Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ten Leagues To Boston Town
Dorothy Gilman Butters
1962, Macrae Smith Company

It's 1750 and the French-and-Indian War has been over for two years. On the wild Massachusetts coast, 16-year-old Deborah Parker and her 13-year-old brother Ben have been left on their family's homestead while their mother tends their sick father in Boston. When word arrives that their father may be dying, the siblings decide to risk the hard overland journey by horse-drawn sled.

As she closed the door behind her the cold air struck Deborah like a blow across the face. Oh but this was cruel weather, freezing everything it touched. When she stopped to catch her breath the cold came near to searing her throat and she pulled her muffler close about her face. Daisy, saddled and harnessed to the pod, was shivering too. The only movement in that lifeless white landscape was the vapor that curled up from Daisy's breath, and her own and Ben's.

But there is life in that brutal cold. First a strange little man who jumps at shadows and flees suddenly, leaving behind a fortune in counterfeit bills, then a runaway servant, then a handsome young captain-turned-bookseller named Giles Trent, then a tall Indian travelling with the short but somehow intimidating Oliver Woodmansey. Trent instantly suspects him and Yonanda'haa of being in league with the counterfeiters, but the group quickly runs into another pair, the Parson Hand and trader Tom McLean. And soon Deborah doesn't know who to trust, and whether she'll ever reach Boston. What she begins to sense, however, is that she's intrigued by the prideful, mysterious Oliver.

Well-written, with evocative descriptions of post-French and Indian war America and clear, strong characters involved in an interesting and believable plot. Deborah is just right, a strong personality who doesn't behave in a jarringly modern manner. The details are wonderfully convincing.

Leaning back, she chopped off two chunks of frozen porridge with the hatchet, and handed one to Ben. The other she put into her own mouth. Its coldness made her teeth ache, but it gave the illusion of food.

Other books by author
Enchanted Caravan
Carnival Gypsy
Ragamuffin Alley
The Calico Year
Four-Party Line
Papa Dolphin's Table
Girl in Buckskin
Heartbreak Street
Witch's Silver
Masquerade (also published as Heart's Design)
The Bells of Freedom
The Maze in the Heart of the Castle (as Dorothy Gilman)

More information:
Dorothy Gilman Butters is best known for her Mrs. Pollifax mysteries, written under the name Dorothy Gilman. Born a Jersey girl in New Brunswick, she later developed strong Philadelphia ties, attending both the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the University of Philadelphia.

Fan website focusing on the Mrs. Pollifax series.

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