The third book in the Bunns' Heirs of Acadia series is destined to become just as popular as its predecessors, and with good reason. This is historical fiction done right --- rich in detail, abounding in authenticity, and lacking in mush. THE NOBLE FUGITIVE shows once again why T. Davis Bunn has become a household name among readers of Christian fiction and provides plenty of evidence that Isabella Bunn is likely to become the same.
Serafina is a young Venetian woman who has given her heart to her art tutor, a dashing young man named Luca. ("ER" fans may have a hard time not thinking of Dr. Luka Kovac, which is just fine. The image fits.) Her mother discovers the two together in a questionable but innocent situation, and Serafina is punished with the nineteenth-century equivalent of a grounding, locked doors and all. With the help of a conspirator, she escapes in search of her beloved. But she is found and forced to set sail for America with her parents.
This simply will not do. She has not seen Luca since the day their relationship was discovered, and Serafina is determined to find him so they can begin a life together. The ship her family boarded in Italy makes a stop in England, and with the help of another conspirator, Serafina makes her escape. After finding her way to an aunt's house outside of London, the girl who was born to privilege ends up working long and hard hours as a chambermaid.
Meanwhile, John Falconer, a slave-trader-turned-Christian, is on a quest to make right all that he has done wrong in his former life. He leaves the Caribbean, where he is wanted on a murder charge, and seeks refuge with an anti-slavery family in the United States before finding safe passage to England. There, he intends to provide evidence that the slave trade is continuing to flourish in those Caribbean islands that are part of the British Empire, despite British laws against slavery. He ends up at the very mansion where Serafina is employed. If you sense a romance in the making, well, you won't be disappointed. But in the skillful hands of two seasoned writers, the course the romance takes isn't all that predictable.
One historical figure who looms large in the background of Falconer's story line is one of my personal heroes, William Wilberforce --- the man whose relentless opposition to slavery is credited with nearly single-handedly ending the slave trade in the British Empire. The Bunns, who, as an aside, are thorough researchers, seamlessly weave in the actual historical events, as well as the influence and significance of Wilberforce, without making readers feel as if they've just sat through a history class.
Finally, one more strength (do the Bunns have any literary weaknesses? I think not) is the convincing settings they manage to create --- no mean feat, considering the distinctly different geographical areas in which the action takes place. The Caribbean islands, South Carolina, Venice, the ports and countryside of England, as well as London --- all are vividly depicted and ring true to what we know of those places at that time.
If you've never read historical fiction, this book is a great one to start with. Though part of a series, it's definitely a stand-alone. There's no need to read the other books in the series, though I can't imagine not wanting to.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on September 1, 2005