Book Review

Rebel’s Revenge by Jane Toombs, a guest review by RedHeadedGirl


Title: Rebel's Revenge
Author: Jane Toombs
Publication Info: Amber Quill 2008
ISBN: 978-1602729223
Genre: Historical: American

RedHeadedGirl is back, because there were… oh, I'll let her tell you. This book has SURPRISE ZOMBIES!This is another request- Mari requested it AGES ago, and, well, it’s a classic Southern Rebel Boy meets Independent-Minded Northern Miss, sparks fly. And a whole bunch of other crap happens, too. SO MUCH CRAP. Including unexpected zombies. UNEXPECTED ZOMBIES IN MY CIVIL WAR HISTORICAL. It is not like peanut butter and chocolate. It is really not. Now, to be fair, these are voodoo!zombies, not braaaaaaaaaaains!zombies, but still. Unexpected zombies. Our heroine is Barbara, who lives in Sandusky, Ohio, and is the daughter of a doctor who’s with the Union Army. She’s been living with the local minster and his wife. When she gets word that her father has been captured and is being held in Libby Prison in Virginia, the kindly minster takes advantage of her grief and tries to seduce her, and when that does work, he goes to flat out attempted rape. His wife witnesses this, and blames Barbara for being a little slut that lured her husband into impure thoughts or whatever, and tosses Barbara out of the house. So Barbara runs off to the local Indian village, where she is known as Snow Bird (pale skin, brown hair, like a chickadee), but men from Sandusky have burned down the village and killed everyone, including the medicine woman who was more or less Barbara’s surrogate mother. (Because of course she’s got ties with the local native Americans).

