First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Stan Haynes for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.
Stan Haynes is back with another novel rich in US history, providing her reader with something enticing that is also highly educational. There is change in the air and with the push to end slavery, parts of the US are not entirely pleased. Haynes provides readers with some context for the heightened political clashes ahead of the Civil War, focussing his attention on a key piece of legislation that appeared to draw deeper lines in the sand. With wonderful characters and an easy to follow narrative, the reader can see the seeds of discontent being planted and the kernel of irreconcilable distrust on both sides. Haynes serves this novel up as a preface of what is to be ‘no more’.
When Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, slavery remained at the heart of the matter. While many thought slavery’s expansion was stymied with the Missouri Compromise, this new piece of legislation opened the doors to further infect the still fragile country. Those in the South are gleeful to know that there could soon be additional states where slavery is permitted, while Northerners stand in awe that Congress could have been so ignorant as to leave the gate unlatched. Under the new law, the people will choose the state’s direction, a more ‘democratic’ means, forcing those on both sides to push settlers into the region ahead of any vote.
Monty Tolliver was once a member of Congress from Ohio, though he left before any of this politicking started. Rather, he is eager to help shape the country and moves to Kansas in order to drum up support for the free state option. His views are widely held, but people are very easily swayed, which could prove problematic for his cause. Two others, Billy Rudledge and Robert Gaddis arrive in Kansas for a new start as well. They find the country in turmoil and at the edge of disaster. Rudledge, a former Mississippian, can see the southern influence slipping into Kansas, though he refuses to believe that the people will fall into the trap. Geddis, hailing from Rhode Island, can only hope that Northern influence will keep Kansas free and out of the clutches of the Democrats, who seem to be on a path of locking down the slavery question with support all the way up to the White House.
In the lead-up to the vote, all three men encounter the likes of John Brown, a staunch abolitionist, who will stop at nothing to ensure his views are heard, even if they do not align with that of the federal government. Brown will soon have to face the courts, which are still locked into the old views of two classes of citizenry. His trial will prove to be a turning point in the push for freedom in the North, using Brown as a hero of sorts.
With politics taking on new and varied directions, one former congressman, Abraham Lincoln, arrives in Kansas to speak to the need for freedom. His classic debates with Democratic Senator Stephen Douglas are soon to come, but for now, the two men clash on their views surround the slave trade and what it means for America. Will these debaters help shape the vote in Kansas? It’s anyone’s guess, as both sides make their final push, using any tactic they can to ensure success. Three men from various backgrounds can only watch as the country waits to see how slavery will bear accepted. This serves as foreboding for what is to come, in a country that is fraying at the edges and rotting to its core over the issue of freedom and equality. A decent piece by Haynes, which elucidates some of the lesser known political struggles surrounding slavery ahead of the bloody Civil War.
When first I encountered the work of Stan Haynes, I was highly impressed. He is able to mesh fiction together with historical record, creating a piece that is well worth the reader’s time. A strong narrative foundation provides the reader with a roadmap for success, in hopes that they will be able to follow all the action that follows. Characters, some returning from the previous novel, and others new to the scene, emerge to offer their own perspectives and help flesh out the truths on both sides of the argument. While using history as a guide, there are some twists embedded within the larger story that help keep the reader not their toes. Haynes does really well to develop these plots and provides a precursor to the imminent destruction of the country.
Kudos, Mr. Haynes, for keeping me highly entertained and educated throughout this novel.