After reading the first two books by author Donald Montano, I was eager to read the third book featuring John Sampson and Arley Ruttlinger. An Ill Wind is Blowing picks up where Escape Back to Charleston left off. Sampson, Arley, and Joshua Smith have arrived in Charleston in search of Serena, the black slave Joshua is in love with. The South is undergoing reconstruction after the devastation of the Civil War and Charleston is under martial law. Despite the Emancipation Proclamation, black people are still treated poorly and live like slaves. When the trio attempt to register at the luxurious Planter’s Inn Hotel they are denied because of Joshua’s race. As hotel manager Norman Hurst notes, “Old ways die hard…”. However, Sampson negotiates with Hurst and, after guaranteeing he will pay for the top floor of the hotel for a month, they are admitted.
Montano cleverly handles the difficulties of being a person of color in the post-Civil War south. In addition to the prejudice against Joshua, Charleston and the surrounding area is rampant with corruption. It isn’t long before Sampson discovers the owner of the Black Seed Plantation, Colonel Blaylock, controls the other owners with his personal Red Army. He also seems to have the Union commander, Captain Hiram Bowles, in his pocket.
Sampson and Arley gradually meet some of the other plantation owners and it becomes apparent that Blaylock is hiding some secret. Smooth talking and corrupt, he keeps three young former slave women as his concubines. One of them is Serena, the lover of Joshua who they have gone south to rescue.
Arley captures the admiration of the townspeople with her beauty and recently acquired wardrobe. Others are admirers of Sampson’s strength and determination. Working with the Pinkerton Detective Agency headed by Randall McQuade, they begin to learn what power Blaylock holds over the community.
Soon they are embroiled in battles with Blaylock’s Red Shirts and find out what the Colonel is doing behind the scenes.
This is a book filled with action, intrigue, and romance. Not only are there the love relationships between Sampson and Arley, soon Sampson’s brother Rory arrives with his fleet of ships. He falls in love with Deanna Whyle, the daughter of one of the landowners.
While the story revolves around Joshua’s desperation to rescue Serena from Blaylock, Montano brings enough history to the tale to hold any reader’s interest.
Although this seems to be the conclusion pf the adventures of Arley and Sampson, I’m nurturing a secret hope there will be at least one more book. This is a lively series, with rich and fascinating characters set against vivid historical landscapes.
I highly recommend this series to readers who enjoy Louis L’Amour and Larry McMurtry. I’m pleased to give this book a Gold Bookworm.
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