The reason the men of Sandusky burned the village was because there was a prison nearby, and the Indians were helping the Rebel POWs escape. Barbara has a whole existential crisis over this, because the Rebels are bad and evil and stand against everything she believes in (like she even knows what she’s talking about) (oh, wait, she read Uncle Toms Cabin so she’s totally got a very clear understanding of exactly what was going on.) (okay, to be fair, she had as good a grasp on it as many, but still, the whole “omg, how can I love you, you’re a REBEL” thing gets tiresome after a while). So she meets our hero, who tells her to call him Ishmael, while he is mid-escape from the prison. She mocked him, he patronized her- they didn’t have anything to eat, but I think there was a connection. He continues on with his escape, and she goes back to the Reverend’s house (in the middle of the night to pack, and realizes that he took his name from Mody Dick. And then, because she’s got this idea that she’s going to go to Richmond, Virginia to bust her father out of prison, she hops on a boxcar to start her journey. Where Ishmael (or Trevor, which is his given name- Ishmael is his middle name) is of course stowed. They insult and patronize each other some more about the philosophy of owning slaves and he goes to sleep. She decides to whack him over the head with a barrel, which commences the making-out portion of the train ride, but as soon as she expresses reservations about the idea, he stops. It’s a sad commentary that this is kind of refreshing. (he then tells her that he’s pretty sure she will change her mind, and she’s like “not with a low down dirty scoundrel Reb I won’t.”) Anyway, at the next stop, they get out of the boxcar and buy tickets to ride the train properly, posing as a married couple. The train is then attacked by raiders, and all the men are killed and the women taken back to the mountain stronghold where they are apportioned off to the various men. Barbara is kept for the leader of the raiders, Meachum: he was in the Confederate army but got kicked out for being too big an asshole. (This is the point where I realized that Mari was right- there is a truly ridiculous amount of STUFF that keeps happening here. And we’re not even to the unexpected zombies yet.) (Of course, I keep talking about the zombies, so for you, gentle reader, they are not unexpected. It does kind of lessen the impact a bit.) Anyway, a bunch of stuff happens, and Barbara meets Tibba, who turns out to be Meachum’s daughter. Tibba tells Barbara that Meachum likes his women to be fighters, because it’s more fun to make them break- he’s got a little graveyard in the back of all the women he’s killed. Barbara, with the help of Tibba and, of course, Trevor (who Houdini;’s out of getting killed with his Hero Issue Plot Armor) escape . They try to get the other women out, too, but everyone else appears to get drowned when the bad guys burst a dam. Barbara and Trevor have an interlude in a cave where they have conviently found blankets and firewood. There’s making out and some heavy eptting and then Trevor is attacked by a fit of gentleman-ness and runs off because she’s a virgin and he has no intention of marrying her and she has no idea what she’s asking for. She’s pretty sad at this tunr of events and feels very rejected and pouts for most of the next day. They stumble on an encampment of Union soldiers, where they find that some of the other women, including Tibba survived. Trevor’s like “seeya babe, they’ll get you back to Ohio” and Barbara is like “BUT I HAVE TO GET TO RICHMOND YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND YOU’RE JUST A STUPID REB WITH STUPID REB IDEAS AND THINGS AND I DON’T LIKE YOU ANYWAY BECAUSE YOU ARE STUPID (god you’re hot).” Well said. Anyway, so Barbara and Tibba steal some uniforms (because what is a Civil War book without multiple stealing of uniforms?) with the intention of crossing the Alleghany mountains to get to Richmond. On Foot. Or something. And they crash into Trevor on the way, who is all “will no one rid me of the meddlesome woman?” (But he doesn’t have any knights around to hear him say that, so no one goes all a’Beckett on her ass, which would make for an original romance, that’s for sure. Someone get on that.) So naturally, there’s nothing to do but steal a hot air balloon and fly that to Virginia. They make it to a kindly couple in Virginia who gives them clothes. “That will be very kind of Mrs. Yates,” Barbara said. She might not believe it was against God or nature to wear men’s clothes, but it would be a relief to get out of the ill-fitting and dirty Reb uniform. True, the Yates were enimies, but she was in no position to refuse a badly needed gift. Barbara also gets to see the “total war” destruction wrought by Sheridan, and is kind of dismayed at that, BUT DIRTY ROTTEN REBS. They make it to Richmond, where Trevor lives, and he deposits Barbara and Tibba at the house of a “Friend” (actually the woman who everyone thinks he will marry, and Barbara is none to pleased about THAT). The next day, Barbara takes herself off to Libby prison to see her father. She can’t get in, because they aren’t letting anyone but Confederates in, but she finds a kindly Confederate lady who is been going in to offer comfort (not like THAT) (I don’t think) (well, probably not) to the Union prisoners. The kindly lady tells her that Barbara’s father is very ill. So she finds some disreputable types who are willing to bust her father out for oney, but of course that goes badly, and Trevor bails her out, again, and gets her to agree to go back to Ohio with him and help him bust the Rebel prisoners out if he helps get her father out of the confederate prison when they’re done. …. She has a huge crisis of life the universe and everything, but agrees to the deal because the plot demanded it, and they get on a ship that was supposed to go to Ohio by way of Bermuda (I DON’T KNOW) (well, I do- The ship will bust through the blockade, and go to Bermuda, and then our heroes will get on an English ship going to Canada, through why they couldn’t just have the ship from North Carolina go to Canada or whatever after they bust the blockade I don’t know, it’s not like there are flight plans files or anything). Anyway, they get nailed by a hurricane (because of course) and end up on Jamaica where they run into a zombie doctor that tries to turn Trevor and Tibba into zombies and rape Barbara. BECAUSE OF COURSE WE NEED A ZOMBIE DOCTOR ALL UP IN THIS. Anyway, Barbara manages to save everyone who’s been zombified by feeding them salt (sure) and they make their way to Canada. Barbara and Trevor FINALLY get it on, which was unsatisfying after all the fucking angst about “how could I possibly love a REB with all his stupid Rebel IDEAS and THINGS.” So in Canada, Trevor and a buddy of his need to get in touch with “Copperheads” who will “Strike venom into the hearts of the Union army” or whatever and there’s a bunch of stuff where Barbara helps them break the other soldiers out of the prison and at this point I’m just exhausted because Meachum shows up again (because of course) and it’s a big mess. She thinks Trevor has died in the big mess, and spends pages in mourning for him. Tibba and the buddy Trevor picked up somewhere pair off, so that’s THAT plot thread tied up, and Barbara wanders down to the Indian village where she discovers that Trevor is not dead, but nearly so, and she heals him with the power of love or something. So as I was reading this, I was thinking that the discussion point (which, I must say, has nothing to do with sexual politics, which is a refreshing change) was dialect. There’s a couple points where Toombs uses a rather thick, and to my mind
, almost carachture-ish dialect for one of the women in Jamaica- “Is you see dead walk come darkness. Is you see them once already before.” It’s not as offensive as some of the dialect dialogue in Gone With the Wind, but it made me uncomfortable. It’s possible that there’s been a significant amount of research put into it (as there maybe into the entire Jamaica/voodoo/zombie section), and I just don’t know. But there isn’t any bibliography or indication of that. (I’m a nerd, I like sources.) But then there were the unexpected zombies, and that was unexpected, and then I just got utterly exhausted by the entire plot. As I told my BFF as I was fighting to finish the summary and keep it manageable (because, seriously, this book is not anything enough to warrant a 7 page review), it’s like 10 pounds of plot crammed into a 5-pound casing. A LOT happens. There’s the Ohio Section Part A, the Meachum’s Rebel’s Section, the Richmond Virginia Section, The Detour to Jamaica (now with Bonus Zombies!), the Trip to Canada and Ohio Part B. It’s EXHAUSTING. There’s potential here. Take three of those and expand them a little bit, add in a little bit more characterization and having Trevor and Barbara actually talk to each other some more, have a little bit more than just angst, and this could be really good. Angst is one thing (in proper doses) for YA vampire novels, but this was way too much. Woe, woe, woe, he’s a dirty Reb, how could you lust after him. Instead I feel like Toombs is throwing in more plot to substitute for relationship. I mean, it was nice to have someone actually explore the differences in political philosophies. Barbara wasn’t just a Unionist because she lived in Ohio, she’d actually done some studying and believed in what she read. So I’m not arguing with making the character an intellectual, not at all. I just feel like it could be better and less “You are wrong in all your wrongness!” (I don’t really get why these two actually like each other, or how they’re going to sort their shit out, but they end with an agreement that they will sort their shit out, so I’ll take it. As long as the sorting doesn’t involve anymore kidnapping, zombies, or prison breaks for a while. They both deserve a vacation.)

