by Heidi Chiavaroli
August 8, 2017
ARC via publisher (Thank you, Tyndale
Summary: Boston, 2015 Two years after nearly losing her life in the Boston Marathon bombing, Annie David is still far from “Boston strong.” Instead she remains isolated and defeated―plagued by guilt over her niece, crippled in the blast, and by an antique ring alongside a hazy hero’s face. But when she learns the identity of her rescuer, will he be the hero she’s imagined? And can the long-past history of the woman behind the ring set her free from the guilt and fears of the present?
Boston, 1770 As a woman alone in a rebellious town, Liberty Caldwell finds herself in a dangerous predicament. When a British lieutenant, Alexander Smythe, comes to her rescue and offers her employment, Liberty accepts. As months go by, Alexander not only begins to share his love of poetry with her, but protects Liberty from the advances of a lecherous captain living in the officers’ house where she works.
Mounting tensions explode in the Boston Massacre, and Liberty’s world is shattered as her brother, with whom she has just reunited, is killed in the fray. Desperate and alone, she returns home, only to be assaulted by the captain. Afraid and furious toward redcoats, Liberty leaves the officers’ home, taking with her a ring that belonged to Alexander. Two women, separated by centuries, must learn to face their fears. And when they feel they must be strong, they learn that sometimes true strength is found in surrender.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Christian Fiction
Last month, in my review of Martin Wilson’s phenomenal We Now Return to Regular Life, I mentioned that sometimes, the best books are the ones the I never knew existed. I hadn’t heard of Freedom’s Ring, nor had I heard of the author, Heidi Chiavaroli, before it appeared at my door. Having read the book, I’m so glad I’m now well aware of this fantastic writer and am ecstatic to read more of her work (aaaand that pretty much sums up the rest of this review)!
Told in chapters that alternate between the past and present, Freedom’s Ring is essentially a story about forgiveness. Annie was a runner in the Boston Marathon the day of the bombings. While she got off relatively unhurt (she still has a pain near her ankle in one of her legs) her niece, who had planned on running with her until a fall left her with a broken leg, didn’t fare so well and wound up having to have a leg amputated. While Annie stayed by Grace’s bedside in the hospital and was right there at every therapy session, soon her guilt became too much and she slowly pulled away – not only from her niece, but from her sister as well, ultimately leaving a chasm too deep and too painful for either to cross.
Back in the 1770s, Liberty Caldwell is a young woman trying to make her own way in the world. With a brother at sea and a grandmother who recently passed, Liberty is alone and, choosing the lesser of two evils, accepts a British soldier’s offer of becoming a housemaid. While the lieutenant is dashing and soft-spoken, enjoying his evenings with a book of poetry or The Odyssey, the captain – the other resident of the house – isn’t nearly as kind, but Liberty tolerates his comments so long as it means she has a warm bed at night. The night of the Boston Massacre changes everything, however, when Liberty finds her brother and loses him in an all too short span of time. While the Patriots see James’s death as a worthy and heroic sacrifice for their cause, Liberty only sees it as a pointless death, one brought on by Regulars much like her two employers and in a blind rage, she ransacks the house, taking what little of value she can find. Unfortunately, she isn’t able to leave before being brutally assaulted by the captain.
What connects these two stories, these two women, is a ring. Liberty stole the British lieutenant’s signet ring, believing she could sell it along with a few other items. During the chaos of the bombing’s aftermath, a man carried Annie to safety. Terrified, she clung to him and begged him not to leave her – in response, he gave her a ring, a family heirloom, and promised he’d come back for it, but that he needed to go do what he could to help others. What follows is in incredibly fun and fascinating dive into genealogy – years after Annie and Brad’s initial meeting of course (we can’t have things come too easily)!
As I’m typing this review, I’m rambling. A lot. In fact, I’m rambling much like I did with The One True Love of Alice-Ann, coincidentally another Tyndale title, and one that was featured on my Top Reads of 2017 part 1 list! There’s SO much to discuss about Freedom’s Ring: Liberty’s baby, apprenticing under a midwife, accepting a marriage proposal, her fear at hearing the Regulars are back in town years later – will the captain come looking for her? Has he heard about their child? In the present, Annie and Brad are slowly brought together over the mystery of the ring. Her niece welcomes Annie back into the family with open arms…but her sister isn’t quite so inviting and their attempts (for every success one will ultimately say or do something that puts them two steps back) at repairing their own relationship. Since the bombing Annie hasn’t run and both Brad and Grace are crucial in Annie facing her fears – Rocky plays a huge role in this too!
If there was one problem I had with Freedom’s Ring it was how time progressed throughout the story. Annie’s story takes place over the course of several months (maybe a year) after a brief skip following the prologue set during the midst of the Boston Marathon the day of the bombing. Liberty’s story takes place over MANY years, eventually skipping two decades at one point! I delighted in sinking into both stories, I just wish Liberty’s didn’t move quite so fast, though I certainly understand why it had to: the Boston Massacre, the Revolution, a time capsule buried 20 years after the war was instrumental to this story.
In the afterword, Heidi Chiavaroli discusses what facts she smudged or added to, but for the most part, I was extremely impressed by what was actually true: while Liberty was fictional, James Caldwell – in this book, her brother – was one of the first casualties of the cause for independence. Paul Revere and Samuel Adams really did bury a time capsule – the contents of which were recently on display in 2014! In Freedom’s Ring, Liberty places a poem in the box; naturally this never happened, but what was inside the capsule was just as exciting: coins, a Sunday morning paper, a medal depicting George Washington, a plaque. VERY interesting and I’m more than a little upset I’m only just now hearing about this! I would have loved to have seen this exhibit in person!
Once again Tyndale hit a home run (making me wildly excited for two other upcoming titles I have: Loving Luther and The Promise of Breeze Hill)!! Freedom’s Ring is a book that pulled me in, captivating me more and more with each turn of the page and I was sad to see it come to an end. Intriguing settings, fantastic characters, plots I practically inhaled, it all combined to make one excellent novel and you can rest assured that, not only will I be eagerly awaiting Heidi’s next book, but Freedom’s Ring will make another appearance at the end of the year in part 2 of my Top Reads of 2017!