IMPORTANT BACKGROUND INFO:
I received this book free from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. 🙂
Susanna’s Midnight Ride is a story about Susanna Bolling, a little known hero of the Revolutionary war. The books opens with Susanna waiting impatiently to discover whether or not her brothers (Alexander and Stith), and their friend Joseph (all three of them are off fighting in the Revolutionary war) are dead, and fuming about the fact that she can’t grab a musket and ride off to war because she’s a girl. Susanna and her mother receive a letter from Stith, but their hopes fall when it doesn’t give them any assurance that he, Alexander, and Joseph survived the most recent battle, and Susanna still has to ride to the trading station to check the casualty list. Meanwhile, several of Susanna’s mother’s precious heirlooms have gone missing, leading Susanna’s mother to blame the only person who has been in her room – Leory, her house slave. He is sent to work in the fields, and Susanna and Penny (her friend and house servant) go to check the casualty list. The news is mixed – Alexander and Stith survived, but Joseph (who had started to like Susanna, and wanted to marry her) did not. After Joseph’s funeral, rumors of another attack by the traitor Benedict Arnold start to swirl, and the long awaited spinning bee arrives. Leory tries to tell Susanna, Penny (who is his sister) and Mrs. Bolling about ships he saw not he river but none of them believe him because he has been rather mischievous and untrustworthy (and Susanna is preoccupied by determination to out preform her empty-headed cousin).
Unfortunately, Leroy was right. The spinning bee is interrupted by an attack from Benedict Arnold who burns down the storehouses filled with tobacco (he basically burned down their livelihood). Leory disappears, hoping for a chance at freedom by joining the British. Still reeling from the Arnold’s blow, Susanna and her mother are surprised again when Cornwallis himself show sup to quarter in their house, making a mess of things, and destroying any chance of their tobacco crop surviving. During one lively dinner, Susanna and her mother overhear a plot to kidnap Lafayette and George Washington. Susanna finally sees her chance to make a difference in the war, so she convinces her mother to let her go warn Lafayette. Once the redcoats are asleep, she sneaks out through a tunnel connecting her house to the river, paddles upstream to her neighbors, borrows a horse, rides the long trail to the American camp, manages to warn Lafayette, and then completes the harrowing return journey before sunrise, without being spotted by the British (though she did run into Leory who came back because he discovered the British are liars who treat escaped slaves horribly). Cornwallis and the army finally leave her house without catching her.
Three months latter, she receives a letter from her brother who informs her that the Americans have won – and it’s in part because of her bravery.
Susanna’s Midnight Ride is a self-published (also known as indie published) book written by Libby Carty McNamee, a veteran and leader of the Epic Patriot camp alongside Jenny L. Cote, author of The Amazing Tales of Max and Liz, and The Epic Order of the Seven series.
WHAT I LIKED:
I enjoyed learning about this little-known hero of the revolutionary war. I’d never heard of Susanna Bolling, and Susanna’s Midnight Ride did a good job of piquing my curiosity.
Libby Carty McNamee did a good job of showing you what life was like for those left at home during the Revolutionary War. Because Susanna only ended up becoming a hero due to chance, we got to see what life was like for a family left at home during the war. The anxiety, stress, desire to help, fear, unsatisfying bits of news received, etc.
It has the best cover I’ve ever seen on a self published book.
CONTENT CONCERNS/THINGS TO KNOW:
Please note that I read laser focused on looking for content concerns so that I can write this review. It’s going to seem like there are a lot, but often they’re incredibly easy to gloss over or miss, and they’re not as concerning within the context of the story.
The characters in the story are culturally Christian (one character references her devout Anglican upbringing). They pray occasionally, and Susanna says her mother believes all people are made in the image of God.
‘Idle hands are the devils worship’ is misattributed to Proverbs.
Susanna asks the spirit of her great-grandmother Pocahontas to guide her.
We’re told that one character likes Susanna, and that he was hoping to marry her. Other characters talking about say that they would have beautiful children. There’s no actual love story.
Susanna’s cousin is a flirt who constantly pines about the lack of potential mates due to the war.
While the Brit’s are quartering at Susanna’s house, Susanna feels a bit flustered with a handsome British officer, and smiles coyly at him, but her feelings change to disgust when she realizes who he is.
Susanna’s mother requests that the British who are quarter at their house don’t bother Susanna. Cornwallis says if he catches any of them ogling they will face harsh discipline.
We’re told that many of the American Soldiers fought buck-naked, some wearing flint boxes that just covered private parts.
No actual violence occurs during the story that we can see. Because it’s set during the Revolutionary war, the threat of death or violence hangs constantly over the heads of the characters, and we hear about it a lot. One of Susanna’s sisters died in childbirth. We’re told that doctor can’t do anything if the baby’s head is too large to pass.
