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The Wealth of Virginia

The Wealth of Virginia which carries our Virginians through the next decade (1699-1710) following The Wealth of Jamestown,  is now available. The book received the following review from Kirkus:

Sarah Harrison Blair is the sort of historical figure who demands fictional interpretation. Married to one of the founders of the College of William & Mary, the (as characterized in McLennan’s novel) loathsome James Blair, Sarah has the business acumen and independent streak to rival any of Colonial America’s male adventurers. She is neither shy with a pistol nor afraid to work alongside the laborers in her family’s tobacco fields, if that’s what will get the job done. (“Darlin’, welcome to Virginia justice,” she tells one man. “If you keep still, I won’t blow your head off.”)

The Colonial Virginia world in which Sarah operates needs people like her. It’s something of a free-for-all, with ineffectual governors coming and going, uncertainty about where to establish the colony’s capital (Williamsburg is being considered), and perpetual tensions and threats of fighting. Yet it’s also a place where democratic values are coalescing, a development made all the more evident in contrast to London, which Sarah and James visit. There, they encounter poverty and abuse all but directly caused by the old system. They also come across some truly rip-roaring excitement, complete with duels and romance.

McLennan writes astutely about the political anxieties of the era-the novel spans the years 1699 to 1710-and depicts a lively world of pirates and paramours. Some observations are made repetitiously. For instance, American Colonial women are more financially savvy than privileged British women, and aristocrats are profligate. And the good guys are exceedingly good, the bad exceedingly bad; several characters are all but evil villains.

This novel will particularly appeal to readers interested in the early planning of Williamsburg

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Book Reviews: The Wealth of Virginia

‘The Wealth of Virginia’ by Barbara McLennan, is the second book in a planned trilogy by the author. Sarah Harrison Blair is the sort of historical figure who demands fictional interpretation. Married to one of the founders of the College of William & Mary, the (as characterized in McLennan’s novel) loathsome James Blair, Sarah has the business acumen and independent streak to rival any of Colonial America’s male adventurers. She is neither shy with a pistol nor afraid to work alongside the laborers in her family’s tobacco fields, if that’s what will get the job done. “Darlin’, welcome to Virginia justice,” she tells one man. “If you keep still, I won’t blow your head off.”)

The Colonial Virginia world in which Sarah operates needs people like her. It’s something of a freeforall, with ineffectual governors coming and going, uncertainty about where to establish the colony’s capital (Williamsburg is being considered), and perpetual tensions and threats of fighting. Yet it’s also a place where democratic values are coalescing, a development made all the more evident in contrast to London, which Sarah and James visit. There, they encounter poverty and abuse all but directly caused by the old system. They also come across some truly riproaring excitement, complete with duels and romance.

McLennan writes astutely about the political anxieties of the era—the novel spans the years 1699 to 1710—and depicts a lively world of pirates and paramours. Some observations are made repetitiously. For instance, American Colonial women are more financially savvy than privileged British women, and aristocrats are profligate. And the good guys are exceedingly good, the bad exceedingly bad; several characters are all but evil villains.

Though the novel isn’t one of great nuance, it’s one of impressive scholarship. It will particularly appeal to readers interested in the early planning of Williamsburg.

An informative rendering of preRevolutionary America, with an inspiring female protagonist.
— Kirkus Review

 

Intelligently crafted to focus on how England’s oldest, largest and richest colony got that way. The first in the series focused on Jamestown, its first colonial structured town, and how it grew and developed. Author McLennan wisely chose to develop this series into novel format rather than straightforward historical document, since the subject matter itself can be complicated and tedious, and the cast of characters, even in this pared down version is very extensive. One can easily sum up the reason for Virginia’s wealth in the late seventeenth century: tobacco. It was the colony’s cash crop, and in those early days, few people lived long enough to die from too much smoking. They usually died from something else, including other people who did not like them.

The huge cast of characters, many held over from the first volume of this trilogy, move the story along at a pleasant reading pace. The author briefly reviews the first book’s salient events, to a point where The Wealth of Virginia can stand alone very nicely. Most of her characters are real – or at least based on real people. A few have been fabricated for effect.

