If history teaches anything it is that religious freedom isn’t always free and some men and women must risk all to preserve it.

In Mark Alan Leslie’s new historical novel, “A Cause Most Splendid: The Battle for the Bible,” the year is 1777, the American Revolution is being fought full-bore and Americans are desperate for one crucial weapon: Bibles. “Yours is a cause most splendid, most noble,” Robert Aitken is told.

Despite the threat of prison or the hangman’s noose, Aitken, the publisher of the Congressional Journal and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, is determined to print much-needed Bibles for American colonial troops, churches and families. The Royal Family alone has publishing rights to God’s Word, the British say, and any printing of the King James Bible is not only illegal but a personal slap-in-the-face to King George III. Indeed, his naval barricade of America’s ports is to prevent all supplies, including Bibles, from reaching the colonists. Aitken’s reply: “My King is the King of kings. To him only will I answer.” And so history was made.

Leslie said the novel, published by Elk Lake Publishing of Plymouth, is “a memorial to Robert Aitken, the Scotsman who immigrated to America in 1769 at the age of 35 and shook his adopted home by daring to break England’s laws and the royal family’s personal edict to publish Bibles.

“Bibles were in scarce supply but needed by military troops, churches, schools, and homes at a time when Scriptures were used to teach reading, writing, and history and to spiritually nourish children and adults alike.”

“It’s astounding,” said Elk Lake Publisher Deb Haggerty, “that this part of the revolutionary period has not been prominent in the public narrative of our history.”

This was a pivotal time for the morale of America’s troops and populace when many in the country were deeply religious. In A Cause Most Splendid, King George III put a price on anyone’s head who defied his ‘ownership’ of God’s Word, and General William Howe is adamant to do the Sovereign’s bidding.

A hefty dash of romance is mixed in, with Aitken’s Protestant apprentice and a young Catholic French woman proving long-held obstacles may be overcome when love calls.

Midwest Book Review cited Leslie’s “genuine flair for compelling, entertaining, and deftly crafted storytelling, while the American Family Association’s AFA Journal called the author “a seasoned wordsmith… in the class with John Grisham or other secular novelists touted for producing today’s best fiction.”

The winner of six national magazine writing awards, Leslie has written 13 books, including three other historical novels: “The Crossing” (2017) about the Ku Klux Klan in Maine in the 1920s; “True North: Tice’s Story” (2016) about a slave’s escape on the Underground Railroad through the Northeast; and “Midnight Rider for the Morning Star” (2008), from the life and times of America’s first circuit-riding preacher, Francis Asbury. Leslie has spoken and preached at churches, schools, libraries and camp meetings across Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. He and his wife, Loy, live in Monmouth.

Elk Lake Publishing, Inc. is a traditional Christian publishing company based in Plymouth, Mass. Elk Lake publishes a variety of fiction of all genres as well as nonfiction including Bible studies and Christian life. For more information, visit elklakepublishingInc.com.

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