1770s Trenton, New Jersey: Penny Scott has been raised by future Declaration-signer John Hart’s family since she was orphaned as a child in an Indian raid. She and Hart’s younger son Edward are in love, but John has forbidden them to court while under his roof. When the battle of Trenton brings British troops to the Hart farm, John’s status makes him a marked man, so he hides in the woods to avoid capture. Penny, left at the farm with servants, meets with tragedy when the soldiers seek vengeance. After a devastated Edward returns from the Continental Army, he decides to make a living by opening a tavern.
Part two is set in present-day Trenton. Landscaper Luis Alma, head of a Cuban-American family, becomes a local hero and mayoral candidate after he helps arrest a man who shot a policeman. Daughter Tina is the girlfriend of Darius Hudson, an African-American college student who’s interested in history. In the boarded-up Eagle Tavern, Darius finds what may be a first printing of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, with an inscription “To E.H….Love, Penny.” Will they discover the connection to the Harts and Trenton’s past? Will the Almas and Darius survive the violence of a 21st-century inner city?
This book has potential. The characters become interesting at times, and the authors work hard to include local historical detail. However, they seem to have crammed every bit of Trenton travelogue they could into the story, and the result is overkill. Also, more editing is needed. The book abounds with information dumps and suffers from too many clichés: “Bang! A shot rang out!,” “various and sundry,” and “Herculean task” are just a few I spotted. Nice try on a historical era that could use more exposure, but I have to vote this one a miss.