth’s story because I believe that he has a rather interesting one.
The Secondary Characters:
I would liken the secondary characters to dragon pearl jasmine tea. The tea is wrapped in layers and layers of leaves although once you place the leaves in a bit of hot water the tendrils begin to unfurl until you have a strong full-bodied tea that’s perfectly brewed. There were several secondary characters that came in and out of the novel and just like the tendrils of tea helped to strengthen the flavor, these characters aided in strengthening plot. I do not believe that this novel would have been as grand as it was without these characters.
Overall: Midwife of the Blue Ridge is like a strikingly vivid portrait, each word another brush stroke that aids in portraying the story of Maggie Duncan. I highly recommend this novel to readers of historical fiction.
Midwife of the Blue Ridge does contain a Lowland Scots dialect. I grew up reading this dialect so I had no trouble with it although some may find it off putting. Unfortunately a glossary is not included but the words are very easy to understand within the context of the sentence.
If you are looking for a novel that centers on eighteenth century midwifery, this is not the novel for you. Of course Maggie is indeed a midwife and two babies are ‘caught’ in the novel, this is Maggie’s story, not the story of her trade.
This novel does contain a healthy dose of war-related violence, Indian raids, and the violence of the era. The novel contains references to three different wars and violence of this type is bound to occur. And since I received a complaint for not mentioning weapons featured in novels, this novel does contain the use of era-related weapons.
While there are a few sexual encounters in this novel most are mild.
I will warn you that there is a scene where Julian forces himself on Maggie and I could have done without that.
The novel is laden with profanity.
I have one copy to giveaway.
Ends February 24
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