Newspaper Reviews of the Novel
JANE -- A Flight to Freedom
The book combines some of the romance of “Gone With
the Wind” with some of the moral lessons of “Uncle
The Lancaster Sunday News
As a character, Jane ... is complex and compelling. And
all the characters are well-drawn, with clear motivations;
because they are generally so distinctive, it’s easy to
keep them apart.
Devine’s faithfulness to character’s point of view is
Jane is a “good read.”
The Bridgton News
Newspaper mentions below
are in sequences by date published
The Ann Arbor News (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
Saturday, August 2, 2008
By Leah Dumouchel
When you think of the Civil War, what comes to mind? The
names Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant? The Emancipation
Local author Donald Devine, a longtime student of the history
surrounding the Civil War, thinks that most people do know
something about what he calls the "most dramatic event in the
history of our country," but maybe not so much about what he
considers the most important bits. That's why he wrote "Jane: A
Flight to Freedom," published by his Cold River Books in 2007.
While it does follow the story of Jane, a slave girl forced to
make a daring escape attempt after being caught in the
crossfire of the master's dysfunctional family, it also introduces
and details the circumstances of a bevy of other characters.
"The real theme of the novel," said Devine, "is the attitudes of
people in both the North and the South -- everyday people, rich
people, poor people, field slaves, house slaves, masters,
immigrants, rascals, Quakers, Dunkards (related to the Amish)
... the list goes on and on."
That's a lot of character study for an author who proclaims
himself a fan of the adventure novel, but it turns out the two
dovetail remarkably well in historical fiction. "I wanted to write
an adventure novel that was more true to life. There's a lot of
improbability in some of these adventure novels," he noted with
a laugh, "but people did escape on the underground railroad
and they did run into some of the same problems that Jane did.
And the back story ... allows us to understand what people
thought throughout the country. So in reading this, you almost
accidentally get an idea of why the Civil War happened."
It only covers the years 1860-1861, which barely gets the
great clash off the ground, but not to worry: Three more books
are planned. "Tom: A Question of Conscience" is already in the
works and should be out in 2009. You can find "Jane: A Flight
to Freedom" at Barnes and Noble, or through www.
The Intelligencer Journal (Lancaster, PA)
Monday, January 28, 2008
By Larry Alexander, Journal Staff
Jane is a young slave on a large Virginia plantation before
the Civil War. While unhappy with her life of forced servitude,
she is unwilling to make the dangerous flight to freedom.
Then fate takes a hand.
Enmeshed in a forbidden, doomed love affair, Jane strikes
out on a perilous journey that will take her through the Virginia
heartland, across Maryland, on to Philadelphia and, finally, to
Lancaster County, where she is given shelter by a Dunkard
family in Elizabethtown.
Jane connects with the Underground Railroad, the secret
network of anti-slavery advocates determined to help runaway
blacks reach freedom despite the threat of arrest and
imprisonment for violating the federal Fugitive Slave Act.
En route, Jane experiences ambushes, narrow escapes,
rescue missions, robberies and chases. The book also relates
the high-pitched political emotions of that era as the nation
rushes toward civil war. Jane see the dramatic election of
Abraham Lincoln, the southern secession that follows, the
mobilization for war in both the North and the South, the rioting
in the streets of Baltimore as federal troops march through and
the war's first battle at Bull Run.
All of this and more is packed into the historical novel, "Jane
-- A Flight to Freedom," by Donald Devine.
The thick novel -- 571 pages -- follows Jane's sojourn, and is
largely set in Philadelphia and Lancaster County.
"I was born and raised in Philadelphia, but I know Lancaster
County very well," said Devine, who now lives in Ann Arbor,
Mich. "My ancestors settled in West Donegal Township in 1729,
and my grandfather's family lived there for years."
Devine will return to Lancaster County this week to promote
his book. He will make stops Tuesday at the Elizabethtown
Public Library at 3:30 p.m., and Dog Star Books, 529 W.
Chestnut St. in Lancaster at 6:30 that evening.
"Dog Star was good enough to carry my book at the very
beginning, when I didn't have any momentum," Devine said.
On Wednesday, Devine will be at the Milanof-Schock Public
Library in Mount Joy at 6:30 p.m., and on Thursday he will
speak and sign books at the Lititz Public Library at 2 p.m. and
at Borders Books & Music in Lancaster at 7 that night.
Devine, who has written user manuals, technical papers and
similar publications, knew he wanted to write historical fiction
and has always been interested in the Civil War era.
