The TBR Challenge is a year-long event Wendy the Super Librarian runs to get us to “… once a month pull a dormant book out of your TBR pile and read it. On the 3rd Wednesday of the month, talk about that book.” This post lists all of the participating blogs where you can comment, and if you use social media you can use the hashtag #TBRChallenge. Each month has a specific theme to help you pick your book to discuss, but Super Wendy sees these more as guidelines rather than firm rules. Pick a book from your TBR and discuss it with the population of Romancelandia on the internet!
January’s theme is We Love Short Shorts! (shorter reads). I picked Be Not Afraid by Alyssa Cole. This short story originally appeared in the anthology For Love and Liberty: Untold Love Stories of the American Revolution, but the version I read was a standalone that the description indicated had been revised and included a bonus epilogue. Plot development in short stories is always a challenge, particularly in romance where you need to get a believable happily ever after; because of the limited time to fully develop characters you tend to get stories with the instalove trope, which some find irritating. I do think if you want to read this story, search out the version I read as I think the epilogue does add a great deal to ensuring the ending is satisfying and believable.
The story takes place in Brooklyn during the American Revolution. Elijah Sutton is a slave who is fighting in the place of his owner and has been promised land, livestock, and his freedom when he returns after the war is over. Kate is also a slave, but she is on the other side with the British, who have offered freedom to those slaves who escape their Patriot masters and join their side in the fight. She is working at a British army camp, cleaning and serving. Kate wants nothing to do with the revolutionaries, but for Elijah the revolution is the only way he sees his life will improve. They are attracted to one another, but it does not seem that their individual futures lie in the same direction.
Elijah is captured by the British when he tries to help Kate out of a sticky situation. I don’t want to go into plot details too much, because with such a short story (it took me about an hour to read) I will end up giving away the entire plot. They are thrown together in various situations at the camp which reveals their character to each other. Kate is the much more fully threshed out character and over the course of the story we learn why she is so prickly and defensive. Elijah is much less developed, and seems a bit too good to be true, but it works within the confines of the story. I think the epilogue helps particularly in confirming the trust that the reader has in the HEA.
Alyssa Cole is an excellent writer. I have read a number of her stories and books, and while she has been acclaimed for her novels (particularly An Extraordinary Union), I find that I like her shorter stories more, even though sometimes I wish there was more to the story. And this in spite of the fact that I tend not to like shorter stories as much! She also includes notes at the end of her books and stories touching on her research and providing bibliographies. As a person living in the United States who did not grow up here and therefore did not learn U.S. history in school, I find this particularly helpful and interesting. It adds to my enjoyment to know the historical underpinnings of the events in the story. In this case, I did not realize that slaves fought in the Revolutionary War. This is a good short story and well worth your time.