Shadowbrook: A Novel of Love, War, and the Birth of America

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A sweeping tale of love, ambition, and a war that ignited a revolution...
1754. In a low-lying glen in Ohio Country, where both the French and English claim dominion, the first musket ball fired signals the start of a savage seven-year conflict destined to dismantle France's overreaching empire and pave the way for the American Revolution. In a world on the brink of astonishing change are Quentin Hale, the fearless gentleman-turned-scout, fighting to preserve his beloved family ...

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Shadowbrook: A Novel of Love, War, and the Birth of America

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A sweeping tale of love, ambition, and a war that ignited a revolution...
1754. In a low-lying glen in Ohio Country, where both the French and English claim dominion, the first musket ball fired signals the start of a savage seven-year conflict destined to dismantle France's overreaching empire and pave the way for the American Revolution. In a world on the brink of astonishing change are Quentin Hale, the fearless gentleman-turned-scout, fighting to preserve his beloved family plantation, Shadowbrook; Cormac Shea, the part-Irish, part-Indian woodsman with a foot in both worlds; and the beautiful Nicole Crane, who, struggling to reconcile her love for Hale and her calling to the convent, becomes a pawn in the British quest for territory. Moving between the longhouses of the Iroquois and Shadowbrook's elegant rooms, the frontier's virgin forests and the cobbled streets of Québec, Swerling weaves a tale of passion and intrigue, faith and devotion, courage and betrayal. Peopled with a cast of unforgettable characters and historical figures, including a young George Washington, this richly textured novel vividly captures the conflict that opened the eighteenth century and ignited our nation's quest for independence. A classic in the making, Shadowbrook is a page-turning tale of ambition, war, and the transforming power of both love and duty.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly
Swerling's sweeping fictional account of the French and Indian War rivals Harold Coyle's 1997 novel, Savage Wilderness, in its masterful treatment of the hardship, brutality and treachery of America's colonial wars. Covering the years 1754-1760, with the British, French and Indians slaughtering each other for king and empire, Swerling tells of two men who straddle the white and red man's worlds, desperate to preserve the best of each culture, but fearful they will lose everything they love. Quentin Hale is a gentleman turned scout whose family owns a prosperous New York plantation called Shadowbrook. He is white, but also follows the Indian ways of his adopted tribe, the Potawatomi. Cormac Shea is part-Irish and part-Indian, nearly a brother to Hale, but he wants all whites driven from Canada. Together these men find themselves caught up in a bloody war neither wants, but they must fight to save the plantation and create a homeland for the Indians. Hale faces treachery at home from his sadistic and greedy elder brother, John; from a scheming one-eyed Scot; and from lying, corrupt politicians who want to steal his legacy; he also has an Indian enemy who wants to cut out his heart. Hale and Shea fight in many battles, mostly massacres, from Louisbourg and Fort William Henry to the climactic battle at Quebec. Surrounding them are colorful historical figures like the young George Washington, the hapless General Braddock and the powerful Ottawa chief, Pontiac. Swerling also cleverly reveals the arrogant influence of the Catholic Church in politics, the duplicity of governmental promises and the forced migration of Acadians from Nova Scotia. The complexity of the history involved may daunt some readers, but most will be captivated by Swerling's intricate plot, colorful characters and convincing descriptions of colonial life. Agent, Henry Morrison. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
For Quentin Hale, the Ohio Country means freedom from the ghosts of the past, from having to watch his brother inherit his beloved ancestral land, and for all people, be they black or white, Indian, French, or English. In 1754, however, it is a much-contested area: here-during one of the many skirmishes between the French and the English and their attendant Native American allies-a militia under the command of the young surveyor Col. George Washington and guided by Hale becomes embroiled in a war that eventually shapes America's own quest for independence. It is also here that readers become involved in a saga as complex and ever-changing as the conflicting and evolving loyalties of the French and Indian War (1754-63) itself. From the fortresses and monasteries of Quebec to the bayous of Louisiana, from drawing rooms in New York to the wilderness of Ohio Country, this sprawling story remains centered on Shadowbrook, Hale's vast estate in northern New York, and the many different people who call it home. Swerling's second historical novel (after City of Dreams) offers a riveting narrative whose drama is somewhat diluted by the constant switching back and forth of locales and narrators. Highly recommended all the same.-Cynthia Johnson, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, MA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743228138
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 3/1/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 648,629
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 7.75 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Beverly Swerling is a writer, consultant, and amateur historian. She lives in New York City with her husband.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Wednesday, May 27, 1754

