BE NOT AFRAID is a riveting multicultural romance set during the Revolutionary War. Elijah, a slave fighting for the Continental Army on behalf of his master, is separated from his regiment in Brooklyn, where he sees a black American woman stab a British officer. Kate had chosen to side with the British because she had been promised freedom after serving the Crown.
Despite being enemies, they are mutually attracted to each other. Kate’s instincts and personal experiences tell her that Elijah is a good man. Kate is haunted by painful memories and has learned to do everything she can to survive. Elijah perceives that she has been hardened by her experiences, sees through her bravado, and admires her toughness. They believe in different paths to freedom, though. Kate doesn’t understand why Elijah has chosen to fight for the colonies, which continues to enslave black Americans, while Elijah believes in the cause and has his own reasons for being loyal to his master.
When the British soldiers come upon them, Elijah takes responsibility for murdering the officer and is taken prisoner. Kate is both grateful but pragmatic. In her experience, men are motivated by self-interest. At the camp, however, she begins to appreciate Elijah’s kindnesses, and their relationship develops from mutual attraction to respect, desperate yearning, and love. As Elijah plots to escape and Kate prepares to board the ship to Great Britain, the lovers must choose whose side matters most to them and how much they’re willing to risk for the chance at love, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness, not only for themselves but their people, too.
I cared about what would happen to Kate and Elijah, feared for their lives and safety until the very end, and rooted for their happy ending. Until I read this novella, I had never considered the kinds of choices African Americans would have faced during the Revolutionary War. How could they believe in a cause that couldn’t guarantee them the same rights as white men? Why would they want to stay in the colonies? What does it mean that they claimed a country that enslaved them as their homeland? How many African Americans seized the opportunity to flee or chose the other side? It wasn’t in my history lessons growing up, and it never occurred to me to wonder. I am glad that I read this story and that this story was told.
Elijah and Kate are remarkable, inspiring characters, who chose hope while living everyday with fear. I loved how Elijah valued and respected Kate’s autonomy and choices.
The author’s writing style is really quite lovely, honest, and expressive. While addressing harsh topics, the narration is frank and effective, rather than melodramatic. I loved the way Alyssa Cole described her characters both inside and out–brilliantly authentic.
A gust of cold wind whipped across the marsh, knocking the woman’s head back, and Elijah felt a tremor run through him that was entirely unrelated to the weather. Her kinky hair was cut short, exposing smooth dark skin pulled taut across high cheekbones and a proud forehead. Her eyes were narrowed and her full lips stretched into a grimace as she regarded the Redcoat who approached her. She was gorgeous in her fury.
Kate, Elijah thought, feeling a strange throb of anger at the dull British name likely bestowed upon her by her owners, just as his had been. It in no way matched the woman before him.
*This novella is available for free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription and is on sale in the Amazon Kindle Store for $0.99.