Publication Date: August 15, 2014
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
A young woman’s gift could weave together the fabric of a nation…
1810, upstate New York. 21-year-old Ella Kenyon is happiest gliding through the thick woods around her small frontier town, knife in hand, her sharp eyes tracking game. A gift for engineering is in her blood, but she would gladly trade it for more time in the forest. If only her grandfather’s dying wish hadn't trapped her into a fight she never wanted.
Six years ago, Ella’s grandfather made her vow to finish his life’s work: a flax-milling machine that has the potential to rescue her mother, brother, and sister from the brutality of life with her drunkard father. The copious linen it yields could save her struggling town, subjugate the growing grip of southern cotton. Or it could be Ella’s downfall. If she’s not quick enough, not clever enough to succeed, more than her own life rests in the balance…
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Ella has worked tirelessly with her grandfather to develop a working machine to mill flax. When her grandfather is killed by a band of horse thieves, his dying wish is for Ella to finish the machine and secure the patents. This turns out to be much harder than expected. Ella's father is a drunk and routinely beats her mother and siblings, Ella has become their protector by learning knife throwing skills from a local Indian, Pete. Also, some parts of the machine are wearing down quickly and Ella must engineer a way to decrease the friction before taking the design to the patent office; however, Emerston, another man in town has his eye on Ella's design and aims to patent the design for the flax mill before her.
A grand historic adventure set in the 1800's weaving a story of the why linen production, made from flax fiber, never overtook cotton. I loved Ella's character, a young, female engineer in the 1800's who loved to be outdoors and could hunt, throw a knife and keep her wits about her in most situations. Ella had many obstacles to overcome with the finalization of the flax mill and the race to the patent office. The antagonist, Emerston was conniving and ruthless, I was amazed to see what he did to get the designs for the mill away from Ella. However, the adventure he led Ella and her companions on was fast-paced and exciting. While there is plenty going on plot wise in the book, the most interesting struggle for me was Ella's internal struggle of finishing the machine
Jodi Lew-Smith lives on a farm in northern Vermont with her patient husband, three wonderfully impatient children, a bevy of pets and farm animals, and 250 exceedingly patient apple trees which, if they could talk, would suggest that she stop writing and start pruning. Luckily they’re pretty quiet.
With a doctorate in plant genetics, she also lives a double life as a vegetable breeder at High Mowing Seeds. She is grateful for the chance to do so many things in one lifetime, and only wishes she could do them all better. Maybe in the next life she’ll be able to make up her mind.
For more about Jodi and about the lives and world of the characters in the novel, visit her website or blog. You can also connect with her onFacebook and Goodreads.
An invention can become a member of the family. Someone you must attend to even
when you’re tired to death of it. A pint of your blood.
Fifteen-year-old Ella Kenyon strode the muddy path to the door of her grandfather’s
blacksmith shop and paused. She wasn’t ready to go inside. The twilight air of April was too
sweet, too layered with melting snow and fresh black soil. A soft misting rain had begun, raising
fog and frosting everything with a veil of tiny drops. Turning from the door she slipped around
the building, ducking beneath the small window opening so her grandfather wouldn’t see her,
and scrambled over scrub and stone to the river flowing behind the shops and mills of
Deborahville. Her grandfather’s shop was the last on Main Street and his stable, a hundred feet
farther downstream, across the stable yard from his shop, was the last building within the village.
She peered across the Bache River to the plowed fields on the other side, where the
placid acres of melting snow had become a ghostland of fog, swirling with wraiths of mist. The
air out here was alive and fragrant, full of taunting possibility. The river, powered by spring
rains, rang with heroic noise and splash beneath puffs of fog. The shop behind her would be
stuffy and stale and she desperately didn’t want to go in.