REVIEW of The Driver’s Wife by S.K. Keogh

The Driver's wifeMr. Ketch is, indisputably, a monster. In his days sailing under the pirate James Logan, Ketch committed some of the foulest crimes under the sun, and the murder of James Logan is on his hands as well. But Ketch is also strangely bound to a six-year-old golden haired lass, Helen. The burns on his body remind of the time he saved her from a house fire. His missing right arm reminds of the time he saved her from a water snake. Thus, Ketch the monster is welcome to live at Leighlin Plantation, however much the new master Jack Mallory might destest and despise him.

When Isabelle comes to Leighlin as a new slave, the demons of her old master’s treatment haunt her. Unwilling to be a house servant and be taken advantage of again, she begs to work in the unforgiving rice fields. With her mixed heritage, however, the other slaves refuse to accept her. She marries one of the strongest workers and realizes too late the abuse he will make her suffer. Only Ketch, the strange, one-armed slave driver has any thought for her comfort and safety. But the stories told about Ketch are too horrible to be believed. By associating with him, is Isabelle leaping from the frying pan into the fire?

This story is a standalone novel that is essentially the fourth book of the Jack Mallory Chronicles. Ketch, the multi-faceted villain from the original trilogy, is now offered his chance at redemption. Contravening the norms of the eighteenth century Carolinas, he falls in love with a mulatto slave. But are Ketch’s scars too deep for him to open up his heart to her?

This story was searingly harsh, beautifully poignant and above all, well-written. The end, unfortunately, rang hollow for me. With Ketch’s redemption hinging upon another human being (instead of on the firmer ground of a religious transformation), the jury is still out on whether his bestial nature will return and confound his new attempts to live in peace, kindness, and goodness. It was still well worth the read, however, and as a great admirer of S.K. Keogh’s writing, I will eagerly seek out whatever she writes next.

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