In the revolutionary Carolina backcountry, 16-year-old Josie is forced to run away, disguised as a boy, and she meets the man she was meant for while in a condition of deception and desperation.
Josie Summers grows up fast while experiencing one traumatic event after another. Her mother is mentally deranged and her stepfather is a brute. For her own protection, she escapes this madhouse disguised as a boy, and has to accept whatever aid she can. But if ever there was a survivor then it was Josie. This tough-as-nails teenager meets a handsome young man whose all-consuming mission is to preach the Sacred Word and build a Christian community in the wilderness. Their meeting is complicated by the fact that Josie is disguised as a boy. She travels with him, helping with his ministry, and they develop what he regards as a strong platonic friendship without his ever wondering about the way she pees. The truth, when it bursts open, still has him reeling with confusion and guilt when they are violently separated. Will they ever reunite and achieve the fulfillment of a proper Christian marriage?
Christian faith played a large role in the American Revolution. The 1774 Quebec Act was a successful effort by the British Parliament to win the allegiance of the French speaking population of Canada by making the Catholic Church the established religion in Quebec. Further south, the descendants of Puritans, who regarded the Pope as an agent of the Devil, were outraged. Preachers raged from pulpits, further inflaming a population already hot with resentment over unjust taxes. Most historical novels set during the Revolution suffer a remarkable lack of recognition of the role played by religion in revolutionary America. While Brave Enemies does not teach us about the contribution of the Quebec Act, it does tell something about colonial religion. This sometimes racy novel is a profound and thought provoking examination of the complex and powerful ways that sexual attraction can bear upon religious faith. The young lovers find their minds, souls and bodies opened to new possibilities. Barriers are broken down by the brutality of war. You may never look at either faith or sex in the same way. The route to a man’s heart may be his stomach, but the route to his soul is sometimes... well, you know.
While the core of this story is about the finding of true love and the testing Christian endurance, the setting is the most violent phase of the Revolution. A state of civil war existed in South Carolina, where Patriots and Loyalists not only fought in battle but would burn down houses and summarily execute neighbors. For so religious a novel, there is a remarkable amount of sin. While the Battle of the Cowpens does little to traumatize Josie, the reader might not manage so well. You can skip over this chapter without missing any elements of the plot. The same can be said about the sexual assault in chapter two.
Brave Enemies is written by a man, but from the point of view of a woman. At the end of the novel, just after the “Acknowledgements”, the author tells of how challenging and difficult a task it was, and of a lack of the insight that would be automatically possessed by a female writer. He says that, because he cannot directly relate to them, women “fascinate” him, and that writing from their perspective was a rewarding learning experience.
Morgan knows his history: military tactics, food, medical care, and attitudes towards the roles of men and women. The era, warts and all, is recaptured in its entirety. While Morgan’s writing is beautiful, his characters compassionate, and his homespun dialogue authentic, he fails to create enough suspense. With little foreshadowing, the reader sometimes has to push themself to go on. Be patient. The final chapters are more than worth the effort.
Moderate violence. No disturbing content. P.C.
Available in audiobook format.
Robert Morgan on Wikipedia (click here)