Title: A Mistake of Consequence by Terri Evert Karsten
Genre/Length: Historical Fiction, 263 pages
Date Published: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Abbot Press
Reviewed by Sxdni Small
Mystery, mayhem and romantic peril draw readers into the world inhabited by youthful Callie Beaton, whose tumultuous decision on the book’s second page captures the Scottish protagonist’s independent spirit. The year is 1754 and her quest begins with a daring escape from a would-be suitor. What follows is an involuntary journey across the Atlantic Ocean, during which Callie’s prosperous upbringing comes face-to-face with the hardships of people forced into indentured servitude. Her trials do not stop once she reaches the shore of what were then colonies under British control. Required to endure the rigors of serving a turbulent household in Philadelphia, her solace lies in relationships with newfound companions from the tempest-tossed vessel. Further complicating matters are the attentions of mysterious ship captain Davy McRae and charming Ethan Asher, in whose home Callie serves. Callie’s attempts to extricate herself from bondage and protect her friends find our central player engulfed in a family conflict, the consequences of which leave Callie with some extraordinary decisions she must make in order to be true to herself.
This suspenseful account provides an engrossing and sympathetic look at a bold young woman caught in a system over which she has little control. The author presents our hero’s compatriots and potential romantic interests as complex people wrestling with the world around them. The story is a fast-paced and intriguing tale that makes the reader want to unravel plot twists and turns.
Approachable characters and an absorbing setting surround some troublesome descriptions of Native/First Nations peoples. A Content Warning at the beginning of the book would alert readers to these stereotype-displaying phrases, which are hurtful to indigenous readers and other people of color. Further, the term “gypsy” is considered derogatory to the Roma/Romani and Sinti people who actually comprise this population. The website Writing With Color, last updated January 2022, https://writingwithcolor.tumblr.com/ offers many writing resources related to cultural identity and diversity.
Physical details that help enliven the work’s players also present a challenge as best practices around writing for skin tones do not include the use of food to represent complexions, which fetishize individuals of color. Items like tea and cream have connections to enslaved people. The expressive strength in the author’s work presents capacity for alternative methods of description.
A Mistake of Consequence is a romp through a complex time period that examines the challenge of agency in a very structured society. Callie’s growth as a person persuaded me to follow her adventures and brought back memories of my own impetuous choices. Readers seeking an archival escapade across multiple landscapes and societal roles will find this an engaging read.
Reviewer Sxdni Small <they/ze> is a canine enthusiast and historical fiction fan. Ze has attended multiple writing workshops and assists with a local newsletter.
Ze lives on the current and ancestral homeland of the Ho-Chunk, Fox, Sauk, Menominee, Anishinaabe and many additional Native peoples, also known as Wisconsin.