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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Watch the Hour by J.R. Lindermuth

Watch the Hour by J.R. Lindermuth
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Historical Romance
Lenght: Full
Heat: Sweet
Rating: 4 Books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

In the 1870s in Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region, mine owners and their employees, particularly the Irish immigrants, are in conflict over working conditions.

Private police forces commissioned by the state but paid by the coal companies are sworn to protect property of the mine owners. The miners know their real purpose is to spy upon targeted agitators and intimidate and break up strikers.

The Mollie Maguires, a secret society some see as working to improve the lot of the Irish and which others damn as a terrorist organization, are viewed as an increasing threat.

Benjamin Franklin Yeager is a coal company police officer. He does his best to follow orders while trying to be fair to the workers whose lot he sees as little different from his own. Despite his efforts at fairness, Yeager’s job makes him the enemy of the Irish.

And that’s the crux of his troubles. For Ben is in love with an Irish girl.

Note: there is coarse language and violence is common throughout

Lindermuth’s Watch the Hour, has all the earmarks of the epic, from a big cast of characters to the dramatic background.

The coal-mining district in Pennsylvania, circa 1870, is at the heart of racial and class-related strife. Secret society intrigue wends its way between mine bosses and the Irish immigrants struggling for their lives and livelihoods. Gangs as tough as any contemporary street gang struggle for the upper-hand.

Caught in the midst of this is young Ben Yeager, corporate cop, who’s conscious puts him on the side of the workers. Ben is a fair man, and beyond that, a young man determined to be fair. His opinions and innate toughness make him admirable – even though he is the object of suspicion and derision at times. He must--somehow--step beyond how his association with the company makes him appear, or he’ll never win the heart of lovely Jennie.

Wonderfully tactile descriptions bring the place to life. You will hear the echoing workday whistle, and cast your eyes with longing to the distant, green hills. The depths of the forest provide charming cover for meetings… and the harsh rooms of some of the upper-crust echo their lack of compassion.

Characters are engaging, (although Lindermuth makes free use of specific stereotypes for some.) Their desperation is heart-felt from the first, although it takes a bit of time for our actual hero to put in an appearance. Throughout, the lives of many interesting people, from the local priest to the young girls on either side; (daughters of the well–off, as well as those like young Nora McHugh, trying to help her father in prison,) add to the overall story.

Ben, a well-meaning, upstanding man with his own financial responsibilities, understand the struggles of the Irish. He treads a fine line… and dreams of the life of a farmer. He’s more than slightly terrified of a shotgun wedding (‘cause it would be to the totally wrong girl) and the right girl does not meet anyone else’s approval. The real romance takes a little time to develop, but the love story does shine out, through all the complexities of this tale.

Overall, this is a very pleasant read. Those with an interest in the human history around coal-mining will certainly enjoy the few slower passages of back-story.