A very sweet story, with more action than its successor; some language and theological problems.
The story begins with Freckles, a one-handed Irish orphan of about twenty years of age, acquiring a job from the boss of a lumber company in the state of Indiana. His work is to guard the Limberlost Swamp and the precious trees she contains until the season is right for the lumber gang to come and cut them down.
Several months after he begins the job, Freckles meets and falls in love with the beautiful girl known as the Swamp Angel. She comes to the Limberlost with the Bird Woman to take pictures of the birds and other wildlife there, and in doing so, falls into adventure with Freckles. When a wager is made that puts Freckles' loyalty and grit to the test, he and the Angel must work to protect the trees of the swamp from thieves while the lumber gang is working on another site. And interwoven with this, Freckles wrestles with his own history and how he came to lose his right hand during childhood.
Freckles has the highest values, and has a very clear idea of what is right and what is wrong. He is extremely loyal, and gets into a fight when that comes into question; he also honors others as being more important than himself. The Angel sometimes uses deception to protect her friends, but only uses lies in order to outwit the 'bad guys' and never to get her own way. There are several characters who are thieves and liars, and they are the antagonists of the story.
The Limberlost is described once or twice as the work of God, and a little 'room' that Freckles creates from vines and trees on the outskirts of the swamp is called a natural cathedral or God's cathedral. The girl he loves is known as the Swamp Angel, and there are several other references to angels in general; once, Freckles watches a feather float down from the sky and wonders if it came from an angel. There are some mentions of prayer, and there is one reference to the Irish as being superstitious. Toward the end, Freckles says he should not blame things that appear bad on God.
Freckles gets into a fist-fight with a man, as aforementioned, and both get knocked around. The history of his missing hand and the fact that his right arm is maimed plays a fairly critical role in the story, and once or twice his stump is described. A man is killed by a rattlesnake, another man is threatened and hit over the head, and a tree falls on a character. It is mentioned that two characters died in a fire when the house collapsed on them. Nothing is overly described, but there is more violence in this story than in Stratton-Porter's other well-known book, "A Girl of the Limberlost."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Nothing stronger than coffee.
Freckles' love for the Angel is chaste, and he always tries to do the right thing by her.
Crude or Profane Language or Content
There are a good many uses of "d*mn," usually in the context of, "I'm d*mned if..." or "I'm blowed if..." God's name is taken in vain a couple of times.
"Freckles" was a very sweet book - something you might not think from the summary above. The romance was well-done and appealing, and the characters of Freckles and the Angel were especially enjoyable. I liked the fatherly aspect of "the Boss" and how Stratton-Porter orchestrated that, and also the way she created Freckles' background so that you could feel sorry for him, and yet she did not seem to be throwing a pity-party for him. My favorite part, though, was probably Freckles' accent; Stratton-Porter's own husband was Irish, and the way she wrote Freckles' voice was probably influenced by that.
That said, there are some things that the reader may want to look out for. There is some use of language, and the theology was certainly not the most sound ever.
Note: This book is followed by A Girl of the Limberlost, and if you want to read them both, it is best to start with "Freckles"; the sequel does give away some of Freckles' future.