Grace A. Johnson
Review: Preacher on the Run by Jayna Baas
#1 This is a long review, so pull up a chair and grab a bowl of popcorn. You’ll be here awhile. #2 When I read a review, I want substantial information. So I will not skimp on the details. Which may mean some spoilers, so watch out.
Synopsis: As a member of the Regulators and a God-fearing Baptist preacher, Robert Boothe is already destined for destruction in the eyes of the tyrannous British government. But when Colonel Drake comes to town, Robert realizes just how much he’s laid on the line for God and his country...and how much he’ll have to sacrifice if he wants to keep on serving Him.
Boy howdy, was this a wild ride or what! Even though Amazon says this novel is only 346 pages, I’m pretty sure it was closer to seven hundred, because y’all. Preacher on the Run read like an epic. And I don’t just mean length-wise (*glares at her own seven-hundred-page novel*). I mean, a novel about one man on a mission to save his family, friends, congregation, county, and country from the oppressing and unethical rule of not just the British government but the Church of England also (more specifically, one heartless and cruel individual that reminded me way too much of Colonel Tavington)?
Yep, definitely an epic.
And certainly worth the three months I spent reading it. (Because, yes, this story must be savored. Or else read all in one sitting.)
The story itself was never rushed or hastily thrown together—it was so well thought-out and developed, so even though it did seem to drag sometimes, it was never because a scene was useless or sloppy; rather, everything was so strong and smooth!
In fact, it quite amazed me how detailed and informative the story was while also being extremely immersive and engaging—exactly how historical fiction should be. It was the perfect balance of authentic, accurate history and fictionalization, and the way Baas wrote it was perfect. Not like textbook material or a drama, but realistically. Truthfully. A bit classically and a bit straightforwardly.
Her prose itself fit the story and the characters to a T; blunt and to-the-point but never threadbare or lacking. There was emotion, internal monologue, descriptions, and dialogue as there needed to be, but it never overshadowed the action and general narrative or took on a fanciful romantic slant. (Which is my favorite thing, but we all know it wouldn’t have worked for our hardened frontier preacher, now would it?) And what tied it all together was that even though Baas’ writing had a masculine flavor to it and was tailored to the story and the characters, it was so smooth. It had a musical, cinematic flow, with no info-dumps (praise God) or awkward moments.
Now, I know y’all are tired of hearing all about the technical mumbo-jumbo; y’all wanna know if I liked the story and the characters and if it fit my insanely strict requirements (as in, no stupidity, no woke ideals, and lots of Jesus).
First of all, I loved the story. It was exciting in a real way (let’s face it, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Avengers is not in the least bit realistic. Exciting, yes. Realistic, no), authentic and genuine, and so unique on top of that. Mainly because no one’s ever written about the Regulators (that I know of), and you certainly don’t hear about them every day.
And just because you don’t hear about something doesn’t mean it’s not intriguing. Google Samuel Nunez if you don’t believe me (fun fact, he’s an ancestor of mine, and he’s got a rather interesting story).
As for the characters… Y’all, Boothe was perfection. He was that strong male lead that wasn’t (1) obnoxious, (2) unnecessary, or (3) feminine. (Don’t tell me you ain’t read at least one story in which the guy just didn’t seem like a guy. Yes, yes, I know guys can be sensitive and emotional, and that’s all well and good, but I really don’t want to read about a whiny-butt boy when I already live with four of them. I’m sure you don’t either; hence why Boothe takes the cake for a genuine male lead who is calm, levelheaded, normal, necessary to the story, and masculine without being obsessively macho.) He was steady and strong, but from the heart and spirit rather than the body or mind, while also being emotional (in a non-whiny way, mind you) and human. Not to mention, he was admirable. He was a true hero, because even though he had his flaws and imperfections, he didn’t let them define him or let his own problems become main focus of the story.
And by “own problems,” I don’t mean being thrown in prison for preaching the pure, unadulterated Gospel. I mean his petty disagreements or strained relationships or sensitive pride. Those things weren’t the driving force of the story; the real and universal problem effecting everyone in the book (Colonel Drake, if you couldn’t guess) was.
I know that seems like a strange thing to pick out, but I’ve read many stories in which the “hero” or “heroine” became almost the villain of the story by making everything about them and their personal drama or by making decisions that put others at risk. That may be realistic or what the author intended, but it’s still annoying.
Moving on...Maggie was lovely, a perfect helpmate for Robert who actually contributed to the story and wasn’t obnoxious or aggravating. Saul, Elsie, Gunning, Hank...all the secondary and minor characters were so interesting and vibrant. I loved the entire cast!
Especially Alec. Seriously, he was awesome...even if I couldn’t help but think of my uncle Alec when book Alec would get ticked off at something. *grins* Plus, his story was just so heartbreaking. I need more of Alec! And Mitch was pretty epic too. I think, if Baas wanted, she could easily make the rest of this series about Alec and Mitch. I know I’d be satisfied!
As for our villains, Drake and Chauncey. In a way, Drake seemed almost too vile (like Tavington, for example), which is surprisingly possible. (I mean, Hitler was a dog person. Surely Drake had something unrelated to soul-deep evil in his life.) So he kind of took away from the realistic aspects of the story with his rogue actions and lack of weaknesses, whereas Chauncey was an antagonist I rather liked! He had much more depth and connection to the story than Drake did, I should think, and more character and arc. He had what I call proper motivation...and a wee bit of a moral compass too.
Lastly...the spiritual themes and faith elements. Y’all know when the story’s about a preacher that it’s gonna be jam-packed with biblical truths and Scripture and whatnot, right? Well, that hasn’t always been the case with some books, so naturally I was beyond pleased to see the strong faith presented in this book! Boothe’s beliefs were so real and present in his life, and I loved watching him walk out his faith and work out his salvation! Of course, the way he touched others not just in the capacity of pastor but as friend was beautiful.
What I liked the most was how sound the theology was and how biblical! I grew up Baptist, so I know a thing or two about what they believe now, but the Baptists of the 18th century were much different, and you can see how Boothe’s teachings reflect that...but more importantly, they reflected the Scripture and God. So whether you’re Baptist or Church of England yourself, I think you can understand and hopefully agree with Boothe’s views, because they’re all derived from the Bible. And that in and of itself is something that he emphasizes a lot, which y’all know I liked a lot, since most everyone these days is a bit like the Church of England was then. *sighs* We need a Boothe in this world, y’all.
Really the only thing I had a qualm with was the accents. I may be wrong, but the accents of that time and place were a cross between lower-class Irish and Cockney rather than today’s Southern accent. So the way Baas wrote them kept throwing me off of the era a bit. Of course, I knew it was set in the 1700s, but they all talked like cowboys or rednecks from the late 1800s. And believe you me, there’s a big difference between a Southerner in 1771, one in 1881, and one in 2021 (or ‘22, but y’all know I had to end in one for repetition’s sake).
So whether I’m wrong or not, I still didn’t get the feel of the Carolinian mountains in the 18th century from the way everyone spoke, which kept slapping a cowboy hat on Hank and some terbacker (and, yes, that’s how we pronounce tobacco down here) in Alec’s mouth.
Come to think of it, did men chew back then? I know cropping tobacco didn’t get popular in the Carolinas until much later, and not until the mid-1900s in Georgia, but would they’ve imported chewing tobacco? Was that even common in any region, or was snuff the go-to?
I’ll have to look that up.
Well, back to the task at hand now...Preacher on the Run was a rather exemplary historical novel following one man’s journey to save his loved ones and stand up for his beliefs against a rather Goliath-sized enemy. Of course, that’s not my typical go-to book, but I can’t ignore how well Baas swept me into this story and how every chapter had me coming back for more! Between the quality of her writing and the quality of the story, I think we have a winner here, folks! A story any history buff or escapist reader would enjoy!
Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher, publicist, or author, including NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
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About the Author
Jayna Baas (pronounced as in “baa, baa, black sheep”) lives in northern Michigan with a great family of real people and the family of pretend people who live in her head. (Yes, she does know her characters are not real. No, she does not want you to tell them she said so.) She is notorious for working on several projects at once and writing her series in the wrong order. She hones her craft amid loud southern gospel music and an embarrassing number of composition books, and is convinced God wired her to write—she can’t not write, even though she believes German writer Thomas Mann was correct in saying, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than for other people.” She enjoys writing and reading in a variety of genres, but her favorite story is this: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Learn more at www.booksbyjayna.com.
Yours in spirit and script,
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