My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
You usually think of the patriots of the Revolutionary War as the good guys~well not in Suzanne Adair’s fast-paced novel, Camp Follower! In this well-written historical novel, the patriots are “rebels” and the loyalists are the good guys. An intriguing twist, and one that makes Camp Follower, Suzanne Adair’s third novel, a fascinating read.
Helen Chiswell, a widow who supplements her meagre income by writing for the society pages of the local Wilmington loyalist paper, is commissioned by her editor, Mr. Prescott, to pose as the sister of a British officer and travel as a camp follower to a loyalist in North Carolina backcountry to write a feature on Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton. But Helen’s publisher has secret reasons for sending her into danger. And because Helen, a loyalist, has ties to the St. James family, who seem to be in perpetual hot water with the forces of the Crown, she comes under the suspicions of the brutal Lt. Dunstan Fairfax.
From the opening chapter, Camp Follower holds the reader’s attention. Helen is a strong-willed, intelligent and attractive woman, determined to control her life – and her destiny. In Helen, Suzanne Adair does not give us a shrinking violet, a woman happy to play “the little woman.” Helen is financially aware, sexually aware and altogether confident of her abilities to look after herself. All she needs is the money to make her financially independent. Helen turns on its head the perception that women had no choices and no power before the 20th century. She is not ashamed of her physical relationships with St. James or Quill; she has career ambitions and she is prepared to fight for her rights.
Camp Follower turns many commonly accepted myths on its head: That all the British left in 1783; that female sexuality didn’t exist before the 20th century; that everyone living in America at that time was either a loyalist or a patriot; that all camp followers were prostitutes. In fact, the majority of camp followers comprised mainly laundresses, merchants, and blacksmiths – those who could offer a service to the army men on the move. And of course the soldiers’ families who didn’t want to be left behind.
This novel displays a superb blend of fact and fiction, real historical figures move effortlessly amongst the fictional, intermingling with invented characters and driving the storyline. Suzanne Adair has obviously completed a huge amount of research to enable the accuracy of her story and this gives the reader a real sense of what Revolutionary North Carolina must have been like. But she also knows what to leave out; there is no exhaustive list of historical details to slow the pace of the book. Suzanne Adair is a re-enactor and has been quoted as saying that she believes her re-enacting experience helps her to create the correct ambience in her novels, and to give the reader a real sense of history.
Filled with action, mystery, and suspense that climaxes at the Battle of Cowpens, Camp Follower is the story of a woman forced to confront her past to save her life during the War for American Independence.
Suzanne Adair is the nom de plume for Suzanne Williams, a native Floridian who currently lives with her family in North Carolina. In second grade, she wrote her first fiction for fun after the eye of a hurricane passed over her home, and she grew up intrigued by wild weather, stories of suspense and high adventure, Spanish St. Augustine, and the South’s role in the Revolutionary War. She has traveled extensively and lived in England for half a year. After visiting the ruins of colonial-era Ft. Frederica on St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, she began writing Paper Woman, the first book of her series and the recipient of the 2007 Patrick D. Smith Literature Award. The Blacksmith’s Daughter and Camp Follower continue her fictional ventures into the Southern theater of the Revolutionary War. Camp Follower was nominated for the 2009 Daphne du Maurier Excellence in Historical Mystery/Suspense Award and the 2009 Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction.