Spirit of the Highway
by Deborah Swift
Endeavor Press, $11.99, 292 pp
Published: September 2015
This story is set near the conclusion of England’s terrible Civil War, when Cromwell’s army is fiercely contesting the Royalists who want to restore the monarchy and their own aristocracy by putting Prince Charles on the throne. Ralph Chaplin is following his father, an officer of Cromwell’s Roundheads, into battle for the first time, but his loyalty and faith have already been dealt a horrible blow. Ralph has witnessed and stopped his father’s attempt to rape a girl, their neighbor the young Kate Fanshawe. His father sees Kate as just another Royalist to be killed or humiliated, but Ralph loves Kate and knows she sympathizes with the local farmers who are fighting against oppression.
In the course of battle, Ralph kills Philip Copthorne, brother of Edward Copthorne, a proud and deadly Cavalier. Copthorne, clearly not content with any “eye for an eye” reckoning, seeks vengeance on the entire Chaplin family in exactly the spirit that turns the word ‘Cavalier’ into a pejorative. Ralph, who wants nothing more than to rebuild after the devastation of war and be with Kate as much as their differences in station allow, is forced to defend all he loves, and must eventually choose between vengeance and hope.
Spirit of the Highway is the middle story of a trilogy that begins with Shadow on the Highway and concludes with Lady of the Highway, all based on the life of Lady Katherine Fanshawe, who became a highwaywoman along the lines of Robin Hood. The Highway Trilogy is written for teens/young adults, or for the young adult in older readers, because you’re never too old for a good story. It is beautifully written; some of the descriptions ravish the sensibilities with their sense of longing for something unattainable and endlessly precious. ~~ Chris R. Paige