"This is a period in the history of the United States that is still
important to understand, even to how things are today," he
The book took Devine about three years to research and
write. The research in Pennsylvania, he said, was relatively
easy. It Virginia, it was more difficult.
"I went to a library in Hampton, Va., and asked to see their
1860s newspapers, and they said no," Devine said. "They said
'those damned Yankees burned the town, so we don't have any
Devine said the book was released in July and is only now
beginning to take off.
"The problem with a first-time author is you pretty much have
to do a lot of the promotion work yourself," he said. "Publishers
do some. Distributors essentially do none, so you do your own
by going out and speaking."
Devine proudly notes that Barnes & Noble is starting to sell
"It's gathering momentum," he said. "And fortunately, it's
gathering momentum on a regular basis."
"Jane" is the first of a four-book series he plans to write
covering the Civil War period from 1860 to 1865.
"I focused first on the issue of slavery because that was the
root cause of the Civil War," Devine said. "People might have
said they were fighting for the Union or for states' rights, but it
wouldn't have happened if not for slavery."
Jane will re-emerge in book two, but not as a main character.
The emphasis will shift to a character named Tom from
Alexandria, Va., who will be the protagonist.
"Jane" is a softcover book that sells for $14.95.
The Lititz, PA., Record Express
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Historical fiction writer, Donald J. Devine, will speak about his
recently published book, "JANE: A Flight to Freedom, 1860 to
1861," at the Lititz Public Library at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Jan.
Much of the novel is set in Lancaster County, principally in
Lancaster City and the Elizabethtown area. The story follows
the adventures of a young woman on the Underground
Providing a vision of slavery as it actually existed, the book
introduces varying opinions of slavery and secession among a
variety of characters in both the South and the North, including
the often conflicted attitudes of the Quakers in Philadelphia
and the Dunkards (Church of the Brethren) in Lancaster
County, Pennsylvania, as well as the differences of outlook
between house slaves and field slaves, masters and slaves,
Irish and African-Americans.
The novel continues with descriptions of war mobilization in
both the North and the South, and with eyewitness accounts of
the riots in Baltimore, the Siege of Washington and the First
Battle of Bull Run.
Devine's family initially settled in Lancaster County in 1729,
so he is very familiar with the area and its history. He will talk
about why and how he selected specific places to set action in
his novel, along with the general process of creating historical
Now a resident of Michigan, Devine was born and raised in
Philadelphia, where he graduated from Central High School
and the University of Pennsylvania. For thirty years he was a
software entrepreneur. He started and ran several computer
software and data processing service businesses during those
Devine also enjoys performing on stage in amateur musicals
and operettas. He is part of a vaudeville act which has
performed more than 200 times. He previously edited and
produced a quarterly magazine for a Gilbert & Sullivan Society
for eight years.
Now retired, he is devoting his time to writing a series of four
historical novels dealing with the American Civil War. Published
in 2007, JANE is the first of a series.
Pre-register for the program by calling the library at 626-
2255, or by signing up online at www.lititzlibrary.org.
The Elizabethtown Chronicle (Pennsylvania)
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Author to speak in E-town, Mount Joy
Donald Devine, author of the Civil War Era historical novel
"Jane -- A Flight to Freedom," will hold "Meet the Author and
Book Signing Events" in E-town and Mount Joy during the week
of Jan. 27.
He will speak at the E-town Public Library, located at 10 S.
Market St., Elizabethtown, on Tuesday, Jan. 29 at 3:30 p.m. On
Wednesday, Jan.30 at 6:30 p.m., he will be at the Milanof-
Schock Public Library, located at 1184 Anderson Ferry Road,
For more information on his appearance, call 367-7467 or
The Donegal Ledger (Pennsylvania)
Thursday, January 24 - 30, 2008
"Jane: A Flight to Freedom"
Wednesday, January 30 @ 6:30 pm.
Author, Don Devine, will talk about his book of the same
name. This historical fiction is the story of a young woman
using the Underground Railroad.
Much of the novel is set in Lancaster County, principally in
Lancaster City and in and around Elizabethtown. Mt. Joy is
mentioned several times. The story follows the adventures of a
young woman on the Underground Railroad and presents the
attitudes of a variety of people in both the North and the South
in the critical months leading up to the Civil War. It contin ues
through northern and southern mobilization, the Riots in
Baltimore, the Siege of Washington and the First Battle of Bull
Mr. Devine's family initially settled in Lancaster County in
1729 and he is very familiar with the area and its history. He will
talk about that history, why and how he selected specific places
to set action in his novel, and the general process of creating
Mount Joy - Elizabethtown Merchandiser (PA)
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Author of Historical Novel will Visit County Libraries
By Susan E. Grubb
An author who wrote a historical novel featuring Lancaster
County and the Underground Railroad will visit three county
libraries next week. Don Devine, author of "Jane -- A Flight to
Freedom," will visit the Elizabethtown Public Library, 10 S.
