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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: Before the Scarlet Dawn: Daughters of the Potomac - Book 1 by Rita Gerlach

This story starts with much potential but ends sadly out of tune.
Before the Scarlet Dawn: Daughters of the Potomac - Book 1
by Rita Gerlach
File Size: 1682 KB
Print Length: 338 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1426714149
Publisher: Abingdon Press (February 1, 2012)
Genre: Historical Fiction; American Revolution
My Rating: 3.5 of 5.0

Book Description
Publication Date: February 1, 2012
In 1775, Hayward Morgan, a young gentleman destined to inherit his father's estate in Derbyshire, England, captures the heart of the local vicar's daughter, Eliza Bloome. Her dark beauty and spirited ways are not enough to win him, due to her station in life.

Circumstances throw Eliza in Hayward's path, and they flee to America to escape the family conflicts. But as war looms, it's a temporary reprieve. Hayward joins the revolutionary forces and what follows is a struggle for survival, a test of faith, and the quest to find lasting love in an unforgiving wilderness.

"Filled with true-to-life characters whose struggles will linger with readers long after the last page is turned, Before the Scarlet Dawn is a memorable story of Revolutionary War-era England and America." - Amanda Cabot, author of Summer of Promise"Rita Gerlach has written a colorful historical with a feisty heroine on a search for survival, romance, and a place to belong." Cynthia Hickey, author of the Summer Meadows mysteries
"Ms. Gerlach's unique literary prose has once again captured my heart with a stirring tale of love and loss, desperation and hope during one of the most uncertain times in American History--the Revolutionary War. I cannot wait for the next book in the series!" - MaryLu Tyndall, author of Surrender the Dawn"A stirring story of love and its consequences, Before the Scarlet Dawn will draw you in from the start and not let you go again." ~ Roseanna M. White, author of Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland and Jewel of Persia
"While reading Before the Scarlet Dawn, you'll travel back in time--and from England to Maryland--without ever leaving your easy chair! This is a big, beautiful, well-told story of love, faith, and the struggles of war that changed lives...and  hearts. I can't wait to read the next book in this series!" Loree Lough, best-selling author of more than 80 award-winning books, including reader favorite From Ashes to Honor

Eliza, a rare beauty, and her maid, Fiona, face living on the streets when her father, a Vicar, dies. Still, Eliza refuses the offer of marriage from the local nobleman whom she doesn’t love but throws herself at Hayward, her childhood crush. Hayward is home from the colonies to wed a proper British bride. He has offered for a young lady of his station who refuses to move to the colonies. Eliza assures Hayward that she will follow him anywhere and that she is young, strong and brave enough to face the new world. Hayward, struck by her beauty and determination, reluctantly agrees that they will wed with the understanding that he will never offer her love.

Hayward, raised with the prejudices of the British aristocracy, was that taught that giving your heart to a woman would weaken a man. He had some misgivings about taking a mere Vicar’s daughter as wife, but he figured her beauty would make up for her lack of social standing. Hayward appreciates her strength and willingness to stand by him when he leaves their home on the Potomac River to fight for the Patriots. He has grown fond of her and is jealous when other men, especially a neighbor gentleman, Halston, shows her attention, but he is not going to give her his heart.

Hayward leaves at the birth of their first child and is away for almost five years without even sending a letter home. Halston, who is enamored of Eliza, comes to the aid of her household, even saving her life from extreme danger. When Eliza receives a message that Hayward has died on a horrible prison ship she runs, blind with grief, into the arms of Halston. The consequences are disastrous.

News comes that Hayward is alive and he comes home to his wife and daughter. He also finds another young woman and a two year old child, living and helping on the farm. Hayward has been hardened by war and is even haughtier about class levels than he was before he left. He treats everyone rather harshly and when he discovers Eliza’s secrets he is unwilling to forgive.

He sends Eliza to his mother in England, but Eliza arrives to discover she is abandoned. She despairs, fearing she will never see her daughter again. She nearly freezes in a field but is rescued by a kind man who takes her in.

This book started out well and I was interested to read details of the colonies, the hardships of wilderness living and even the horrors of the revolutionary war. The dynamics between Eliza and Hayward allowed for tension and growth in the relationship. Unfortunately in the second half of the book Eliza acts contrary to her values and new characters pop up that didn’t fit the earlier facts. I was disturbed by her "clinging" to Hayward but more disturbed when her actions go far afield especially considering her faith in God. Finally she seems to lose her backbone altogether. Even accepting that she is "only human", this was just too much of a character slide. I initially had some sympathy for Hayward’s misguided rearing but that sympathy quickly died in light of his cruel pride.

The ending chapters bring some relief to Eliza’s circumstances, but it is not a happy ending and is clearly unfinished with events to follow in the second book. I questioned the title as it seemed nothing more than a phrase the author liked and used but with no real significance. And I (we*) questioned the “Daughters of the Potomac” tag as it might fit book 2 but not this book, which started and ended in England.

Rating this is a bit difficult as I (we*) wanted to like it and started out enjoying the writing style and plot premise. It is just too bad that it went astray (no pun intended). The book club ladies agreed that we want inspiration - not depression - when we finish a book.

I purchased this book at discount price for Ladies' Book Club. *We all had the same reactions.

US Only

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For 3 Extra Bonus entries (a) comment on the review, OR
(b) visit THE AUTHOR'S WEBSITE and tell me something you like/learned there.

* This contest is open to US only for Print Copy.
* This contest will close 7 PM (Central) April 24, 2015.
WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED after April 24, 2015.
Winners will have 72 hours to respond on the winners form linked in the announcement or by email.


  1. nice review; too bad there's no happy ending

  2. Great review. Sorry to hear it was as inspirational as you hoped it would be. You're right through--we are always hoping for that HEA at the end of a romance type book.

  3. Rita lives near the Potomac River where some of her novels are set. She has a very interesting section on her website called Photos of Scene where she shares some photographs of locations in her novels.

  4. I read the author lives with her husband and two sons, and an affectionate feline named Pookee

    tiramisu392 (at)


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