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4.3 out of 5 stars
Halestorm
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format: Kindle Edition
Review first published by Tyler Tichelaar at BlogCritics August 17, 2012:

In the pageant of American history, the American Revolution is the ultimate pivotal moment, and the bravery shown by the early patriots cannot be denied when they fought for what they believed in--freedom from government control and unfair taxation. Many of those patriots died before ever knowing their cause had succeeded. Among those martyrs to the cause of freedom was Nathan Hale, famous today for his final words, "I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." But who was Nathan Hale really, and what motivated him to die so bravely?
Becky Akers has brought Nathan Hale's past alive in her new novel Halestorm, a book with a clever pun in its title much like the puns she depicts Nathan Hale as having loved. In her Author's Note at the book's end, Akers admits she had to take a few liberties with her plot, but her fiction brings alive the time of the American Revolution in beautifully written prose and in a manner that nonfiction can never achieve.
Halestorm opens with Nathan Hale and his brother going off to college at Yale, while his stepsister Alice is deeply in love with him. Since Nathan's brother and Alice's sister have recently married, Nathan and Alice see no reason why their love cannot also have such a happy ending, but they soon find that their parents are greatly opposed to their marriage. Their attempts to be together and the obstacles that result--including Nathan's promise to his father that he will not marry Alice--make for many twists and turns in the lovers' lives.
Alice and Nathan's love story is played out against the rising disgust in the colonies with the British government and the conflict between loyalists and patriots. Guy Daggett, a dashing young man who sides with the loyalists, soon becomes interested in Alice and stirs up trouble for the lovers while managing to look innocent at every turn. And as the conflict with the motherland develops, Nathan prepares himself inevitably to fight for the cause of freedom.
Akers succeeds in keeping the reader turning the pages, constantly interested in the characters and their fates, despite knowing from history that Nathan must die in the end. Throughout the story, I cheered for Nathan and Alice, booed the villains, and was amazed by all I learned about the American Revolution and colonial life.
As a historical novelist myself, I greatly appreciated Akers' pacing and her research that she worked into the story to give it color and purpose while never lecturing or trying to teach the reader. Akers shines especially in writing dialogue, capturing the phrasing and sentiments of the period. The conversations between characters often made me stop and think, "What these people are upset about is the same situation we Americans are facing with our government today." That Akers makes the novel so relevant to the present day without ever overtly stating the parallels is the true mark of an expert novelist. Halestorm is a novel to read and enjoy, but also a novel to learn from, reminding us not to cave into living with a government our forefathers would have rejected and gave their lives to free themselves from. I especially admired Akers' use of dialogue to bring these comparisons between the past and present to life. Here is just a short sample:
"So you think we ought to take arms against the king, Master Hale?" The judge's voice climbed so high this time it cracked. By now, everyone in the room was craning to see him. "That--that's treason!"
Nathan shook his head. "We're free English citizens, aren't we? That means we have a contract with the government. We submit to it and obey the laws--"
"Hear, hear!"
"--long as--" He paused, allowing the tumult to die. "Long as king and Parliament honor their end of things. They've got to protect our lives, liberty, and property."
"'Course, and that's why the king disarmed that mob in Boston, to keep the peace, don't you see."
Nathan stood with arms akimbo. "How does a government impose its will on its subjects?" He waited for an answer, as if they were in class.
Zeke Simpson's father obliged. "By force."
"Yes, by force. We saw what happens when we don't want to pay taxes. The king sends soldiers here, with guns, to force us to pay. Only way to resist is by bringing our own guns against those soldiers. The king knows that, so his army marched against the stores at Concord to disarm us. A government deprives the people of their rights, it's a good bet they'll rebel unless it disarms them first. Tyrants always disarm the people."
"He's right!" Mr. Simpson shouted. "'Twill be our death the day they have more muskets than us."
Halestorm reveals just how relevant the issues of the American Revolution remain today. Akers' realistic historical characters make difficult choices that affect their personal happiness and the future of an emerging nation. This stunning tale emphasizes the true cost of freedom and the debt we owe to those who make the sacrifice. I highly recommend this book to everyone who is proud to be an American, everyone who is a lover of history, and everyone who cares about America's future.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Most of us know that Nathan Hale was the revolutionary hero who upon being faced with his execution for treason against England declared that his only regret was that "he had but one life to lose for his country." But most of us do not know much else about the man or about his life. Though this is a fictionalized account of his life, Becky Akers has done a marvelous job researching the era and describing the background for his story. Clearly, she has gone back to first source documents for much of the language used by her characters, and though their dialogue comes out of her wonderfully creative imagination, it is highly believable, and definitely makes for an engaging story.

In fact, it was so exciting that toward the end, I couldn't put it down and ended up reading until I had finished it in the middle of the night. It is not often these days that I do that! Usually I pick up my book and in ten minutes my eyes are closing no matter how much I think I am interested in the subject.