Québec, New France

Miserere mei, Deus...Have mercy on me, Lord, according to the greatness of Your mercy.

The five women had no mercy on themselves.

They beat their backs with knotted cords. Each wore a black veil, pulled forward so it shadowed her face, and a thin gray robe called a night habit.

The blows rose and fell, hitting first one shoulder then the other, and every third stroke, the most sensitive skin on the back of the neck. Occasionally a small gasp escaped one of the women, barely audible above the singsong Latin chant. De profundis clamavi ad te, Dominum...Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord. Domine, exaudi vocem meam. Lord, hear my voice.

The narrow rectangular space was lit by twelve tall white candles. The whitewashed stone walls reflected the elongated shadows of the women, who knelt one behind the other on the bare stone floor. Occasionally, when the woman in front of her managed to find a new burst of strength, a spurt of blood would spatter the one behind.

The knotted cords were carefully crafted, fashioned to a centuries-old design. The length must be from shoulder to thumb of the woman who would use it, the rope sturdy and two fingers thick. The seven knots were spaced evenly from end to end. It was called the discipline and was given to each nun on the day she made her vows as a follower of St. Francis, a Poor Clare of the Strict Observance of St. Colette.

Quoniam non est in morte qui memor sit tui...It is not in death that You are remembered, Lord. In inferno autem quis confitebitur tibi...In the eternal fire who will recall You?

An iron grille in the front of the cloister chapel enclosed the holy of holies, the small ornate tabernacle containing the wafers that had been consecrated in Holy Mass and were now the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The grille was covered by heavy curtains so those on the other side in the visitors' chapel could not see the strictly enclosed daughters of St. Clare.

In the middle of that Wednesday night only one person was present in the public section of the chapel, a man who knelt upright with his arms outstretched in the position of his crucified Lord. He could hear the soft, sighing sounds of the knotted ropes punishing soft female flesh. His shoulders twitched occasionally in response.

Antoine Pierre de Rubin Montaigne of the Friars Minor was also a follower of St. Francis, a priest of what the Church called the Seraphic Order, men who had originally vowed to own nothing and beg for their daily bread. The rule had been modified over the five centuries since Blessed Francis preached the glories of Lady Poverty, but its priests retained the humble title "Father." Rubin Montaigne was Père Antoine to all, most especially the women on the other side of the altar screen.

In the nuns' chapel the pace of the scourging had become more urgent by the time of the great cry of the Miserere: Have pity on me, Lord, for I perish. The cords flicked through the air too quickly to be seen, white blurs in the candlelit gloom.

Père Antoine, Delegate of the Franciscan Minister General in Rome, the ultimate authority for members of the order in New France, had decreed that in addition to the traditional scourging that took place every Friday before dawn, the Poor Clares of Québec would take the discipline every Monday and Wednesday after the midnight office of Matins. They would offer this special penance until the territory the British called the Ohio Country, but which had long been claimed in the name of Louis XV, was made secure, truly part of New France. When Holy Mother Church moved south to convert the native tribes, these nuns and their scars would be the jewels in her crown.

Turn Your face from my sins and all my iniquities shall be forgotten...

None wielded the discipline with greater vigor than Mère Marie Rose, Abbess. The shoulders of her night habit were stiff with the caked blood of past scourgings. When they buried her the garment would serve as her shroud, and she had already issued instructions that it should not be laundered. She would go to her grave with the evidence of her fervor.

