Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Devils on Horseback -- Jake's Story

The post-Civil War soldiers of the Devils on Horseback continue on with their search for a new life after the horror and hell of war. Now reduced to a group of four -- Nate was married and starting a new life in a small Texas community -- and searching for employment as D. H. Enterprises, Jake and his companions find themselves in a small community that has been nearly destroyed by the deaths of their sons and husbands in the Civil War as well as other difficulties with night raids from a mysterious band of criminals who are sweeping the town and kidnapping any woman they can find under the age of 35. The mayor of the town sends word to the Devils on Horseback that their muscle, their savvy as soldiers and their need for employment would be useful to this small struggling community.

Jake is a former corporal in the Confederate Army and is also being sought by a Union Army captain who was commandant of a Union prison camp. These "devils" were the only Confederate soldiers ever to escape from his "hell-hole" and he has become obsessed with revenge for his "failure" to keep them imprisioned. Jake is also a former thief -- a child who stole in order to feed siblings and himself after being abandoned by his mother and who took the last name of one of the whores in a brothel where he was living. All in all, a very troubled person when he went into the war and who found a "family" of sorts when he found these comrades who have become the only people he trusts. Now the Devils are hoping that their current "assignment" is located far enough off the beaten path that the Union captain will have difficulty finding Jake.

In the midst of trying to solve the mystery of the night raids -- who is behind them, where are the women, how to prevent future raids, etc, Jake meets Gabriella Rinaldi, the daughter of the mill owner who had been beaten almost to death during one of the previous raids. She must now run the mill as well as try to bring some common sense into the town thinking on how to protect themselves. Needless to say, Jake and Gabriella are attracted to one another, but they are also both needing to find that "someone" who will believe in them and will accept them for who they are. Jake struggles with his past, his sense of being a nobody from nowhere and worthless to anyone other than his Civil War buddies. The friendship and love they find together begins to rebuild what fear and hopelessness have destroyed in the past.

Again Beth Williamson has populated this book with personalities that are strong, varied, interesting, authentic, and the kind of people-at least in some cases-one would like to have known in real life. Underlying this story is the continuing loyalty and friendship of these men for one another, for respect and value they have given one another because they were soldiers of honor and who sought to be true to their ideals even when war and life in general did everything to destroy their sense of themselves. I still love to read of their Southern charm and the respect they show women -- they all love women in any shape or form, but no matter how disagreeable one of the female characters may be, they are unwaveringly polite and respectful. Oh to have some men in our modern times like that!

I also appreciate the way that the author has not backed away from the debris that war creates in lives and communities, especially as Jake faces himself and his past, as he deals with his need to love and be loved, and as he faces his the reoccurring terror of dark, small places born in the Union Army prison camp. War is indeed hell, but out of that conflict came five men who learned that there were people upon whom they could depend. Gabriella's love and the acceptance of the community are the "medicines" Jake needs and grabs for his hurting soul. This book is a great read and will not disappoint. I give it a rating of 5 out of 5.

1 comment:

Tracy said...

Another great review! I love reading about heroes who finally find their worth after thinking that they are nobody's. Just makes for good reading.