I've enjoyed reading Becky Aker's other works, and am happy to see her branching out into the historical fiction genre. I'll be watching to see what she comes up with next.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
A young American novelist, Becky Akers, tells us the story from page to page how it was to live in American revolutionary times. She so courageously tells us about the value of liberty. It was not just the Americans, but also the Brits living in America at that time, who wanted to break away from the tyranny of the King. I thought that it was Nathan Hale who was Alice ("Ally") Adam's paradigm of liberty...and that consumed her love and soul. However, the story of Ally's and Nathan's love for each other is not your usual love affair. Instead, Ally is kept from her Nathan almost throughout, and because he remains honorable to his father's wishes not to marry her, he thus obeys his wishes, almost without thought. It is not until Nathan becomes a spy (not the most honorable profession) for the "cause" that he realizes that those principles will be violated if his love for Ally is greater than the wishes of his family. However, Ally's love is anchored to Nathan regardless of the obstacles that stand in her way; his Father's disapproval, her arranged marriage, and the "cad" who tried to "monkey wrench" everything good.

The story has such beautiful prose and cadence, one feels he is marching into the arms of liberty. Mrs. Akers does something in her novel that I would bet you won't find in other novels of this period. Throughout the book, she peppers her prose with anarchistic principles: "taxation is robbery!"; "But government takes our money and says it'll spend it better than we can. It says it's doing it for our own good, whether we approve of it or not..."

My favorite quote of all: "Why should a country be run?"

From these fiery expressions we hear a cry for independence from the State that most other scholars would dare to discuss. This beautiful American novelist is talking to US.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
If you liked Gone With the Wind and the writings of Murray Rothbard, you will enjoy Halestorm as much as I did. Some characters remind the reader of characters in other fiction. One sees hints of Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler as well as minor GWTW characters such as Charles Hamilton and Frank Kennedy. There is even a violent murder like that by Roskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. Nathan Hale is portrayed as a good leader of men, like Sam Damon in Once an Eagle, or some of the heroes in Atlas Shrugged. Halestorm does not aspire to the epic scale of GWTW or Atlas Shrugged. But you can enjoy your American history on a more modest scale in Halestorm.

The politics which drove the American Revolution are portrayed as libertarian, with allusions to John Locke. In this, Halestorm agrees with the Bernard Bailyn classic, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution.

After your journey through Halestorm, you will feel indulgent enough to forgive both Nathan Hale and Becky Akers for their corny puns. Mostly, you will want to emulate Nathan Hale for his virtues.

The author's note at the end is gratifying, because it answers the questions which arise concerning the proportion of fact to fiction. And you will probably end up reading the Wikipedia article on Nathan Hale because you want to see the historical consensus about him.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I am a dull person. I read a great deal of non-fiction, while reserving my vacation week at the shore for fiction, reading perhaps the latest John Grisham on the beach. But I have read most of Becky Akers' posts and articles on the paleo-libertarian blog of LewRockwell.com, so I know she is an excellent writer. With that, I eagerly bought the Kindle version of "Halestorm", reading it on my morning commute by train into Philadelphia. I enjoyed every moment.

I grew up in a small town in Rhode Island, so I am familiar with jonnycakes, and remember hearing some of my older neighbors say "ayuh" when they meant to reply in the affirmative. Akers captures these and many other wonderful details of life in the New England of the late 1700s. She creates believable characters, and propels them thru a wonderful story. Along the way you will learn something about liberty, the fight for independence, and the character of the people who lived where we live but in a different time and culture. Much was familiar, but there were also many surprises, most notably the attitude toward spying that prevailed in that time.

Most Americans are familiar with the name Nathan Hale and his famous quote. This book will make his life and times something much more than stale history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
After finishing this book, Nathan Hale is more real to me than any current politicians or movie stars. Backy Akers has written an exciting story based on fact of a young patriot who chose to be hanged as a spy and buried in an unmorked grave when he could have saved his life by agreeing to work for the British army. Nathan Hale was a man of honor and died bravely. His last words "I regret I have but one life to lose for my country" are still with us today. His words inspired the patriots. Today they continue to inspire all lovers of freedom.

I have to admit, when I was in school I found the study of the American Revolution fairly boring. Just read "Halestorm" - the American Revolution will come to life and you won't be able to put the book down. You will understand just what the patriots were fighting for - freedom from oppressive and intrusive big government and unfair taxation - the same things that lovers of freedom are still fighting for today.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This book not only infuses life into Revolutionary hero, Nathan Hale; it also breathes life into the US constitution. I could not put it down. It ought to be required reading in government schools instead of the flat, dull, dry textbooks students are accustomed to.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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Becky Aker’s novel, Halestorm, is a perfect companion to her other work of historical fiction, Abducting Arnold, and it takes the reader on a wild ride of suspense—girded about by a powerful sexual prohibition that threatens to crumble under the pressure of an even deeper passion shared by the two main characters, Nathan Hale and his half sister, Alice. Even better, there is a constant tension as Nathan Hale battles with his own sense of integrity throughout the story—concerned about keeping an oath he was tricked into making without full knowledge of the circumstances of that oath. As a result, Halestorm goes beyond merely fanciful historical fiction by pouring the reader inside of each character’s innermost thoughts and feelings. This is no wooden tale of cardboard characters from another time and place, glimpsed under a foggy time-scope. These are real people, and you can’t help but care about them.

