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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Bronze Horseman Series Book Five

Paullina Simons
Harper Publishing
ISBN# 978-0-06-209814-6
March 2014

As part of her continuing series which began with THE BRONZE HORSEMAN, this sequel to CHILDREN OF LIBERTY continues Harry and Gina's story throughout their turbulent and often volatile marriage in Massachusetts, then Florida and finally Russia.  

As the son of a wealthy businessman in the same vein as Rockefeller, Harry Barrington has given up his family and lifestyle to marry Gina, the beautiful Italian immigrant he fell in love with.  Gina and Harry are living with her mother in the small house in Lawrence, Massachusetts.  Six years go by with little to no improvement, as he's been cut off from his family and all doors have been closed to him.  Gina works in a canvas mill during the time of the Lawrence Textile Strike.  Harry is not working and has little incentive to do so, but yet he involves himself in demonstrations and uprisings, pickets and strikes that are taking over Boston.  There is a growing animosity between her family and Harry and Gina is put in the middle. Her brother Salvo won't even be in the same room with Harry and the reader discovers exactly why later.  After prodding, he decides to work for an ominous man named Big Bill doing his dirty deeds.  It is with this man and this faction that Harry finds his calling in supporting a movement called Socialism.  Harry and Gina's relationship becomes strained to the point where Gina becomes displaced in her life and slowly spirals downhill.  She doesn't agree with Harry's political affiliations, but she pretends to in order to preserve what is left of their marriage.  Harry is cynical, unbending in his beliefs, ignores his wife and spends most of their married life behind bars.  Years go by, with several miscarriages that are the result of brief moments of freedom Harry gets between jail time for demonstrations against the U.S. Government.  An old friend returns from abroad, and for a bright, brief glimpse in her life, Gina knows some happiness.  Yet, she doesn't leave Harry, even though she is tired, frazzled and disillusioned.  Harry is freed, thanks to a surprising reduced sentence, and Gina becomes pregnant again.  When he is returned to jail, this time it may be the last straw that the Government will allow and they threaten him with deportation to Russia.  Gina, frantic, without any means of income, breaks down and goes to see his family that Harry refuses to see or talk to the last 13 years.  At first, she is refused, until they discover she is pregnant.  His father manages to get Harry out of jail on the promise he will be under house arrest somewhere far away from Boston.  This is when they are sent to Bellagrand, a fabulous home in Florida that his mother gave to him long ago before she died.  Here we finally see what Harry and Gina were meant to be to each other, their love blossoms again, and with the arrival of baby Alexander, they manage to find some happiness.  This happiness is short lived, because Harry is bent on his Socialist and Communist leanings.  With his last chance already used up, Gina discovers that she is the one about to be deported now, back to Italy because Harry renounced his U.S. citizenship years ago, and since she is affiliated with him, they tell her to break free of him or risk herself and her son.  

In BELLAGRAND, Gina is the tragic heroine, doomed to give all of herself for her husband, who doesn't deserve her.   What once was a bright, glowing dream of America, turns into a tragedy of epic proportions as Gina slowly fades away.  For me, knowing how their story ultimately ends in THE BRONZE HORSEMAN, it's like a tragic train wreck that you know is coming but can't be avoided.  What ultimately is sad is the lost Gina.  I found myself hoping that she somehow sees Harry for what he really is, not just for what she wants him to be.  She never gives up on the dream that she first had when she met him all those years ago.  Harry, I found, was not only the pitiful excuse of a husband she didn't deserve and couldn't quite let herself leave, but also he turned out to be selfish, irresponsible and arrogant in his beliefs to the point where his family is sacrificed.  He never really understands what he has done, even when they are exiled into Russia.  The sad conclusion to this story is necessary in order to understand how a bright, beautiful girl who only dreamed of a better life in America ended up in Soviet Russia as a drunkard.  This story is sad, sad, sad!  I wanted to kick Harry to the curb, tell Gina to run, run far away!  He was a sinking cesspool of driveling nonsense most of the time.  Their epic journey reaches it sad conclusion in THE BRONZE HORSEMAN, but this story is necessary in order to know what happened in America and how they got to Russia.  Simons' writing can sometimes be slow, tedious and sometimes boring in places.  I think what had me skipping some pages was that I absolutely HATED Harry.  There was nothing good about him 75% of the time.  The only thing good Gina saw in him was back when she first met him.  She struggles throughout her whole life, trying to find that again, never realizing the old Harry is gone and replaced by a self-preserving Communist.  I felt sorry for her.  Then I came to a startling realization:  Gina is not strong, nor courageous.  She's weak willed and easily manipulated.  Harry's sister, Esther tells Gina that she's selfish and she's taken everything away from Esther and her family.  On this I agree somewhat, even if Gina did it unknowingly.  However, she can never stand up for what she believes, to anyone!  She never tells her husband what she really feels, and in the end it costs her dearly.  So while I hated Harry, sympathized with the two families that fell victim to these two hapless souls who create havoc on everyone around them, I really detested Gina for failing to stand up to her husband.  Simons does have a way of dragging things on for endless pages here, and it makes this story feel as if it goes on forever.  She's a brilliant writer, so I find fault with the editors for leaving everything in this book.  It could easily be shortened with the same amount of drama.  Sometimes more isn't better, sometimes it's just more.  In the end, I was glad it was over because it drained me.  I was sad, frustrated and depressed for two people who couldn't manage their way out of a paper sack.  The only good thing is that now I can go and re-read THE BRONZE HORSEMAN, definitely the best out of the lot.  For those who love this series, this book must be read after CHILDREN OF LIBERTY.  

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones

Rating: 3