What happens when you set the Irish Potato Famine against the contemporary American Civil War? You get Grindstone, a new historical novel/romance set in the isles of the St. Lawrence river. The main character, Anya, is born in Ireland but makes the journey across the Atlantic along with thousands of other Irish, fleeing near certain death as the Blight grips the country. Her twin brother Finn soon volunteers to fight in one of the bloodiest wars in American history, and disappears. Now on her own, Anya is forced to tell the people of Grindstone she’s married, and that her husband is in the Northern Infantry. Living alone on winter-blasted Grindstone is no treat for a lone Irish schoolteacher, in an era where Irish were thought of as practically nothing.
Meanwhile, the Kennedy brothers hatch a terror plot to burn out several northern cities, along with John Wilkes Booth and a man named Jonathon Douglas. When Douglas refuses to go through with the plot, be brings a group of fanatical Southern separatist murderers searching the Thousand Isles, including Grindstone.
Technically, the book is well-written and compelling. Though the beginning of the book is heavy on narrative and it slowly plods towards the intriguing portions of the story, the author skillfully injects enough historical detail and atmosphere to bring the past to life.
Characters shout, laugh, and live with unique voices, especially the wounded veteran Michael and his younger siblings. Even Finn, who occupies only Anya’s thoughts, comes to life through his letters. Readers will enjoy a fantastic North, carefully and thoughtfully rendered, along with the contemporary politics, manners, and minor details which add to the ambiance of mainstream published historical novels. Communication, like penning letters and visiting the general store for replies and other news every few days, was one of the most interesting portions of the book.
Perhaps the most compelling portion of the book (after about 10-15%, when the book really gets into its swing) is how realistic it seems, rather than plotted. Rather than following the traditional plot arc, Grindstone works its way into a unique and satisfying storyline. This book comes highly recommended for fans of historical novels, the Civil War, or simply good writing.
The book had quite a number of double spaces and some single spaces after periods. Though we’re posting this at 4 stars, we can’t give Awesome Indies approval for the book until this formatting issue is fixed.