Market St., Elizabethtown, on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 3:30 p.m.;
Milanof-Schock Library, 1184 Anderson Ferry Road, Mount
Joy, on Wednesday, Jan. 30, at 6:30 p.m.; and Lititz Public
Library, 651 Kissel Hill Road, Lititz, on Thursday, Jan. 31,
at 2 p.m.
According to a publicity release, "Jane" is a recently released
historical novel that is largely set in and around Elizabethtown,
Lancaster City, and elsewhere in Lancaster County in 1860
and 1861. It follows the adventures of a young woman on the
Underground Railroad and deals with the attitudes and values
of people in different parts of America during the critical months
leading up to the Civil War. The novel provides eyewitness
accounts of the siege of Washington and the first battle at Bull
The novel also follows the lives and adventures of a Dunkard
(Church of the Brethren) family living near Elizabethtown as
they operate an Underground Railroad stop, are faced with
prosecution under the Fugitive Slave Act, and assist an
unusually large group of runaways in an escape to freedom.
Devine's ancestors date back eight generations to Church of
the Brethren folks who settled in 1729 in what is now West
Donegal Township. In fact, Christian Ober, a Revolutionary
War veteran who is six generations before Devine, is the oldest
known person buried in the Mount Ober Cemetery on North
Market Street just at the edge of Elizabethtown. His relatives
lived in houses in the general area of the cemetery, and many
taught in the one-room schoolhouse that is now a private
residence beside the cemetery.
Although his presentations vary from place to place,
depending on the interests of the audience, Devine shared
some overall points that he expects to cover while in Lancaster
During is visits, Devine will show photographs of and discuss
five houses in the area that inspired the locale for his novel.
Although Devine's research indicates that the Underground
Railroad ran from Columbia to Mount Joy to the outskirts of
Lancaster, the novel is set in Elizabethtown because of
Devine's family connections. He noted that since the
Underground Railroad was a changing, informal network of
individuals, it is likely that people in and around Elizabethtown
did help escaping slaves.
"I know a lot about these houses and who lived in them; some
go back to the Revolutionary War time," he said.
"They say an author should write about what he knows about,
and I know a lot about these places because my family comes
from the Elizabethtown area," explained Devine from his Ann
Arbor, Mich., residence. "I've heard many family stories about
the 'old days' around Elizabethtown, and I've often visited the
places I mentioned."
Devine will also speak about the research he did in writing his
novel, sharing some anecdotes from his research in Lancaster
County and in Virginia. Next, he will likely do a brief reading,
selecting a passage that deals with the area. Throughout his
presentation, Devine will be "very open" to questions.
. The author will wrap up his presentation by discussing the
process of writing a historical novel, covering four key areas:
plot, characters, location time and place, and history.
Although Devine creates fictional characters, he said that
when writing a historical novel, history cannot be changed.
"You have to weave the characters in and out of actually
history," he explained.
As to characters, some are real historical people, others are
fictional. "If you can't satisfy yourself that this was the person's
attitude, you will create a fictional name so you do not defame
them," said Devine. An example of such a situation in his novel
is the Franklin & Marshall president who is given strong
opinions to carry the plot in the novel. But since Devine cannot
prove what the president at that time really thought about
slavery and the Underground Railroad, he gave the character
a fictional name.
"If there is documented evidence that (the characters) said
something, you can keep them," he explained.
Devine visited the Elizabethtown Public Library for a well-
received evening presentation in November. He is doing an
afternoon presentation there to accommodate people who did
not wish to come out in the evening.
Devine envisions "Jane" as the first of four novels in a series
dealing with the American Civil War. The next one, which will
include many of the same characters, will carry readers
through about the first third of the Civil War. It will also resolve
some of the matters that were unresolved as the first novel
For more information about Devine's novel and to access
reader reviews, interested individuals may visit www.
ColdRiverBooks.com. The web site also lists bookstores
carrying the novel. Devine will have copies available during his
Although preregistration is not mandatory, the three libraries
encourage people who plan to attend to indicate their intention
to do so. Individuals may call the Elizabethtown Public Library
at 367-7467, Lititz Public Library at 626-2255, or Milanof-
Schock Library at 635-1510.
