An Ill Wind is Blowing
In the gunfight that follows, six Redshirts are killed and the four still alive are put in leg irons and sent home. With the first battle won, Joshua begins to train the black field hands who once were slaves how to fight back.
When the Redshirts attack again, in greater numbers, they are no match for a determined army who wants only their freedom.
Fear begins to spread through the outlaw ranks. Oscar Blaylock feels it is time to invite Arley and company out to Black Seed. Once there, he takes Arley on a tour of the grounds, while his mistress, Serena, takes Sampson on a tour of the house. But upstairs in a room alone, her warning is clear, “Go home, Mister Sampson. Oscar knows the real reason you are here. Soon he will kill you all.”
But the black army grows stronger, and it is not long before the remaining Redshirts are sent downriver to the same waiting slave ship, never to be heard from again. Only Blaylock is left to face Sampson in the yard at Black Seed during a triple wedding with an ending no one expected."
Best Book Bit:
In the third book of an exciting post Civil War trilogy written by Donald Montano, again the opening pages set the tone for the search for Serena, the mistress being held against her will. But it is the Redshirts they must do battle with first if the slaves who won their freedom are to remain truly free.
An excerpt from the trio’s arrival in Charleston on Thursday, May 7th, 1867.
It was well after one o’clock in the morning when the rooms were finally cleared of angry guests politely told they were being moved down to the second floor. Questions as to why only brought a rehearsed answer, “to make room for a very important party recently arrived from the far western states to invest in the future of South Carolina.”
“Would you mind telling me what you and the general manager discussed that made him ready to turn us away one minute and welcome us with open arms the next, Mister Sampson,” Arley asked with a look of close scrutiny toward her man.
Sampson finished pulling off his boots and stood up. He started to unbutton his shirt as he went close to her, letting a crooked smile work at the corners of his mouth. “In a single word, Arley; money. I just made it more profitable for the hotel to let us stay rather than send us away.” He started unbuttoning her shirt next, letting her see his smile widen a little, because he was pleased with how the negotiations had gone.
Arley glanced up at a pair of slate-grey eyes as she felt the last button on her shirt come undone. “Do you expect payment now, sir? For a job well done? Is that what I’m about to be subjected to at this late hour,” she asked as her smile matched his.
He let his gaze settle on the vision standing so close; tall, with shapely hips and strong shoulders the man’s shirt could not hide now that it hung loose and unbuttoned down the front.
But instead of going to that hallowed crease between her breasts that was so inviting, his eyes settled on her hair hanging down past her shoulders. He reached up to take a single lock and run it through his fingers, as if to make sure it was real.
When he spoke, his voice was husky with the feeling she invoked in him. “As pleasant as that thought is, no, ma’am. Morning is going to come early enough, and I want us all downstairs in the dining room by nine o’clock with the focus on you dressed to look like a very successful western business woman looking to spend a lot of money.” He kissed her forehead and then stepped back, proud of his self-restraint. “After tonight you’ll be the talk of Charleston and every one who has land to sell will be falling all over themselves to make your acquaintance.”
“I’m sure with a little coaching from you, sir, I will be up to the task of making this little charade believable.” Arley let her shirt drop to the floor and then shrugged out of her old whipcord trousers she had changed into for the long train ride from Greenville. “Would you draw my bath please?
And would you massage my back please. I’m a little stiff from that train ride,” she added teasingly as she arched her back and raised her arms toward the ceiling.
With a sideways glance, Sampson went to let water run into the porcelain tub and came back to dutifully start massaging Arley’s shoulders and back. “No, silly. Not standing up,” she said , letting amusement into her voice. “Carry me to the bed.”
“Are there any more orders you have for me before the sun comes up,” he asked, feigning impatience. And then she was in his arms and he was carrying her to the bed.
This night will become but a pleasant memory, but tomorrow and all the days after that will be fraught with danger as they attempt to keep secret the real reason they are in Charleston, to rescue Sarena, so Joshua can take her as his wife…
Montano cleverly handles the difficulties of being a person of color in the post-Civil War south. In addition to the prejudice against Joshua, Charleston and the surrounding area is rampant with corruption. It isn’t long before Sampson discovers the owner of the Black Seed Plantation, Colonel Blaylock, controls the other owners with his personal Red Army. He also seems to have the Union commander, Captain Hiram Bowles, in his pocket.
Sampson and Arley gradually meet some of the other plantation owners and it becomes apparent that Blaylock is hiding some secret. Smooth talking and corrupt, he keeps three young former slave women as his concubines. One of them is Serena, the lover of Joshua who they have gone south to rescue.
Arley captures the admiration of the townspeople with her beauty and recently acquired wardrobe. Others are admirers of Sampson’s strength and determination. Working with the Pinkerton Detective Agency headed by Randall McQuade, they begin to learn what power Blaylock holds over the community.
Soon they are embroiled in battles with Blaylock’s Red Shirts and find out what the Colonel is doing behind the scenes.
This is a book filled with action, intrigue, and romance. Not only are there the love relationships between Sampson and Arley, soon Sampson’s brother Rory arrives with his fleet of ships. He falls in love with Deanna Whyle, the daughter of one of the landowners.
While the story revolves around Joshua’s desperation to rescue Serena from Blaylock, Montano brings enough history to the tale to hold any reader’s interest.
Although this seems to be the conclusion pf the adventures of Arley and Sampson, I’m nurturing a secret hope there will be at least one more book. This is a lively series, with rich and fascinating characters set against vivid historical landscapes.
I highly recommend this series to readers who enjoy Louis L’Amour and Larry McMurtry. I’m pleased to give this book a Gold Bookworm.