Vanguard of Hope: Sapphire Brigade Book 1 by Kathy Steinemann

vanguard of hope

Like Rachel’s review on Ignorance Theory, author Kathy Steinemann sent us her novel Vanguard of Hope for us to read.  Thank you to Ms. Steinemann for letting us read her work!  You can follow her on twitter @KathySteinemann.

The Good:

Vanguard of Hope is written in the form of diary entries by the main character, Hope.  The novel takes place in late 1800’s America and the diary entries start at what seems to be a time of many life changes for Hope.  The diary entries are a unique way to explore the story, and one that I am not very familiar with.  I thought Ms. Steinemann did a great job with the diary; at first I wasn’t sure about it because I didn’t particularly like style of Hope’s writing.  Upon completing the book however, I realized that the story wouldn’t be the same if it read like a memoir or a third person point of view.  It helps the reader see the flow of thought from the main character and her intimate point of view including repressed thoughts, feelings, and desires as well as mistaken beliefs about other people and events.  In short, it reads like what I expect many personal diaries actually read like—conversations may not be recorded exactly as they were said and may sound a little forced or unnatural, but the true gist of what happened is there and you truly see the story from the main character’s point of view.

For me, the middle to the end of the book was much better than the beginning.  There were twists I definitely did not see coming, mostly because Hope did not see them coming in her diary entries.  There is murder, love, and hope in this story, and it deals with issues of women’s rights, race issues such as interracial marriage, and vigilante justice (dispensed by Sapphire Brigade) in cases where the law fails.  Ms. Steinemann is quite straightforward when it comes to the message of the book but she makes it interesting to see how the characters handle things in a time when a lot of these subjects were taboo.

Vanguard of Hope at its core is a romance novel, yet the romance is not overly explicit.  There is plenty of mystery, intrigue, murder and whatnot, so even if you are a reader who doesn’t normally read romance and “chick-lit” you should still enjoy this novel.

The Bad:

As I said above, the ending was better than the beginning.  The first 75 pages or so seemed to drag on, without much happening.  It also dealt (non-explicitly I might add) with issues including sexual child abuse/pedophilia and sexual self-gratification that may be uncomfortable for some people.  The first part of the novel deals a lot with Hope’s repressed feelings about those issues, but towards the middle of the novel she has progressed, the topic is not as hard to read about and the plot starts to move along more quickly.   So that may put off some readers, but if you get past it, the novel does get more interesting.

Again, like I mentioned above, the diary entries can be disjointed at times and the dialogue doesn’t always flow and sound completely realistic.  Some readers may not like this technique and it can be hard to get into the book right away.  Vanguard of Hope is also a quick read; the prose is not very complicated or wordy, so depending on your reading mood at the time, it could be a good or bad thing.

The character development is not a strong point of this book—we see how Hope develops through her diary entries, but other than her there is not much else.  I like reading books in which I am really invested in the characters and what happens to them, and this did not quite do that for me.

I was slightly disappointed that we are left without all the answers at the end of the book, but most of them are what seem to be more minor details (or are they?) about the Sapphire Brigade that Ms. Steinemann hints will be answered in Sapphire Brigade Book 2.

The Verdict:

Read:  If you enjoy mystery, intrigue and light romance you will enjoy this book.  Vanguard of Hope is a quick and easy read, yet entertaining, so if you are looking for something to read as a break in between a bit heavier reading, this is a good book for you.

Don’t read:  If you want a book to start off fast, interesting and full of action right away don’t read.  Readers who like longer, more complex novels with in depth characters, themes, and plots may also not enjoy this book.

Written by Heidi V

Heidi is a co-creator and writer at Definitely Not for the Birds (DNFB). She is an avid reader, a die-hard Badger fan, and knows from experience that a good hike can solve almost any ailment. Follow Heidi @heidi_5 and DNFB @not4birds.