About the Book
Book: The Blue Cloak
Author: Shannon McNear
Genre: Christian Historical/Suspense
Release Date: March 2020
Evil Incarnate Leaves a Trail of Destruction across the Frontier
Book 5 in the True Colors series—Fiction Based on Strange-But True History
Rachel Taylor lives a rather mundane existence in 1797 at the way station her family runs along the Wilderness Road in Tennessee. She attends her friend Sally Rice’s wedding only to watch the marriage dissolve into horror has the groom, Wiley Harpe, and his cousin Micajah become murderers on the run, who drag their families along. Declaring a “war on all humanity,” the Harpes won’t be stopped, and Ben Langford is on their trail to see if his own cousin was one of their latest victims.
How many will die before peace can return to the frontier?
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“Today it” (the wilderness ) ”held a definite air of menace.” While I’m quoting this line out of context, it could be said of the whole tone of The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear. The latest in the True Colors: Historical Stories of True Crimes series, there is an ominous feeling of dread, if you, the reader, start reading not with chapter one, but with the words, “Dear Reader.”
Nine long months of terror seize the wilderness of Tennessee and Kentucky at the turn of the nineteenth century. Two brothers, Big and Little Harpe, with their three wives, prowl the beautiful countryside and turn it into a place of gruesome murders and fear, anxiety breathing down every settler’s neck.
Some phrases seemed so applicable to what our country is going through currently. “It seemed, though, that the entire country held its breath, waiting, watching—.”
I loved that McNear’s characters put a high value on prayer. This is mentioned many times throughout the unsettling narrative. I appreciated one such time as Rachel’s brother knows the business of the day needs to start, “but I’m thinking we’ve a greater need to pray before you go any further on your journey.”
How could a marriage that started with a few misgivings on the part of witnesses turn into a component of a horrible killing spree? What if one of those in the Harpe party wishes to escape? Rachel is sure her friend Sally had no idea of the fiend Little was when Sally and he wed. But can Rachel and her new friend Ben do anything to rescue a person that resists help?
McNear is good to explain why she wrote this very intense novel, which can be hard to read at times. Much prayer and research went into this novel. I found the notes at the beginning most helpful. Is God indeed greater than man’s worst evil? Can God redeem even evil situations? (That is not to say there won’t be hurt from the terrible crimes.) So many questions brought to the forefront.
Now, about the hero. Ben is so unselfish, wishing he could take his cousin’s place. Ben is closer to Thomas than his elder brother, as Ben’s uncle and aunt raised him after his parents died. Ben stays on the hunt for the Harpes for many months, motivated by love for his cousin, his uncle, and eventually Rachel. Ben also comes to understand that the social class distinctions of the East do not truly tell the mettle of a man.
“He already knew that the amount of a man’s coin did not necessarily correlate to the amount of wisdom he possessed, not gentility equate completely with pedigree.”
I am amazed at both Ben and Rachel’s care for Sally. It took such gumption, courage, and incredible determination to even try to help her and the other wives. Yet, especially in Rachel’s mind, was the conviction that her friend was worth such loyalty.
All in all, a good book, thoroughly researched, a real page-turner, but oh, so chilling!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and Celebrate Lit through NetGalley. This in no way influenced my opinions, which are solely my own.
5 Stars- Superior- Hits My Reading Sweet Spot When I Want a Chiller
About the Author
Transplanted to North Dakota after more than two decades in Charleston, South Carolina, Shannon McNear loves losing herself in local history. She’s a military wife, mom of eight, mother-in-law of three, grammie of two, and a member of ACFW and RWA. Her first novella, Defending Truth in A Pioneer Christmas Collection, was a 2014 RITA® finalist. When she’s not sewing, researching, or leaking story from her fingertips, she enjoys being outdoors, basking in the beauty of the northern prairies. Connect with her at www.shannonmcnear.com, or on Facebook and Goodreads.
More from Shannon
How dark is too dark for a Christian to write?
That was the question I wrestled with when deciding whether or not to take on the story of the Harpes. The histories in Scripture itself aren’t rated G, but writing fiction requires a level of detail and depth of emotion I wasn’t sure would be wise, or helpful, to explore in this case. But as I prayed and sought the counsel of those whose discernment I trust, the answer came back, overwhelmingly …
Is God stronger than the darkness, or not?
Well, of course He is. And nothing in human history has ever escaped His notice, or taken Him by surprise.
So, was there something redeeming to be found in the tale of the Harpes?
For the first few weeks of research, I walked around in a state of shock at the horror of the historical accounts, but details surfaced that helped me shape my fictional characters Rachel and Ben. With Rachel working in her family’s trading post near the wild frontier town of Knoxville, Tennessee, and Ben a lawyer who recently passed the bar, the real-life Hugh Lawson White provided a handy connection point between them. Many other details fell together in ways I had not foreseen when I began developing the story. Sally Rice Harpe, however, rose to the forefront. This was more her story than anyone’s, but realizing I couldn’t properly write the book without using her point of view? That was scary. I knew the moments I’d have to visit, some of them in real-time.
Despite the tragedy, however, I could see an overarching story of spiritual warfare. Felt a growing conviction that prayer must have played a vital role in bringing the Harpes’ reign of terror to an end. So it is my hope that against the backdrop of one of the most chilling episodes of our country’s early history, the hand of God shows clearly, and that yes, the reader finds it redemptive.
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To celebrate her tour, Shannon is giving away the grand prize package of a copy of The Blue Cloak and a $25 Amazon gift card!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.