Jack Absolute, by C.C. Humphreys, is historical fiction at its best. High stakes, high action, a dash of romance, all centered around Britain’s final end-run to suppress the American Revolution. We’ve got a dashing, clever, irresistibly charming champion. His classically educated Iroquois sidekick, named Até. The lovely, if occasionally mysterious, Loyalist American, Louisa. A vicious enemy in Count von Schlaben, who may or may not be a spy. With a cast of characters like this, how can you go wrong?
The story kicks off with a duel, in which we are introduced to Jack Absolute, who very much does not want to duel. His enemy is twenty years his junior and far more exuberant. But it’s his enemy’s second, Count von Schlaben, who catches Jack’s eye. This man will continue to be a thorn in Jack’s side. And because of this illegal duel, Jack finds himself being gently blackmailed by General Burgoyne into returning to the Army. Though it has been eleven years since he last served, and his life’s plans lay in the opposite direction, Jack finds a sense of relief and excitement at having this choice made for him.
Eleven years before, Jack lived among the Iroquois natives. He became one of them. It is his connections with the Iroquois, as well as his knack for counter-intelligence, that make him such a boon to General Burgoyne. But Jack’s faith in the General is misplaced as it slowly becomes evident that the General’s camp has been infiltrated by spies. Throughout the ensuing conflicts, Jack evades death more times than he can count, and sacrifices more than he ever wanted.
C.C. Humphreys lifted the character of Jack Absolute from Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s play, The Rivals, first performed in 1775; you can read about this in the author’s note at the end. In Humphreys’ book, the action takes place twenty years after the events in The Rivals. Jack is no longer a brash young man; instead, now, he is a brash, older man, pushing forty and looking to salvage his family estate, which is in ruins. Richard Brinsley Sheridan is made a character in Humphreys’ novel so that we witness Jack watching himself being portrayed on the stage. An interesting way to handle the situation. Though I would have been perfectly happy had the author not acknowledged the original play at all.
If you haven’t seen or read The Rivals, I absolutely assure you that it isn’t necessary in order to enjoy this book (although I recommend it because it’s a funny play). All that’s required here is a love of adventure and an appreciation for historical backdrops. Although this isn’t a naval adventure, I’d compare it to the novels of Patrick O’Brian or C.S. Forester. I’m looking forward to the continuation of this series. What a fun read!
A.D. Cole is a homeschooling mother and aspiring romance novelist. She lives in the Ozark foothills and spends her free time reading, writing, baking and pondering life’s little mysteries.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Source Books PR. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.