This is one of the most enjoyable historical romances Iíve read in ages. It doesnít break any new ground in the genre, but it is an engaging, well-told story with a captivating romance at its heart. Frankly, Iíll take that over innovation any day.
Widowed just one year after her marriage to Lieutenant Michael Blackburn, Kate returns to live with her family, only to have tragedy strike again. Her father, Lord Nash, is killed under mysterious circumstances in Paris, where he was meeting secretly with the few remaining members of Louis XVIís government. The annuity that formed his income died with Lord Nash, leaving his helpless widow and three daughters impoverished.
When Andrew Ross, Ramsey Monro, and Christian MacNeill arrive on the Nash doorstep, Kate learns that her father died after trading his life for theirs, following their imprisonment for espionage. Obviously betrayed by someone they trusted, and no longer sure even of each other, the three young men have few resources on their return from France. Even so, honor dictates that they offer whatever help they can to the widow and daughters, to repay the husband and father for their lives.
Kate, who has emerged as the head of the grieving family, politely declines. Before departing, the men offer a pledge of service to the Nash women. Should assistance ever be required, they need only send word to the monastery where the young men were raised, and help will come as soon as humanly possible.
Three years later, a desperate Kate is making a dangerous journey to the north of Scotland to beg a distant connection, the marquis of Parnell, to help her destitute family. Fortunately, someone sent word to the monastery, begging for protection for Kate on her journey. The message reaches Kit MacNeill, only recently returned to England. Kit finds Kate en route, deserted by her maid, betrayed by her hired driver, and her purse stolen by a pickpocket.
On leave from the army, Kitís one desire is to find and punish the traitor who betrayed him and his friends to the French, but he honors his pledge to the Nash women. He will escort Kate safely to her destination. She is reluctant, but seeing no other solution, finally agrees.
This is a delightful love story with strong, sympathetic characters. It is traditional romance but, thanks to Ms. Brockwayís storytelling ability and deft characterization, never feels burdened by obvious clichťs.
Iíll admit I like a good road story, and Kate and Kitís journey occupies about two thirds of the book. (Although, yes, I think giving Katherine and Christian such similar nicknames was ill considered.) The sexual attraction, as well as the understanding and feelings between the hero and heroine build slowly but strongly, making the journey Ė as well as the inevitable culmination Ė as satisfying for the reader as it is for the characters.
Both Kit and Kate are nicely drawn. He is a rough-hewn warrior who believes that his duty is to deliver Kate back to the kind of life she had before her fatherís death. Once a carefree social butterfly, Kate was the one who found the inner resources necessary to keep her devastated family fed and housed. Now, sick to death of misery and deprivation, Kate wants that untroubled life back.
Ironically, however, it is thanks to her new maturity that she is able to see in Kit not only the rugged soldier, but also the inner nobility and honor that she comes to realize is more important than a title.
In fact, it was a sheer pleasure to watch their developing awareness teach both Kate and Kit to appreciate their own strengths as well as each otherís. Their growing emotional bond added intensity and poignancy to a compelling physical attraction that Kit, in particular, fights to control. Ms. Brockway builds the sexual tension skillfully, so I enjoyed watching Kit struggle nearly as much as I did seeing him succumb.
If allowed to follow my own preferences, Iíd have read this book in one sitting. I anticipate with pleasure the subsequent books about Andrew Ross and Ramsey Monro.
-- Judi McKee