Today I’d like to welcome LuAnn Braley and share her wonderful review of THE SOLDIER’S RETURN! Please take the time to visit her at Back Porchervations.
The second book in Laura Libricz’s “Heaven’s Pond Trilogy”, The Soldier’s Return, pulls no punches when it comes to describing some of the more horrifying aspects of war in the early 1600s. Granted, there were no air strikes or nukes, but plenty of damage was done to the countryside and the people living there nonetheless.
The whole Catholic vs Protestant issue was cooking on high heat and littlle bits of land would go back and forth from the control of one religion to the control of another. And wo to the Catholic who found herself in a Protestant village, and vice versa. It was as bad back then as it is these days between gangs in many areas. And interactions could be just as deadly.
And Ralf, the Jesuit whom I grew to dislike intensely in the first book of the trilogy, The Master and the Maid, doubled down on his fanaticism when it came to ferreting out ‘witches’, which a rather disproportionate amount of the time were Protestant sympathizers. If the suspect in question did not give an answer that Ralf wanted, he would apply various ‘methods of persuasion’ to ‘drive the devil out’ of said person. I remember a vivid description of thumb screws…and he just got nasty from there.
Herr Tucher and Katarina (the titular master and maid of the first book) were still at Sichardtshof farm, trying to hold things together for the little group of people living and working there. Not an easy job when army after army comes through. In those times, the soldiers were not paid their promised wages very often, and scant if any rations were provided, so they took what they wanted from farmers and villagers – food, drink and women. I am glad the author did not resort to the crass terminology that seems to be prevalent in some modern erotic romances, but the scenes are quite disturbing nonetheless. That is not a criticixm, but an observation.
Pieter had gone back to Amsterdam shortly before his father passed away, ran into all kinds of trouble shortly after and after a stint in jail in the Spice Islands, returned but had to leave town fairly quickly again. He wanted to go back to the farm (probably the closest thing to family he had left), and joined up with various military units on the way south to Sichardtshof. He changed units as often as needed to suit his purposes. Unfortunately, he did not resign or ask for re-assignment first…which tends to upset the commanders of said units. Deserters faired no better, and probably much worse, than they do today.
Reading the book, which was difficult to stop, I felt like I was there – slogging through mud, feeling fear for the women and children on the farm when soldiers and ‘camp followers’ marauded through.
I do wonder about the title, a wee bit. The story seemed to have as much or more to do with the goings on at Sichardtshof itself, than with Pieter’s return to the farm. For me it’s one of those ‘it would be interesting to know someday’, but had no bearing on my enjoyment of the book.
The Soldier’s Return is not always an easy read. Don’t get me wrong, the story is wonderful … but life for the people living in that area and at that time was not.. There was not a ‘HEA’ ending, but the core group of characters (Tucher, Katarina, Isobel, her father and Pieter) were still standing. If you are a reader, The Soldier’s Return is a satisfying, filling read.
And now I’m really looking forward to the last installment of the trilogy, Ash and Rubble, to see how Isobel fulfills the White Witch’s predictions for her!