29 March 2013

Vanguard of Hope: Sapphire Brigade Book 1 by Kathy Steinemann Review

What they say (description): Lisetville, 1890 - Murders are committed; homes are burned; family secrets are buried; an unexpected romance complicates lives. Amid the mystery and violence, a vigilante brigade emerges to administer justice. Flowing through the intrigue and drama is a dark undercurrent that will touch your heart as you empathise with the victims.

What I say: I was given a copy for review purposes. Vanguard of Hope is quite different from the vast amount of other historical fiction books out there, but in a good way. A series of diary entries, poems, newspaper articles describe the rather harrowing 19th century life of Hope Bartholomew.

Now first off I should point out that I do not often enjoy diary style books because they tend to be whinny and melodramatic. However, once I had read past the first few of Hope's entries and with the exception of the the obvious 'Dear Diary' I had almost forgotten I was reading Hope's diaries and became engrossed in the story.

The book covers some extremely sensitive issues including child abuse, paedophilia, murder and racism. Kathy Steinemann does a great job analysing the lasting effects of abuse and how far retribution and vengeance should go. As a victim of child abuse, Hope suffers from Amylotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a fatal and degenerative medical condition. Her former abuse has had a lasting effect on her life and how she views the world. Distant from her much older husband Peter, it takes many years before she wants to have children. The Sapphire Brigade provide a wealth of material for debate. Defending the innocent by such extreme methods they are open to criticism from anti-vigilante groups, but I like the spirit of the group and what they stand for.

The book isn't all doom and gloom, some of Hope's descriptions and inner thoughts are really funny. When she finds the naughty manuscript it made me laugh and think of all the women (and men) out there who are reading FSOG and the Crossfire books on their Kindles, enjoying the smut on their way to work.

I would like to read more about the other characters from the book including Owen, Paul, Phoebe and the twins. In particular many of Owen's secrets need telling (I won't go into to detail as I don't want to spoil the plot). Vanguard of Hope wasn't just Hope's story and Steinemann does a really good job of using her diary to give the other character's a voice.

For a story set in the 1800s, it is extremely depressing that in this supposedly modern and progressive society we still see similar issues of racism and paedophilia today. Vanguard of Hope: Sapphire Brigade is extremely thought provoking and most definitely worth a read. Be prepared to feel uncomfortable by the content, but then I don't believe we should ever feel comfortable facing such harrowing truths.

4 Stars in my Sky!

My fav non-spoilery quotes:
  • I felt the bile of guilt fill my throat. I had provided the authorities with the information they needed to arrest an innocent man, a good man.
  • I get that reaction wherever we go. They look at me and wonder how such an old coot could snag a stunning beauty like Mama. I'll give you a hint. It's all below the waist, my dear.
  • Some days when I have problems reconciling Brigade activities with my beliefs, I think of the legal system and its executions. Is the Family doing anything so different? Brigade Retributions are acts of justice, especially important in those states where they don't have capital punishment. The Retributions instill fear in wrongdoers and help to prevent evil acts of deprivation or murder.

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