14-year-old Caroline sees the revolutionary war come to South Carolina, to her town and into her home and, in the face of violence, she is forced to act with courage to protect her loved ones.
“Cast two shadows,” is a Southern expression for a mixed-race child who shows valuable traits acquired from each race. The author does not tell us what these traits are, but her leading character, 14-year-old Caroline, is a white-looking mulatto with admirable qualities. She has been adopted into her illegitimate father’s wealthy white family where war and misfortune will test her many talents.
It is 1780 and the invading British have occupied Camden, South Carolina. A redcoat officer has taken Caroline’s father prisoner, moved into his mansion, and forced the women into the servants’ quarters upstairs. In spite of her stepmother’s decision to remain loyal to the King, Caroline remains on good terms with the dear old woman. Both are embarrassed by Caroline’s gorgeous half-sister who is particularly loyal to Good King George after having given her body to the very upper class British Colonel Lord Rawdon. He claims to love her truly and she foolishly thinks he will marry her.
Meanwhile, off in the city of Charleston, another British officer has had Caroline’s half-brother severely whipped for refusing to give up his prize horse. He is now a rebel on the run and in dire need of assistance. This is only the start of it, and Caroline is soon forced to make life-or-death decisions that will reveal her as a woman of multiple strengths.
Rinaldi is a New York liberal, but in her 40 novels she has tried her best to subdue a hometown tendency to blame all of America’s ills on regions far from her home-sweet-home. While sticking to historical facts and keeping most of the blood and gore offstage, in Cast Two Shadows she has still created a page-turner. Her characters are unique and each has his or her own way of speaking. The good guys are people you can care about, and the bad guys are not so odious that you don’t want to hear about them. The depth and complexity of characters can only upset readers more when they are forced to contemplate the condition of people who are neither black nor white, neither high-class nor low, and neither fully Patriot not entirely Loyalist.
Rinaldi’s narrative only hints at the severity of war in the revolutionary South. There, things did not go as pleasantly as they did in cooler climes. Loyalists were not a small minority who could be contained. They banded together and fought, sometimes viciously. After the British offered freedom to any slaves who escaped their masters, wealthy whites had to wonder how they could square the source of their prosperity with their fight against oppression. Poor whites had to wonder what values they truly shared with an elite of rich planters that included George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Who can truly stand for liberty? Who can honestly claim to fight for justice?
In chapter six Caroline’s stepmother says:
“There are desperate men on both sides settling old scores and family feuds in the guise of attachment to either the Crown or independence. There is widespread looting, burning out.”
It is into this witch’s brew of confused ideology and conflicting loyalties that Rinaldi has thrown poor Caroline, and it is there that she must deal with dangers not often faced by soldiers, and decisions rarely presented to parents. It will keep you reading.
Fifth in the The Great Episodes Series.
Moderate violence. No disturbing content. P.C.
Available in audiobook format.
Ann Rinaldi on Wikipedia. (click here)