Iniquitatem meum ergo cognosco...My sins are known to You.

For my sins, for the sins of my daughters, for the glory of God. The words filled the abbess's mind, blended with the pain, the chant uniting the two, pulsing in her blood. Miserere...Have mercy, Lord. On the king. On this New France. On our brave soldiers.

The shoulder muscles of Père Antoine were on fire. His arms felt like lead weights, but he did not allow them to drop. The pain was a kind of ecstasy and he exulted in it. For the Church. For the Order. For the conquest of the land below the pays d'en haut and the defeat of the heretic English.

Copyright © 2004 by MichaelA, Ltd.

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Table of Contents


Important Characters in the Story


Book 1: Shadowbrook · 1754

Book 2: The World That Came from the Belly of the Fish · 1754-1756

Book 3: The New World and the Old · 1757

Book 4: Québec · 1758-1759

Book 5: The Covenant · 1759-1760

Epilogue: The World of Tears · 1763-1769


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Reading Group Guide

Reading guide for Beverly Swerling's SHADOWBROOK

1. SHADOWBROOK is a sweeping epic of the French and Indian War and the way it changed the lives of the American and Canadian colonists, as well as marking the beginning of the end of the traditional life of the Native Americans known as the Eastern Woodland Tribes. How were you brought into the story? Were you surprised that the book began with the Poor Clare nuns and their physical penance? Did you find the practice shocking? Did you see that as in any way connected to the unfolding story of the brutality of war, and the different cultures of the colonials and the Indians?

2. Look at the book's narrative style and the use of interior monologue as narration. What affect does this have on the reader? On the story? Why does a writer employ these devices? How does a love story figure into a book of historical fiction? What affect does Nicole and Quent's relationship have on the story - is it a catalyst or backstory or what? 2. Were you surprised to learn about slavery in the North, and the existence of the patents, in other words, the northern plantations? After the Huron renegades attacked, did you think Quent should have stayed and helped them save Shadowbrook and all that it meant to his family? Was he right to choose instead to go after Solomon the Barrel Maker? Would you have done that?

3. Did you understand the feeling of the Indians about what they called "Bridge People." Do you think the history of Native Americans in our country would have been different if a divide such as the one Quent and Cormac tried to establish had come into being? Would it have worked? Was it fair?

4. The book's main characters are Quent, Cormac and Nicole, all of one generation. In what ways are they like the generation that preceded them, represented by the characters of Ephraim and Lorene? Are John Hale and Hamish Campbell more alike than they are different? What about Père Antoine, the Franciscan, and Louis Roget, the Jesuit?

5. SHADOWBROOK is rich in minor characters and their stories. Did you enjoy Swerling's wide canvas, or find it confusing? Besides a name, how does the author assist the reader with character recognition? Could you "hear" the voices of the different characters and did that make the story more alive for you?

6. Dreams move the story forward because they make the characters do certain things. What are the similarities between Cormac's dream and that of the Mohawk chief, Thoyanoquin? Do you think that Quent really believes in either? If not, why does he do what the dreamers ask of him?

7. Consider the different roles of women in the story. What kinds of lives are available to poor women with or without husbands? What about rich women? Do you see similarities between Lorene Hale's choices and those made by Annie Crotchett? What about Nicole's choices, or those of the abbess, Mère Marie Rose, or Marni's choices? What would you have done if you were any one of them? In the end, who do you think had the most power?

8. History says that it is because Britain won the French and Indian war that the American colonists began thinking about independence. Did this book help you understand that? Try to imagine that you are living in that time, would you have been attracted to the notion of independence?