The plot of Halestorm develops along very different lines than Abducting Arnold, where Becky Akers supplied some plausible reasons for Benedict Arnold’s decision to abandon the cause of the colonies’ secession from England’s central government. In Halestorm, which is the earlier of the two novels, Akers entertains and educates—creating the scenario for Nathan Hale’s ill-fated attempt at espionage. But the suspense is carried more by the prohibited love relationship of the protagonists and the ever-present threat and damaging motivations of a potential “other man” who will stop at nothing to separate Nathan Hale from the love of his life. And the author keeps things rolling along with an adept use of timing, incomplete knowledge on the part of the characters, and unrelenting suspense—along with all of the attendant obstacles of hypocrisy, self-destructive motives, and the fallout and human wreckage of ill-fated relationships—that drive any good story. And she keeps it moving from the opening page to the very last sentence. This novel turns its own pages, so you may want to begin reading it at the beginning of a weekend. I didn’t, and it made for some sleepy workdays.

It was even refreshing to read the author’s notes at the close of Halestorm. There, Becky Akers confesses all of the liberties she took with the facts, but these really do not take away from the novel’s power as a gripping story or from its valuable portrayal of colonial life—not to mention her unique perspective as a libertarian writer. I even discovered in her final notes that the famous phrase attributed to Nathan Hale—“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country”—is itself a more succinct, and more importantly, an erroneous concoction, based on his original words, which used the word “cause” instead of “country,” among other differences. And in the current climate of rampant nationalism and socialism (put ‘em together and what do you get?), this distinction is very important—especially for those of us who are concerned about the cause of individual liberty and of adhering to the higher laws of human decency in the face of the government-subsidized barbarism. So by all means, follow Becky Akers into the pages that follow the close of the novel itself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2012
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If you know Nathan Hale only by his famous statement as he faced his murder by the "good soldiers" of the British empire, prepare to feast on this historical novel that gives this exemplar his due. I warn you, though...If you love liberty as do I, prepare to have your heart broken as you learn about--in the context of our present circumstances--the life of this singular young man who gave his life for the cause of liberty in the first American war of secession.

As other reviewers have stated, Becky Akers expertly shares her extensive knowledge of life in colonial America at both the individual, day-to-day level of the colonists and at the broader political level. We learn about Nathan's family life and the tremendous influence of that family, particularly Nathan's father, on his decisions/choices. What would have become of Nathan had he had the blessing of his father to marry his true love, Ally? Sadly, we will never know. As for Ally, I found her somewhat annoying, her behavior revealing to me a character not entirely worthy of her beloved Nathan. Her dalliances with the fictional character, Guy Daggett, that form a good portion of the tension of the novel and ultimately lead to Nathan's capture, display Ally's immaturity and willingness to attempt to play the young men off against each other. Early on, through her regular letters to Nathan at Yale, she hopes to prompt him to declare his love for her by quoting Guy's compliments. Of course, Nathan does not succumb, frustrating Ally's attempts to bring the desired result. Against the example of Nathan's character, Ally seems to revel in Guy's words to her, "Neither honor nor father could keep me from claiming a woman I loved." Big hint, Ally, but one she never got. Clearly, Guy's attention feeds Ally's ego, blinding her to what he is at bottom, until it is clearly too late.

I highly recommend Halestorm as a great fictional read with an inspiring main character, complemented with a great supporting cast of both fictional and non-fictional ones. I recommend it also as a reminder of the sacrifice and more complete picture of the brave young man, "startlingly handsome", who gave his life for the cause of liberty. What broke my heart and made me leave the story at times was how sad it made me to contemplate Hale's sacrifice in light of what "America" looks like today. Unimaginable tyranny unfolds before us day by day, disgracing the legacy of Nathan Hale and his many compatriots, with barely a whimper or even the slightest indignation by the vast majority of "Americans". As my 16-year old nephew said to me of Nathan Hale when he finished the copy I gave him, "He did not die for this." No, he did not. When I asked him how Becky Akers' story compared to what he learned about Nathan Hale in school during his studies of the American Revolution, he told me, "We didn't talk about Nathan Hale at all..." Now, honest to God, how is that even possible??

So to that I say, buy Halestorm for yourself and your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Read it and encourage them to read it. If ever a generation needed a hero, it is this one. Thank you, Becky Akers, for bringing this exquisite character to life through this highly readable novel. Let Halestorm remind us all of the value of liberty, its true cost, and poignant legacy of Nathan Hale.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I loved Halestorm. It kept me glued to my Kindle from page 1 to the end. Drawing on her vast historical knowledge, the author brings the characters and events of the 1770s into vivid focus. The reader learns to admire Nathan Hale in a way that could not come out of a mere history book.

Of course, a novelist takes certain liberties with historical facts for the sake of the plot. The author did a marvelous job of blending historical reality with her own inventions to produce a compelling story. At the end of the book, she meticulously explains which aspects of the story were made up, so the reader ends up with an accurate understanding of history, along with a highly entertaining experience.

I eagerly await Becky Akers' next foray into the historical novel genre.
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