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Of Secrets and Spies: Jodi Daynard’s “The Midwife’s Revolt”

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Title: The Midwife’s Revolt

Author: Jodi Daynard

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Copyright: 2015, Seattle

ISBN: 978-1-4778-2800-7

Format: E-Book, 427 Pages, $7.15 [Amazon Paperback], $3.99 [Kindle] [KindleUnlimited], $9.95 [Audible], $9.77 [Barnes & Noble Paperback], $9.97 [Nook], $4.99 [iBooks], $9.95 [iBooks Audiobook]

Summary:

On a dark night in 1775, Lizzie Boylston is awakened by the sound of cannons. From a hill south of Boston, she watches as fires burn in Charlestown, in a battle that she soon discovers has claimed her husband’s life.

Alone in a new town, Lizzie grieves privately but takes comfort in her deepening friendship with Abigail Adams. Soon, word spreads of Lizzie’s extraordinary midwifery and healing skills, and she begins to channel her grief into caring for those who need her. But when two traveling patriots are poisoned, Lizzie finds herself with far more complicated matters on her hands—she suspects a political plot intended to harm Abigail and her family. Determined to uncover the truth, Lizzie becomes entangled in a conspiracy that could not only destroy her livelihood—and her chance at finding love again—but also lead to the downfall of a new nation.

Review:

The Midwife’s Revolt opens in the year 1818, when an elderly Lizzie Boylston reflects back upon her life.  Her long time friend and confidante, Abigail Adams is sick and it appears that she doesn’t have long.  Lizzie tends to her friend and while she does so, she reflects upon the past, how she met Abigail, their enduring friendship, and the war that raged around them.

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“Gabrielle-Marie Capet Self-Portrait,” Gabrielle-Marie Capet. I imagine Lizzie Boylston to look something like this.

Lizzie Boylston, our heroine stands on the threshold of her home as she watches her husband, Jeb, depart for war.  There is a sense of foreboding that seems to plague her about her husband leaving, especially during a difficult time.  She wants to stop him from going but knows that she is powerless to do so.  Before the battle takes place, Lizzie officially meets her husband’s relative, Abigail Adams as well as her children, a balm on a most painful wound.  Abigail is a very down-to-earth, sensible woman who appears to be the rock for everyone in the community, Lizzie especially.

When the Battle of Bunker Hill occurs, those from her community gather to witness the fighting that is taking place.  Despite the mayhem and the chaos that ensue, Lizzie borrows a horse with a man’s saddle and hastens to the Continental Army camp to see Jeb.  It takes a while but she finally discovers her husband who has died in the battle.  Lizzie is bereft, desperate for any memory or any item to remind her of Jeb.

“Portrait of a Lady as Evelina,” John Hoppner. I envision Martha Miller to look like this young woman.

In the weeks that follow, Lizzie takes in a young woman, Martha Miller, who functions as a servant as well as a companion.  Martha is a quiescent and secretive young woman, who seems suspicious in more ways than one.  Presented to her as a staunch loyalist, Lizzie begins to suspect that Martha may be a spy for the British.  She seems to take the young woman into her home not merely as a means of alleviating her sorrow but also as a means of charity.  This is when a rhythm sets into the book, involving two women who work the Boylston farmstead with a renewed vigor, seeing to the animals as well as the crops.

Lizzie’s primary job in the village of Braintree is as midwife and healer whenever a doctor was not present.  It is no secret that she comes from a loyalist family, therefore, many of the locals do not trust her and some even whisper that she practices witchcraft.  Through time, constancy, and patience, Lizzie seems to win the village over.  In exchange for her duties as midwife, she is given food and various other items that are essential in a time of war.

“Portrait of an Unknown Young Man,” Allan Ramsay. This portrait reminds me of what I imagine Thomas Miller to look like.

Through Martha we meet her older brother, Thomas Miller, a young man who is every bit as suspicious as his relation.  There is something about him that Lizzie can’t quite put her finger on.  While he isn’t incredibly attractive, there is something about Thomas that Lizzie cannot help but be dazzled by.  She runs into him not only in Braintree but in Cambridge, when she goes to visit her old homestead in the city.  More and more she happens upon Thomas, who seems to be hanging out in loyalist locations, appearing to be more suspicious than ever.

When Lizzie and Martha are not working the farm, they often times visit Abigail Adams, Mr. and Mrs. Cranch, and Colonel and Mrs. Quincy.  Through this circle of friends, both women are rejuvenated by society and it is where Lizzie begins to suspect Martha.  Through this group however, Lizzie meets new people such as the handsome Mr. Cleverly, the gray-haired Dr. Flynt, and the solemn-faced Mr. Thayer.  While Mr. Cleverly, the one who is touted as a true American patriot, begins to court Lizzie, it seems that she has no interest in him whatsoever.  It is clear that there is very little chemistry there.

“Portrait of a Young Man,” Unknown Painter. This is how I imagine Richard Cleverly to look.

One day, however, it appears that two of the newcomers, Dr. Flynt and Mr. Thayer have been found dead.  Upon closer examination, Lizzie finds out that the men have been murdered intentionally by the application of belladonna.  It is then that she really begins to suspect the others around her: Mr. Cleverly, Martha, Thomas, et cetera.  It is these strange happenings that cause Lizzie to take a more proactive role in spying for the Continental Army.

This was an absolutely fantastic read!  Jodi Daynard did a wonderful job setting the scene for The Midwife’s Revolt and the characters were wonderfully fleshed out.  It seemed like each character in one way or another had a multi-faceted nature to them.  The depiction of the war was interesting and it kept me, as the reader, on the edge of my seat, wondering along with Lizzie who the spies were.  From her cool manner to shooting at crows with rifles to her donning the clothing of a man, Lizzie was a vastly enjoyable heroine.  She seemed like she fit perfectly in the eighteenth century and it was interesting to witness her thought process.

“Portrait of Abigail Adams.” Abigail Adams was the wife of John Adams and is very well known as being an ardent letter writer during the Revolutionary War.

Jodi Daynard’s treatment of historical figures was respectful and vague, keeping them at a distance but also making them believable enough.  It is apparent that the writer did a great deal of research in writing this novel and it truly shows.  As someone who makes a big to-do about historical accuracy, I was immensely impressed with her handling of the eighteenth century.  The twists and turns in the book were very fun and really caused me to think.  However, I will admit that some twists I saw coming from a mile away but that did not in anyway ruin the story.  Lastly, I would like to point out the lovely Author’s Note in the back, which really was the icing on the cake.  In this note, the author explains in detail how she went about writing her story and the research required in doing so.  It really brought the story to life for me, to hear her explain the hows, the whats, and the whys.

Rating:

1

3 thoughts on “Of Secrets and Spies: Jodi Daynard’s “The Midwife’s Revolt”

  1. Love your review, very thorough, great artwork and questions at the end. Love reading all of your reviews…makes me want to go out and buy the books. You tell us just enough making us want to read more

    Like

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