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Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    H. Vert says:

    Okay, and the whole

    And they crash into Trevor on the way, who is all “will no one rid me of the meddlesome woman?” (But he doesn’t have any knights around to hear him say that, so no one goes all a’Beckett on her ass, which would make for an original romance, that’s for sure.  Someone get on that.)

    made me laugh and laugh!  There is no way I’m even interested in this book, but RedHeadedGirl, your reviews are most excellent!

  2. 2
    quichepup says:

    but men from Sandusky have burned down the village and killed everyone, including the medicine woman who was more or less Barbara’s surrogate mother.
    Oh, I HATE it when that happens. So inconvenient.

    But whoa, that’s a whole lot of plot to wade through. Got to give RedHeadedGirl credit for finishing this sucker. I admit I’d have a hard time with a hero who think slavery (as opposed to states’ rights) was a cause worth supporting. Even if he was cute.

  3. 3

    “Unexpected zombies”?  I hate it when that happens!

    Thanks for another refreshing take on a classic, one that I must admit I have not read.

  4. 4
    elaine mueller says:

    laughing my f*n butt off!

    funniest thing tho is i met jane toombs once years and years ago like maybe early 90s so close to 20 years ago and i thought she was just the sweetest little ol’ lady. . . . who’d a thunk???  just shows to go ya:  never judge a book by its cover.

    spamcatcher—see89:  step right up folks!  see 89 plot lines woven into just one book!!!