Characters fantasize getting revenge on their enemies by hurting them. One characters says it’s a shame the enemy escaped because it would have been fun to see him torn apart limb by limb.
God’s name is taken in vain quite often, with phrases like ()forsaken, ()awful, dear (), and glory be to (). The Lord’s name is taken in vain a couple times as well.
Someone exclaims ‘mother of God’.
The characters feel very strongly about Benedict Arnold, calling him names such as Judas or devil incarnate (and at one point denounced as worse than Judas because ‘at least Judas had the decency to hang himself’), and saying they hope he ‘roasts on a bonfire in hell with Satan himself.’ Another character is wished the same fate.
A couple frightened characters described as having ‘[freezing] and look around the barn as if expecting Satan himself to jump out of the shadows.’
Someone says the Americans fought like demons.
The H word is used a couple times.
Someone warns another character to be careful ‘lest [they] go ar*e over teakettle’ (I think this is the author using historical language).
The British swear ‘bloody’ is used once.
Black people are referred to as Negros (I believe to be historically accurate).
Other things to know:
A very prevalent theme in (mainly) the first half of the story is Susanna’s disgust that because she’s a girl she feels like she can’t do anything to help the war (and so do all the men). In order to make this point, every interaction she has with men (sans a few) makes it look like the men are pigs intent on keeping her down and subdued. In the end of the book, she’s told that the women do help – just in different ways than then men.
Susanna often doesn’t get along very well with other people. She’s rude to her cousin (her cousin is condescending), and often is annoyed with her mother. She also lies to a couple people (in part because she can’t bear to tell them the harsh truth).
When the British show up at Susanna’s house, her mother says the soldiers can get drunk as long as they don’t touch her, Susanna or any of their household. Later, we’re told that the British soldiers drank more than what was good for them.
Relief is compared to the feeling one gets from drinking brandy, and the feeling of a hangover is compared to the feeling someone has from breathing in the smoke of the destroyed tobacco fields and storehouses.
A character declares she’ll wet herself if the redcoats get much closer.
This one isn’t really a content concern as much as it’s just gross, so I’m mentioning it. The prevalent diseases of the Revolutionary war are talked about. One is called the bloody pox (even the name is gross!), and in a letter from Susanna’s brother, he jokes about his body itch and the boils that cover a friend. The Revolutionary war was gross. 🙂
There is a typeset mistake on page 156.
Susanna’s Midnight Ride is a unique story covering a little known revolutionary war hero. The writing is a bit chaotic (in my opinion), but it definitely made me curious about Susanna Bolling and the part she played in the Revolutionary War.
The story discusses the war in a very real way, and doesn’t shy away from many of the hardships endured by those waiting at home (and a few from those away fighting).
Though there are definitely some minor content concerns in the story to be aware of, it’s an interesting story about Susanna Bolling and her heroic ride to warn Lafayette about a kidnapping plot.
Would you have the courage to do what Susanna did?
Susanna lies to Mistress Blindfold because she can’t bear to tell her the harsh truth, even though she knows it’s wrong. Why was it wrong to lie in this case? Why is telling the truth, even if it hurts, still the right thing to do? Look in the Bible to help formulate your answer.
Susanna is miffed because she feels like she can’t help because she’s a girl. Is this true?
Did she handle her irritation in a Biblical way?
At the end of her midnight ride, Lafayette thanks her and mentions that the Patriot women have been great help. Susanna is surprised, because she hadn’t realized there were more ways to help than just fighting. What were some of the way they were helping? Is it just as valuable as the fighting? Why or why not?
God has made men and women differently, and gifted each gender different skills and strengths to use in times of trouble. What are some of the strengths God has given men and women?
Why are these differences good?
Susanna says her mother believes all people are made in the likeness of God. What does it mean to be made in the image of God? What does the Bible say about it?
Why is slavery wrong?
Why does Leory run away? Do you think he did right?
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Not included due to God’s name being taken in vain. 🙁
Taken from the author’s website, which you can find here.
“We’ve all heard of Paul Revere, but have you heard of Susanna Bolling?
Paul Revere got caught; Susanna did not. Huzzah!
Almost five years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution hung in the balance. In late May 1781, General Cornwallis invaded City Point, VA, and quartered his army there. As 16-year-old Susanna Bolling served the British general and his officers dinner, she overheard their plans to capture General Lafayette and crush the American rebellion once and for all. Under the cover of darkness, she snuck out of her house through a secret underground tunnel and canoed downriver. Then she grabbed a neighbor’s horse and rode ten miles to warn Lafayette. But would she make it back home by sunrise without detection?”