Kate Stevens:
Sisters in Arms

reviewed by Dr. M. M. Gilchrist

While raking through charity shops to find 'bodice-ripper' covers suitable for acts of graphic-art subversion with PhotoShop, I chanced upon this little item due to its covergirl being ideal casting as 'Pattie's little helper' Sal (i.e. a voluptuous redhead with flimsy clothing and a big musket)...

Sisters In Arms

Torrid 18C bodicerippers using the American War as a setting are not uncommon, usually with titles like Rebel by Moonlight, and lots of sentimentalisation of the Reb side of things. However, this one proved a pleasant shock:


It's about a group of young Loyalist war widows and a part-Mohawk female scout and their adventures under (sometimes literally) a Loyalist and Mohawk Ranger unit (think Butler-ish) in upstate New York. Eventually they travel on to Yorktown and then to Canada as refugees. The commander is John Rawdon (no relation to Frank), a good-humoured but battle-scarred young British officer, whose Bostonian fiancée was killed jumping from a window when a mob, incited by Sam Adams, had set fire to her Loyal family's home. He later agrees to service a West Country widow desperate for a child (she's an unconvincing character and unconvincing plot device!). Sam Adams appears as a scheming villain, and it's very nice about Sir Henry Clinton! The surviving characters end up living happily ever after in New Brunswick.

However, as with most of these things, the writing leaves much to be desired, and veers frequently into camp, e.g. the hero has a habit of addressing the Mohawk guide N'antuka / Running Bird as "Flower of the North", and some of her dialogue reads like fake Native American-English from a Hollywood B-Western. Also, alas, her fate is that which invariably befalls First Nations women who love white men in Hollywood Westerns. But then this is definitely the literary equivalent.

Makes a change from the usual pro-Rebel romantic stuff, anyway! But I'm still not sure which of the heroines the covergirl is meant to be. Maybe she's just generic.

Return to Top