The Webster Times (Massachusetts)
Friday, November 30, 2007
By Patrick Skahill, Staff Writer
[The following notice was included in a lengthy articles on a
local Webster bookstore called Booklovers' Gourmet.]
Donald J. Devine, author of "Jane: A Flight to Freedom, 1860
to 1861" will be in the store Sunday, Feb. 17, to sign copies of
his riveting tale of historical fiction set during the American Civil
The Elizabethtown Chronicle (Pennsylvania)
Thursday, November 15, 2007
By Rosalba Ugliuzza, Staff Reporter
Elizabethtown Featured in Novel
In his latest quest, Michigan resident Don Devine has finally
discovered his way back to his roots.
The 68-year old author has recently penned a new historical
fiction thriller called "Jane -- A Flight to Freedom." His recent
work is the first of four novels that will be part of a series.
Set in the early Civil War era, the book channels the
adventures of a young woman who travels on the Underground
Railroad from Virginia to Philadelphia to Lancaster and,
ultimately, to Elizabethtown. According to Devine's research,
the Underground Railroad actually went from Columbia to Mt.
Joy. During this journey, Jane meets a pantheon of people.
Written in third person, Devine said he developed his leading
lady as a strong, heroic person who is determined to find
herself some freedom in a settled life. Slavery in that period
was more difficult for women than men.
"I wanted her to be an inspiring kind of person. A real
heroine," he said. "It's quite unusual for women to escape than
men. It is a story of love and affection. It has some exciting and
His work delves into the attitudes of people in the north and
south in the months leading up to the Civil War. It also follows
some characters through the Siege of Washington in April
1861 and the Battle of Bull Run in July of that same year.
"Every character in the book is fictional, but every character
is partially (based on) somebody I have known," Devine said.
Though all the characters are fictitious, most of the locations
that are set in Elizabethtown are real. For instance, the
fictitious Woodley Farm is placed where his great-grandfather's
property was located on North Market Street, formerly called
Middletown Pike. The fictitious Mt. Witmer Cemetery is m
modeled after the Mount Ober Cemetery and the one-room
schoolhouse is on North Market Street, which is now a
It took Devine approximately three years to finish the book,
and went through four rough drafts. Much of his research was
done on Internet, but he said he did visit a few exotic places for
the book, like the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia.
"Details of what happened in town on the eve of Lincoln's
election, on the day Lincoln called for militia troops, and on the
day troops left Elizabethtown for the war, for example, are all
purley conjecture," he said. "I don't know what actually
happened on those days, but it was probably something very
similar to what transpires in my story. I'm writing fiction. It's
historical fiction, not history."
But Devine, a Philadelphia native, said he gained a lot of first-
hand knowledge about Elizabethtown when he was a child
because his family originated from this area. As a young history
buff, he would visit some of the places in Elizabethtown that his
grandfather's siblings would tell stories about.
In fact, one of his ancestors, Abraham Greenawalt, owned and
operated the Greenawalt House Hotel on Center Square.
"My ancestors, eight generations back, were Church of the
Brethren folks who settled in what is now West Donegal
Township in 1729," he said. "I'm descended from the Fosters,
the Greenawalts and the Obers, and they all lived in the areas
where I've set the action in this novel."
Devine said his book is good for holding discussions and
hopes that his readers can generate a variety of opinions on
the Civil War and historical Elizabethtown..
"I want it to be a good read. By far, that's the most important
thing," he said. "I expect that the readers will believe what they
want. I tried to let all of the characters in the story have a voice."
Most of the proceeds from the novel will benefit the following
community foundations: Lancaster County, Philadelphia,
Greater Williamsburg, Va. and the Community Foundation of
the Chesapeake in Annapolis, Md.
For more information, or to order Devine's book, visit www.
The Lancaster Sunday News (Pennsylvania)
Sunday, November 11, 2007
By Jo-Ann Greene, Books Editor
New Hampshire author Donald J. Devine will be in Lancaster
County this week to present and sign his historical novel,
"JANE: A Flight to Freedom."
The novel, set in 1860-61, follows the adventures of a young
slave woman on the Underground Railroad, fleeing a forbidden
romance and its harsh consequences of being misused and
sold off her home plantation.
The book combines some of the romance of "Gone With the
Wind" with some of the moral lessons of "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
The action begins in the Chesapeake Bay area but moves
through Elizabethtown, Lancaster and Philadelphia. The author
is a Philadelphia native with roots in Lancaster County.