  5. 5
    Merry says:

    the kindly minster takes advantage of her grief and tries to seduce her, and when that does work, he goes to flat out attempted rape.

    Was there supposed to be a “not” right before “work”? Otherwise, why would he first seduce and then attempt to rape? Very confused villain, that.

  6. 6
    Lori says:

    There is no way I’m reading this because like quichepup Confederate heroes are not my cuppa, but this review was a thing of beauty.

  7. 7

    @Merry, yes, there was supposed to be a “not” there. 

    oh my god, you guys.  OH MY GOD. SO MUCH PLOT SO LITTLE TIME.

  8. 8
    Merry says:

    Oh good. I am less confused.

    With a plot this wacky, the other scenario might have been possible too. Good review, strange plot.

  9. 9
    Heather Greye says:

    Great review.

    However, I’m so easily distracted that I just kept getting drawn to the part of the review where you mention Sandusky, Ohio. Which may seem incredibly random, unless you know that the best amusement park in the whole wide world—Cedar Point—is located in Sandusky, OH.

    (Yes, I’m biased. No, I’m not open-minded enough to consider other amusement parks. Sorry. :) )

  10. 10

    I *love* Cedar Point! I’ve been twice and enjoyed it VERY much.

  11. 11
    Heather Greye says:


    Yay! So glad you enjoyed it!

    I went every year from 2-20 and every couple years since then. This summer started the trend with my new nephews 4 & 9 months. As you might guess, it’s a family thing for us. :)

    however93—However, I will still go when I’m 93.

  12. 12
    Laura (in PA) says:

    How the hell long was this book, anyway?  I’m exhausted just reading the review.  Holy crap.

    I loved the “So naturally, there’s nothing to do but steal a hot air balloon and fly that to Virginia.”

    Well, duh.

  13. 13

    I read it on my kindle, but according to Amazon it’s 250 pages, trade paperback.  There’s so much plot that there isn’t time for anything else.

  14. 14
    beletseri says:

    So naturally, there’s nothing to do but steal a hot air balloon and fly that to Virginia.

    Umm YES! FTW! or is it WTF? Cause either could be said for this quote. Wow, I feel exhausted just trying to keep up with the review. And now I need to explain why my cubicle is full of inappropriate giggling.

  15. 15
    saltwaterknitter says:

    There’s nothing in this world beats a book review
    and a red headed girl.
    You’re fast becoming a romance community treasure. We’ll put you in a museum next to Sarah W. for the exhibition on awesomeness.

  16. 16
    Meg says:

    Love all your reviews!

    Regarding the dialogue…from what I remember from reading the beginning of an exhaustively researched book about Margaret Mitchell, the author of Gone with the Wind (I stopped when she was getting famous and depressed all the time—this was the type of biography that tried to catalog her location and I just couldn’t care that much), she really researched the dialogue to make it authentic, with the house slaves having different accents than the field slaves, etc. Not that it isn’t racist/offensive/etc., just saying that for that little bit I’m pretty sure she was as accurate as she could be (especially since she grew up knowing Civil War veterans).

  17. 17
    Rebecca says:


    Much as I LOVE your reviews of romance novels, redheadedgirl, would you consider branching into movie reviews?  In the way too much plot category I think I could provide a winner with Paul Verhoeven’s marvelously awful Black Book.  (That’s a fun one for strange ideological convictions or lack thereof for the hero too.)  Hated the movie but would love to giggle through your review.  Please?

  18. 18
    Susan says:

    Yow.  Indians in OH in the 1860s…well,OK, maybe.  Hot air balloon, hurricane, zombies…sheesh.  I give the author credit for originality.  You definitely took one for the team here, RHG.  Thanks.

  19. 19

    Ahahahaha, I liked that movie! 

