A Cold Bleak Hill: Prelude to Glory #5

Written by Ron Carter
Review by Margaret Barr

During the summer of 1777, recurring series character Caleb Dunson is a member of General Washington’s underfunded, poorly-trained Continental Army. After the costly Battle of Brandywine Creek, the general and his men have retreated to winter quarters at Valley Forge. There, Caleb embarks on a courtship with a young woman and is unwittingly drawn into an espionage plot. Hope is restored by the time Baron von Steuben arrives.

Carter is determined to document his intensive research with lengthy chapter footnotes, but they impede the narrative flow. Although episodes showing effects of war on the local population are captivating, fictional characters are too rarely permitted to pull their own weight. Competently written, occasionally insightful, A Cold Bleak Hill is marred by labored dialogue and repetitive passages of exposition. Uneven characterization (von Steuben enters the novel without a German accent, which by the end is nearly unintelligible) and historical inaccuracies (Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey are referred to as ‘New England’) make this novel heavy going, except for Revolutionary War enthusiasts.