"The Lancaster scenes are set mostly in a small hotel and at
the then very small Franklin & Marshall College," he said in an
"The Elizabethtown portion focuses on several small farms, a
one-room schoolhouse, a cemetery and surrounding properties
along the Middletown Pike (now Market Street) in West
Donegal, as well as at the hotel that used to stand on Center
In this area, Jane meets Dunkards (Church of the Brethren
members). "My early ancestors there were Dunkards who
settled in Lancaster County in 1729," Devine noted. "The
house, schoolhouse and cemetery set in Elizabethtown in my
novel are all based on my great-grandfather's property and the
Devine said this is the first of four novels in a series that will
follow his characters through the Civil War. More information is
available at www.ColdRiverBooks.com. The 575-page
paperback lists at $14.95.
The Culpeper Star-Exponent (Virginia)
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
By Allison Brophy Champion, Staff Writer
Michigan author Donald J. Devine brings his brand of Civil
War history to Culpeper today with a book signing from 10 a.m.
to noon at the Corner Shelf bookstore on Business 29.
"JANE -- A Flight to Freedom," Devine's newly self-published
historical novel is largely set in Virginia, circa 1860 and 1861.
The 571-page book follows the adventures of the title
character, a teenage slave on a Tidewater plantation who
seeks freedom on the Underground Railroad.
"She is a very strong figure, who develops into a confident,
independent young woman. She is clearly a heroine," Devine
said of Jane. "She's also very smart. Some readers have said
she is almost too smart to be believable. And that's the kind of
person I wanted her to be. The reader can't help but respect
Jane, and to be concerned about the dangers she faces."
He said the book is a tale of love and ambush, narrow escapes
and robberies, secession, riots and political emotions.
Devine plans to write three more novels as a part of the
"Jane" series. He published the novel through his Cold River
Books and it will be on sale today at $14.95 at the Corner Shelf.
The Bridgton News (Maine)
Wednesday, September 20, 2007
By Mike Corrigan, Staff Writer
If area author Donald J. Devine manages to get through his
writing plan beginning with Jane, his novel sequence could well
earn the sobriquet of "sweeping." You can almost hear the
movie trailer now: "The Civil War as you've never imagined it
Well, Devine has imagined it. While focusing on Jane, a young
slave on a Virginia plantation, the novel carries the reader
through Jane's world and well beyond it, to parts of 1860s
America she never even imagined. Devine has done his
homework: his bibliography -- and he admits it's unusual to
attach one to a work of fiction -- includes 58 books. The writer,
who summers in Chatham, is just establishing his Civil War
As a narrative, Jane is complex and compelling. As a
character, Jane herself is complex and compelling. And all the
characters are well-drawn, with clear motivations; because they
are generally so distinctive, it's easy to keep them apart.
The handsome paperback, weighing in at almost 600 pages,
carries the reader onward through an interesting and crucial
historical time. The wildly divergent political and social views
add up to a sort of philosophical complexity, reflecting the
foment of a most contentious era.
The writer gets inside the minds of slaves and slave-holders,
bounty hunters and Abolitionists, politicians and partisans.
Devine's faithfulness to a character's point of view is
impressive: he's ajudgmental. Even his slave masters,
scoundrels and villains get plenty of room for rationalizations.
This necessary and fair-minded authorial approach heightens
the narrative tension.
The Jane of the title is a 15-year-old slave in a forbidden love.
Her flight to freedom ends not with a happily-ever-after, but
rather with a feeling of striving and growth. There are insights
into the Underground Railroad, plantation life, daily life in the
1860s, local aspects on the political campaign that elected our
greatest President, robberies, chases and religious and
political diatribes -- plus, the cherry on top of the sundae: a
compelling description of Manassas, Part I. Everything has a
sharp edge to it. The presence of an almost-universal conflict
is ever at the forefront.
While the dialogue is, again, tailored to the characters, so that
everyone gets his or her own voice, I though some of the
conversations could have been boiled down to elemental
narrative explication, at least in the interest of saving a little ink.
This, however, is a minor quibble. Wisely, the writer limits the
dialect and renderings of common speech. I have often found
such attempts at rendering colloquial speech irritating, even in
the hands of master writers: Devine's choice of such
renderings are logical and his interpretations are intelligible.
Overall, Jane is a "good read." You get a feeling of what
1860s America was like -- and you even get a feeling of what it
was like to be a lot of different characters in that most
fascinating era. And, apparently, there's more characters to
explicate, more description to enjoy and more conflict to thrill
to, where this came from!