A young Englishman claims the upper-class wealth and title he feels are owed to him, but instead finds himself working as a printer in revolutionary Boston, where he learns of love, danger, and freedom.
After more than two decades as a writer, Jakes was thinking of giving up when he decided to make one more effort. The eight-volume series he embarked upon has since sold over 55 million copies. Leading character Phillip Kent begins the saga as the illegitimate son of an English duke. His story is picaresque (about a roguish hero of low social class who lives by his wits in a corrupt society).
When Phillip and his mother cross over from France to claim his inheritance, they find the old man on his deathbed. Soon after they discover themselves robbed by his haughty wife and Phillip’s sadistic half-brother. They are forced to flee to London, but not before Phillip exacts a particularly delightful revenge.
In the great city, Phillip learns the printer’s trade and meets Benjamin Franklin. After his half-brother tracks him down, Phillip sails for America where he masters his craft and becomes involved in the politics that are quickly leading the colonies into revolution. While the fires of protest rage, a red-hot romance develops between Phillip and the daughter of one of the men who is directing these historic events.
The Bastard is tale told in an easy, fluid style. Its writing fluctuates, sometimes reading like a high school textbook and other times like a Harlequin Romance:
“His hands sought her. Warm private places tingled his fingertips. He felt passion change her body, as his had changed. The meadow grass rippled in the wind. A whispering. Cries of gulls drifted from the harbor. The hot light poured down as her own hands moved over him, and his grew bolder. Jolted, he moved back a second as she pulled away. She thrust down her skirt as his eyes flared with anger. Sitting up she brushed off her bodice. She wouldn’t look at him.”
Phillip finds himself torn between equality and gentility. His mother has raised him to believe that he deserves the social status of his father, but when events force a wedge between Phillip and his new lover she challenges him angrily:
“Does everything that’s happened to you in Boston mean nothing?.... Was it all a dumb show without any feeling? Any conviction on your part?.... You can’t decide what you are! A free man, or the trained pet of that... that British whore! .... All her rantings about your rightful place as a little lord!”
Jakes cleverly uses Phillip’s inner turmoil to reflect the national discord. This deep social division led to a 1788 presidential election that was decided by an elite of voters that numbered less than two percent of the new nation’s population. Property restrictions limited voting rights as severely as in England, a situation that lasted until 1828 and ‘Jacksonian Democracy.’ However, Jakes keeps these sorts of weighty themes and intellectual dilemmas in the background. The Bastard is a suspense filled saga of love and hate and it carries the reader through its 544 pages like he’s on a river at flood stage, and doesn’t cast him ashore until the very end.
First in The Kent Family Chronicles, also called The American Bicentennial Series
Adapted as a 3 hour 8 minute movie.
Moderate violence. Sexual content. No disturbing content. P.C.
Available in audiobook format.
John Jake's webpage. (click here)