The plot, slim and more situational than compelling, centers around the fact that the good people of Williamsburg, Virginia, in the throes of becoming the capital of colonial Virginia, heartily disliked their King-appointed governor, Francis Nicholson. They wanted him recalled. So they sent Reverend James Blair who nobody liked either –and his wife Sarah– who everybody liked and a small party of servants and aides to go to London and do what they could to a) dump Nicholson and b) suggest a suitable replacement, and, while they were at it, c) do a little shopping for all their friends and neighbors.

That, of course, would only take up a dozen or two pages, so McLennan includes an assault –as soon as the Blairs arrive—a visit to Newgate prison, an unhappy marchioness who really isn’t a marchioness but nobody cares, an abusive, wife-beating, mistress-flaunting marquis –who really wasn’t a marquis either, but nobody cared about that either– a duel–guess who dies!– assorted other mayhem indicative of that time, a couple of small babies thrown in for warm-and-fuzziness, lots of shopping, a general explanation of what the English “factors” actually did –a fair amount by the way!– a couple of romances, a marriage, an adulterous affair cum pregnancy, and plenty of situational action to make the book a pleasant and nicely-moving read.

Author McLennan obviously knows a great deal about the early colonial days of Virginia, including its economic history and the movers and shakers of that time. It is no mean task to remain true to the facts of the time and the economy – and fictionalize it sufficiently to keep a solid pace and interest. She succeeds admirably.

This is an interesting and enjoyable read for students and for adults as well – especially for those with curiosity about the seventeenth and early eighteenth century in America.
— Feather Schwartz Foster, for CHESAPEAKE STYLE, Warsaw, VA

 

‘Wealth of Virginia’ sets scene in Williamsburg before Revolution.
If you enjoy reading about the history of Colonial Virginia, this novel is a must read. The 230-page “The Wealth of Virginia” novel published in August 2015, continues the story of “The Wealth of Jamestown,” written by the same author, Barbara N. McLennan. Her first book can be found at middle and high school libraries in Williamsburg and James City County Schools.

This historical novel follows the life of Sarah Blair, daughter to a wealthy planter in Jamestown, who is in love with one man, but married to James Blair, a founder of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. Sarah is a strong, independent woman, who depicts the tenacity of some of the women in pre-Revolution America. This novel also gives insight into what life was like in Virginia during a period of time when Jamestown’s wealth and survival depended on the only cash crop the colony had — tobacco.

It also was a time in Colonial Jamestown when the citizens were displeased with their King-appointed governor Francis Nicholson and wanted him recalled, so James Blair and his wife Sarah are sent to England to plead their case. This visit occurred between 1704 and 1705 and a painting of Sarah Blair, done by a London artist, hangs in the Muscarelle Museum in Williamsburg.

Most of the characters in this book were real citizens of Jamestown, including Gen. Benjamin Harrison III, Governor Nicholson, William Roscoe, a member of the House of Burgesses, and, of course, Sarah and James Blair. This also was a time when there was talk of building a new assembly building, governor’s palace, armory, theaters, taverns and shops in Williamsburg, with the new governor planning to pave the streets and call the common area Merchants Square. This novel has the dual role of a heart-wrenching love story, as well as a historical novel about the Historic Triangle pre-Revolution.

Barbara McLennan has published six books and numerous magazine and journal articles about politics, economics and history. She current serves as a docent of the Jamestown Settlement. Barbara McLennan has a Ph.D., a J.D., is a former professor and was a high-level official in the United States Departments of Commerce and Treasury. The illustration on the cover of the book is the property of the Colonial National Historical Park, by artist Keith Rocco. You can view a full-size copy of the painting in the lobby of the Visitor Center at Historic Jamestown, where the historic fort is located.

This book would be an excellent addition to any home library as an historical novel that depicts life in Colonial Virginia during the early 1700s.
— Vicky Coiner, HRBooks contributor, DAILY PRESS, Newport News, VA

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