    Honestly, at this point in my life, no.  School is crazy (which is one of the reasons there were no reviews from me for a while) and is only going to get progressively MORE CRAZY until the end of next July when I take the Bar Exam.  So maybe next fall, post-bar and post-bar-recovery, I’ll think about it.

  20. 20
    beggar1015 says:

    Oh Lord, I remember reading this book years and years ago. It seemed like the getting kicked out of the house and the Indian village being attacked happened all within the first five pages or so. I like a story with plenty of stuff happening, but there’s a line where there’s too much stuff going on. Pace yourself, current and future authors.

  21. 21
    ellid says:

    Well, I just checked the history of Sandusky on that impeccable source Wikipedia, and it was an Underground Railroad stop.  So Barbara’s Unionist sympathies aren’t outrageous.  But the Wyandotte Indians left the area in the late 1840’s and went to Kansas, or about a dozen years before the purported massacre took place.


  22. 22
    Mari says:

    Dearest RHG –
    thank you so much for reading past the “Island of Doctor Not-Moreau” and telling me how it all ends.  By chapter 3 I began thinking I should turn reading the book into a drinking game (improbable twist occurs – drink!) and eventually feared that my liver might not survive beyond the half way point.

    Much non-rebel-zombie-love


  23. 23
    Jane Toombs says:

    Yeah, I wrote that sucker 23 years ago,  I remember my agent saying,
    “You’ve got everything in there but the kitchen sink, but it’ll sell..”  And, of course it did, not being a hell of a lot different than many books of the time. If your book was historical the pubs watned long, long ones. But since you asked, yes every thing in it was rearched, including how they talked at the time in Jamaica. I finally got tired of conforming to all the things New York pubs wanted and defected to the epubs, where I’m happily writing paranomal novellas.

  24. 24
    CarrieS says:

    We missed you, RHG!  Best of luck with the Bar (the exam, not the place where the drinks are).  That review was made of win. 

    @Jane Toombs – you are so cool!  Love your comment!  Am glad you are doing well with the epubs.

  25. 25
    LG says:

    A B-? I think maybe you read way too many really bad romance novels, because this sounded like it rated a little lower – although maybe you upped the grade because the author managed to fit unexpected zombies into the story? I kind of want to read the book, just for that, although I suppose the unexpected part has been ruined for me.

    I read the plot summary while eating popcorn. It was kind of like reading a B movie (or possibly C movie). Thank you for the nice post-work entertainment!

  26. 26
    Bethany says:

    I am so *sick* of those unexpected zombies.

    OK, actually, all the zombies I’ve encountered have been completely expected.

    At any rate, I will likely never read the book, but I had to drop a note to say – your review just made my night. :)

  27. 27
    JamiSings says:

    @Jane – Thank you at least for using “real” zombies as opposed to those over used Hollywood zombies. I’m so sick and tired of flesh eating undead. Especially around Easter time when I have to give people lectures as to why Jesus Christ is more akin to a vampire then a zombie. Glad you found your niche.

  28. 28
    Lori says:

    Barbara’s Unionist sympathies aren’t outrageous at all. Ohio was heavily pro-Union. The state sent something like 300k soldiers to the Union Army. There were also Ohioans who went for the Confederacy, but far fewer. The Western Reserve was a stronghold of abolitionism in the Midwest so Barbara could easily have formed strong anti-Confederate sentiments.

    And thus ends this evenings lecture on Ohio in the Civil War.

  29. 29
    sweetsiouxsie says:

    A great review by red-heaeded girl!
    Since I am reading an old Rebecca Brandewyne novel that is over 500 pages long, I don’t find all of the plot twists and turns so difficult to follow.

    @Heather Greye….yes I have heard of Cedar Point, but for me, nothing compares to Riverview at Wesern and Belmont in Chicago. Too bad it’s gone!!!

  30. 30
    Cakes says:

    (who Houdini;’s out of getting killed with his Hero Issue Plot Armor)

    Jaysus that’s pure poetry!

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