Debra Tash,
Challenge the Wind
(Amber Quill, 2003)

Challenge the Wind is set in the time of the American Revolution. The story reminds us that many Americans supported Britain as the rightful ruler of the Colonies. As in the Civil War, members of the same family might therefore find themselves on opposing sides. War may be hell for the participants, but it can be heaven for plot-seeking novelists and readers.

Debra Tash spins three main storylines in this promising setting. The first begins as the home of the Lloyd family is attacked and taken over by British deserters. Sarah Lloyd is living with her two youngest children and their grandfather while her husband and eldest son are away fighting in the revolutionary army. Tash describes how the relationship between the Lloyds and the invaders changes as everyone realizes none of them is likely to survive the winter without help.

In the meantime, surviving an unusually severe winter is also much on the minds of the Lloyds serving in Washington's army. The son, Adam, learns that he has a talent for medicine. That talent is in great demand. Even those unwounded may need his help after marching miles in the snow without shoes or warm clothing. The horrors of Valley Forge were real.

The third plot line is set in British-occupied Philadelphia. Adam's uncle has a home there in which he is providing a haven for Adam's sister, Molly. He's also collaborating with the Redcoats for his own gain and this brings him into conflict with his niece. Molly is itching to help the rebels. Instead she must be civil at dinner with the British officers who are welcome in her uncle's house. But civility becomes easier as Major Allen woos her and again we see a changing relationship between enemies.

Tash's writing style is clear and direct. Her characters are nicely multi-dimensional and grow with experience. Heroes sometimes make mistakes. Villains are sometimes noble. She convinces us that actions are more often determined by circumstances than inherent good or evil. British officers were raised to take responsibility and "do the right thing." London street urchins raised themselves and often became criminals because there was no reasonable alternative. The ending brings the only false note as things are wrapped up a little too neatly and the extent of transformation in one of the characters seems unlikely.

This is an otherwise satisfying novel. Tash brings the complex Revolutionary times to life and fills a believable story with characters the reader will care about. Challenge the Wind is interesting, entertaining and recommended.

- Rambles
written by Ron Bierman
published 1 May 2004

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