Wednesday 18 April 2018

A Discovering Diamonds Review of Whippoorwill by R L Bartram

AMAZON UK £3.99 £7.84   

Family drama
1800s / American Civil war

Cecile ('Ceci') Prejean is a fourteen year old tomboy, much to the annoyance of her plantation owner father. He assigns his Creole slave Hecubah to teach her the ways of a lady. This she achieves and a ball is held for Ceci's eighteenth birthday, where she meets – or, rather, re-meets – handsome Trent Sinclaire, a graduate from West Point. The inevitable happens and just a few weeks before their wedding, civil war breaks out and Trent is recalled to take his place as Lieutenant in the Union army.

When Ceci's widower father and her sister are killed accidentally in New Orleans, she is approached by Henry Doucet, spy-master to the Confederate army. Ceci and three other girls are trained and given the names of birds as their call signs: Ceci's is Whippoorwill.

This fast-paced story deals well with the use of female spies by both sides and Ceci's transformation from tomboy to efficient spy is interesting. For me, Hecubah is the outstanding character – world weary, wise and funny.

The cover cleverly shows Ceci both in 'Southern Belle' and Southern spy mode with an additional image of her and Trent. I found, however, that my imagination was stretched somewhat with Hecubah's sudden and dramatic reappearance into the story, and there were one or two minor niggles for this Brit reader, particularly with the use of American South-type dialogue, but nevertheless this will be of interest to the many fans of the American Civil War and romance of the ‘Gone With the Wind’ era genre.

© Richard Tearle

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