Saturday 2 December 2023

Book Review - Muskets and Minuets by Lindsey S. Fera


Muskets and Minuets 
By Lindsey S. Fera

Publication Date: 19th October 2021
Publisher: Zenith Publishing
Page Length: 486 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction 

Love. Politics. War.

Amidst mounting tensions between the British crown and the American colonists of Boston, Annalisa Howlett struggles with her identity and purpose as a woman. Rather than concern herself with proper womanly duties, like learning to dance a minuet or chasing after the eligible and charming Jack Perkins, Annalisa prefers the company of her brother, George, and her beloved musket, Bixby. She intends to join the rebellion, but as complications in her personal life intensify, and the colonies inch closer to war with England, everything Annalisa thought about her world and womanhood are transformed forever.

Join Annalisa on her journey to discover what it truly means to be a woman in the 18th century, all set against the backdrop of some of the most pivotal moments in American history.

“Annie? Debut?” George guffawed. “She’d rather shoot a firelock than dance a minuet.”
“Is this true?” Abigail lifted a hand to her breast.
“It is.” Annalisa glanced at the doorway through which Jack had followed Jane and Oliver. “But Mamma says I may have my debut come springtime.”
The same as when I join the militia.

Jack Perkins was not at all the person Annalisa had expected him to be. Annalisa expected to see the man her older sister would marry, but instead, she found a man more alike herself. A man who shared her views against the king, and who listened to her when she spoke. 

In the height of the revolution, Annalisa is ready to stand besides Jack and her brother, George, and show her support for the Patriots, but she constantly seems to find herself at dead ends. She is told she cannot stand and fight, for she is a woman. She is told to keep her ideas to herself, while she knows she is just as smart and strong as the menfolk in her life. Desperate to show her support and prove herself, she dons some old breeches, a new name, and joins a militia. 

With the uncertainty of the revolution, the frustrations of society’s demands, and a forbidden love doomed to fail, Muskets and Minuets by Lindsey Fera is a novel that wants for nothing, and leaves you unable to put the book down at the end of each chapter.

Annalisa despised that fate had been so cruel as to make her a girl, who was not allowed an opinion about the politics of the revolution, and is told to put her efforts towards learning French and how to dance the minuet, rather than learning how to load and shoot a firearm. She would rather be outside, practicing her aim, than inside with some sewing. The frustrations that Annalisa feels, the prison she is trapped in, with everyone telling her what she should and should not be doing, are portrayed with such care, the reader begins to feel these frustrations themselves. Why should Annalisa sit at home and perfect her needlepoint, when those she loves are joining up and shouldering their muskets to show their support for their country? As Annalisa grows into womanhood, she strays further from what society and her mother say a woman should be, and her independence and determination to follow what her heart tells her is right is truly admirable. She is an incredibly strong character, and one who is truly a delight to follow and get to know. 

Annalisa grew up very close to her older brother, George, who was a very important role model for Annalisa throughout this book. She idolised him as a child, and he was the one to teach her how to reload and aim Bixby, their trusty firelock. He taught her how to stand up for herself, and yet, he too seemed to fall into the mindset that she shouldn’t put her talents to good use because of her gender. George is an incredibly likeable character, although at times he can grow rather frustrating. Even though he knows Annalisa is more than capable of showing her support for the Patriots, he attempts to stop her, to placate her and tell her what she should be doing instead. 
Despite his several misgivings, George is one of those characters you can’t help but like. Together with Annalisa and Jack, the three create a rather formidable force.

Although Jack is heir to large estates, Annalisa is the second daughter of her family, and so they are not a match to be sought out. With his titles, Jack would be much better suited to Annalisa’s older sister, as society dictates the oldest sister should be married first. But, Jack cannot deny that, while Jane is beautiful, Annalisa is someone he can’t ignore. He is drawn to her, entranced by her courage and resolution that no man will tell her what to do, nor will anyone tell her not to speak her own mind. However, Annalisa and Jack find themselves of the opposite side of society and their parents, fighting a losing battle to be able to be together. Their desperation is clear among the pages, and you find yourself reading faster and faster, needing urgently to know if there is a happy ending in store for them or not. Their respect and admiration for each other made them an easy couple to root for, and you certainly find yourself reading with your fingers crossed, hoping against hope that, somehow, things will fall into place for them.

This novel, particularly in the relationships and the feelings between certain characters, highlights the ever relevant subject of generational splits, with different generations having wildly different ideas over what is right, and what is wrong. There are several characters in this book who, given their own way, could easily sort out their own relationships and set themselves on the path they see to be correct for themselves. However, with different people in charge of how their lives play out, there is friction and misery. Although acting against the norms of the era, the younger generation of this novel have very clear views on what they want from their own lives, which do not necessarily line up with what the older generation see for them. Unfortunately, in this era, the older generations generally had the last say, which makes Jack and Annalisa’s desperation and desire to be together heart wrenching to read about, for their chances of ending up together are so slim.

The historical detailing in this novel is immersing, and combined with an admirable portrayal of human life, Ms Fera has been wildly successful in creating a novel worth reading. The era has clearly been carefully researched, and plenty of time has gone into every mention of the revolution and the soldiers fighting for their own freedom. In particular, the mention of Annalisa’s monthly menses made the characters come across as very real in the telling, turning them into real people, rather than just names upon a page. This is a novel that has been penned with extreme care to fully entrap the reader within the pages, engross them in the political and social drama of the period, and leave them wanting more once the final page has been turned. With such loveable characters, and a narrative that makes it extremely difficult to put the book down, this is certainly a book not to be missed.

Muskets and Minuets by Lindsey Fera is a wild ride you don’t want to get off, but rather want to ride again and again. With the pull of two hearts desperate to find each other, the frantic energy of battle, and the drama of friendships and society gossip, this is a novel that begs to be savoured, for it is not just a story to read, but one to experience. 

I Highly Recommend.

Grab your copy HERE!

Lindsey S. Fera

A born and bred New Englander, Lindsey hails from the North Shore of Boston. A member of the Topsfield Historical Society and the Historical Novel Society, she forged her love for writing with her intrigue for colonial America by writing her debut novel, Muskets and Minuets. When she's not attending historical reenactments or spouting off facts about Boston, she's nursing patients back to health in the ICU.

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