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Sean Kevin Gabhann
Harper's Rescue: A Novel of Redemption in the Civil War - 2nd edition
Harper’s Rescue consists of three interwoven character-driven plot lines. In the first plot-line, James (Jamie) Harper risks the trust and respect of his men, which he earned in the Harper’s Donelson, by giving the appearance of a lazy, profligate, whore-hound, while operating under secret orders to investigate potential espionage in the brothels owned by the Bosleys and Miss Eleanor. He develops an affection for one of the working women, Maggie, who is the manager of Eleanor’s gentlemen’s club. He discovers that Confederate saboteurs operate from the basement of one of the establishments he is investigating. The saboteurs simultaneously attack Federal supplies along the Paducah waterfront, the barracks where Harper’s men live, and an artillery battery in the city defenses. Harper is captured and tortured before a rescue party, including Magnusson and the reset of Harper’s men, save him. The Provost executes the saboteurs. Maggie is murdered as a reprisal. Harper must make a decision to return to his anti-social, self-isolating, murderous ways or to open himself up enough not only to resume leadership of his own men but to help Katie Malloy escape Paducah. In the second plot line, Katie Malloy learns that in spite of their earlier friendships in Harper’s Donelson, the brothel owners value her money-making potential over her health and well-being. They deny her permission to continue working as a nursing assistant for wounded Confederate prisoners. She agonizes between the choice to escape or to trust that the owners will keep their promise to train her to become a courtesan and provide a higher class of customer. When Gustav Magnusson comes along, she decides to flee with him but that plan is thwarted and Magnusson is beaten nearly to death. Katie is locked into a cell which the brothel owners use to break-in girls who are new to the sex trade. Katie finds a way to free herself murdering one of her assailants in the escape. She flees to Nurse Wells, her supervisor at the hospital. The third plot line, Gustav Magnusson worries that Harper has reverted to his self-centered ways. When the saboteurs burn the barracks, Magnusson leads many men to safety. In appreciation, his friend Johnny Cooke collects enough donations from those rescued for Magnusson to lose his virginity by spending the entire night with Katie. An affection grows between them during this and subsequent encounters. Magnusson ends up in the hospital when the mission to rescue Katie fails. After Maggie’s funeral, the saloon owners attempt to murder Harper. Harper’s spy-master tells him it is time for him and his men to leave Paducah because the collection of dead bodies around Harper risks his spy mission. When Harper collects Magnusson and Cooke at the hospital, Nurse Wells insists that he take Katie with him because the same people who want to kill Harper also want to recapture Katie. Harper agrees because of his experience with Maggie. The group flee to the waterfront where Harper, Katie and injured Magnusson hide in a tack shed. They are caught there, Bosley orders Katie to kill the helpless Magnusson but instead she attacks and she and Magnusson kill Bosley. Harper overpowers and kills one guard, takes the man’s pistol and shoots Loreena Bosley before she can shoot Katie. The spy master ensures that the group successfully embarks on a riverboat and they sail upriver for the start of Harper’s Shiloh.

Lt. James Harper returns in this new edition of the second book in Gabhann’s trilogy of historical novels set during the American Civil War.

Paducah, Kentucky, 1862. When an entire Union company is wiped out while camped 15 minutes outside of town, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s intelligence officers suspect there is a spy at work in the small city occupied by soldiers in blue. Only a week back from a short stint in Confederate prison, Lt. Harper of the 1st Iowa Volunteer Mounted Infantry takes it upon himself to figure out that the spy is Franklin Bosley, Paducah’s wealthy restaurateur and brothel owner. He soon meets Maggie Warren, a war widow and prostitute in Bosley’s employ, to whom he develops a quick and potentially dangerous attachment. Meanwhile, Katie Malloy volunteers in a hospital when not doing sex work, and hopes to one day get away from Bosley, to whom she owes a great deal of money. Katie’s mother visits her daughter in recurring dreams and tells her a soldier will come along and save her from her plight. Nineteen-year-old Corp. Gustav Magnusson, who previously thought Harper to be a reckless careerist, has come to trust his commanding officer following their time as Confederate prisoners. As Harper investigates the spy ring at Grant’s request, he and Magnusson become involved in a web of intrigue of both personal and military importance. Gabhann’s prose is suitably textured for his task, combing the grit and blood of war fiction with the stilted manners of the time period. Harper feels self-conscious about the state of his uniform at a party with officers and prostitutes: “Under the scrutiny of the major and his escort, Harper resisted the instinct to brush at his uniform. Nothing he could do now would remove the blood stains and the powder burns.” The first novel in the Shiloh trilogy, Harper’s Donelson (2020), was already fairly prostitute-heavy for a Civil War novel, and this volume’s plot sometimes feels as though it was contrived purely to up the prostitution content. Fans of espionage novels may enjoy its sudden diversion into the world of spycraft, but those looking for epic battles will be disappointed.

A gritty if not completely realistic installment in a Civil War trilogy

Harper's Rescue, Second Edition

The second edition is presented by Sean Gabhann's new publisher, Natchez Trail Press. It incldes minor edits and short rewrites from the first editiion and a redisgned cover.

The Shiloh Trilogy

The story of Jamie Harper, Katie Malloy, and Gustav Magnusson continues in Harper's Donelson and Harper's Shiloh