9. What differences do you see in the way modern Canada developed vs. the United States? Do you think the history related in this story had any role in that?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2005

    Don't listen to Sarah (no offense)

    This is an excellent book. That's all I have to say. Wait, maybe I should add: this is an excellent book unless you're looking for something amounting to 'chick lit' where you won't learn a thing.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2005

    Let down after City of Dreams

    Swerling's first novel, City of Dreams, was spectacular. I had high hopes for her second novel, but it was a let down. Some of the historical details, particularly of the military and Indians, bogged down the story. Questions were left unanswered - What really happened when Pohantis came to live at Shadowbrook? Who was the white bear in the dream that was a central theme? Why did the priest order the destruction of Shadowbrook? I thought there was also confusion when it came to the different priests, their intentions, and their loyalties as well as the intentions and loyalties of the different Indian groups. Better in the book were the stories of Nicole and Marni, but both were ultimately underdeveloped and could have been much better. I still give it 3 stars - mediocre rating for what could have been a great novel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2004

    It's no 'City of Dreams'

    OK, sure, the soap opera-ish plot of City of Dreams unravels a teeny bit at the end, but it is a comfortably fluffy page-turner that's filled with gritty period details, some of which can even get a little gross at times, since many of the characters are involved in the medical field, which in ages past was nasty business. It was with anticipation of another captivating tale that I got a copy of Shadowbrook and wow, was I disappointed. I kept waiting and waiting for some action-packed detail and it just wasn't there. In fact I am embarassed to say I only got about 3/4 through it, finally putting it down and thinking how much the whole experience reminded me of reading Diana Gabaldon's first three 'Outlander' books and how everything subsequent to 'Voyager' was slow, tedious and dull. Yes, this book for me was like picking up Drums of Autumn for the first time and being totally let down. All I ask for is a fun read without too many anacronisms; if I want reading to be work, I'll finish getting my Masters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2013

    Wonderful historical fiction.

    I learned history I never knew - in a gripping way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2012

    Great Story

    I bought this book when it was first published. I enjoyed the writing and story immensely. The author knows how to write historical fiction that keeps one very interested in the story. I recently found the book in a pile of books I was going to donate. Couldn't part with it. It is that good. I am going to start the author's New York series now that I have rediscovered her. I hope I am as pleased with them as with this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2012

    Good Reading.

    A good, well written book if you are a lover of historical fiction.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2004

    Don't Miss This One!

    I won¿t sketch the plot again as this has already been done above. Several things struck me as I read Shadowbrook. The first was how much popular fiction in the hands of a gifted writer can achieve. The descriptions of those things one can see, the things that might be captured by a cinematographer, are rendered in such beautiful and evocative language that you forget at times you¿re not watching the big screen. The things one cannot see, the things that must be coaxed from cinematic image with inference, are conjured by Swerling with such skill that the reader thinks, dreams, smells, schemes and feels along with the book¿s characters. This clean access to the ¿unseeable¿ is one of the advantages novels enjoy over film and TV. Ironically it is the element most of today¿s writers have sacrificed, apparently believing they must do so to emulate the torrid pace of cinema. Swerling has shown that this is an unnecessary sacrifice, at least for a writer as talented as she: Shadowbrook, while rich in its treatment of the ¿unseeable,¿ moves along at an absolutely breathtaking pace. The depth given by Swerling to her characters and settings leaves you feeling at book¿s end that you¿ve traveled through time, that you¿ve been places and met people you¿ll never forget. I also found refreshing how distant events are viewed from the inside out, i.e. from the vantage point of the characters rather than from a faraway observer smothering us with facts. In Shadowbrook one sees history for what it is: a great human tide that defines us as quickly as we create it. Finally, I loved the way Swerling shows how our thoughts and actions are shaped by the prism of belief through which we view the world. That prism leaves precious little room for common ground among those who believe differently, as troubling a reality 250 years ago as it is today. One comes away with the feeling that whenever we stumble into a realm that allows us to ¿connect¿ with people of different beliefs, we should know that we are on sacred ground and linger a while. There is much talk of magic in Shadowbrook, both on the part of the Indians and the black slaves that live on Hale Patent. But the magic not mentioned is that this wonderful story exists, and that someone among us was sufficiently ¿possessed¿ to write it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2012

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    Posted October 25, 2008

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    Posted June 22, 2010

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    Posted September 14, 2011

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    Posted May 21, 2011

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