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The hearts of heroes and heroines: A review of The Charleston Gambit

By Sophie Heinsohn

Image by the author.

The Charleston Gambit

By Stuart Bennett

Paperback, 357 pages


(Evening Post Books, Charleston, 2021)

The heart of the Lowcounty has been evidenced in many things throughout her long and bountiful history, not the least of which include marsh grass, rice fields and grand homes. Now, once again, the heart of the Lowcountry is caught and memorialized in The Charleston Gambit.

Throughout its pages you will find historical context interwoven with verisimilitude. Bennett discusses the issues of the day, including how and to whom freedom should be allocated, with a true and insightful look at the debates that surrounded the forming of our then-new nation.

The author has woven so much into the book about the local area that is dear to many. Charleston is steeped in history, and this book provides a deeper look at the elements that have made this city what we know today. From the people, places and cultures of the past comes a rich heritage and legacy that should be remembered and embraced. We are really not so different from those brave souls more than two centuries ago who fought and paid dearly for the things we hardly notice today.

Our heroine, Polly, sets out with her father on a mission to deliver arms to her brothers; however, when the going becomes more dangerous, her father goes home. Polly, undaunted, sneaks away and continues on until she is captured by the British.

Now comes the true test of patriotism, helped along by the power of love. Polly journeys through life decisions, both the good and the bad, and proves herself worthy and strong as she helps her brothers and even the British. Polly is not alone in making important decisions, at times testing her beliefs and more. Lord Rawdon, commanding his regiment and upholding his king’s honor, is also faced with deeply consequential choices.

The casual historian will find that this book provides a unique look at the battles of the Revolutionary War that were fought in the Charleston area and beyond. The lesser-known battles are perhaps the most intriguing, and as this story includes many small skirmishes and attacks from small rebel groups, you may find yourself challenged to remember for whom you are cheering. Even the most devoted American patriot will get pulled into the story, and more importantly, the lives of the characters. In this way, I empathized on a deeper level with the heroine, who is an avid patriot faced with strong, and contrary, feelings of love and loyalty.

This reviewer does not recommend reading while dinner is cooking or anything else needing observation! From love to sadness and fear to joy, and so much in between, The Charleston Gambit is sure to keep your emotions involved.

It is my belief that a book that makes you reflect on life has done its job, and The Charleston Gambit did just that for me. In a far-too-divided pandemic world, it is quite nice to step back a few hundred years and to see both the division, and the unity, of that time. We may learn other lessons from this — lessons about judging someone and about the complexities that both divide and unite us. We are really not so different from our ancestors. Sickness, war, life, decisions, division, loyalty (and not to the king) and love are prevalent both then and now. This book reminds us that we are not alone in the battles of today, but that we live in a nation that has persevered for centuries and generations through both the good times and the bad, much like today.

As the slightly cooler and less humid days of winter approach, if you are looking for a read that that weaves history, culture and life together in the wondrous way of historical fiction, this should be your first choice. Stuart Bennett’s The Charleston Gambit may even pair well with a now-not-so-treasonous cup of tea.

Hailing from Charleston originally, Sophie Heinsohn has lived up and down the Eastern Seaboard, which fostered an interest in history and its present-day cultural implications. With a bachelor’s degree in government from Liberty University, Sophie is now pursuing a master’s in writing and looks forward to merging these passions in the future.

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