It’s been quite a while since I’d given a book five hearts and now I
find myself awarding this coveted rating twice in one week. What’s even
more startling is that both books are by the same author. My friends,
welcome Anne Gracie to the ranks of excellent romance writers and keep
your fingers crossed that she keeps writing books and that Harlequin
keeps publishing them for the American romance reading public.
For those of you who did not read my review of Gracie’s Regency romance,
Tallie’s Knight, a bit of an explanation is in order. Anne
Gracie is an Australian author who submitted Gallant Waif to
RWA’s Rita Award contest as “best first book.” At that point, the book
had only been published in Australia and Britain, but Harlequin was
planning to bring it to the United States. While Gracie did not win the
award, she was a finalist. After reading Gallant Waif, I
certainly understand why the judges thought so highly of this first book.
Lady Cahill has a problem. Her beloved grandson, Major Jack Carstairs,
has withdrawn from society and hidden himself away in Leicestershire, at
the ramshackle manor he inherited from his father. He has his reasons.
Badly injured in the war, he returned home to discover that his father
had mostly disinherited him. Worse, his betrothed ends their
engagement. Julia has no wish to marry a poor man with a scarred face
and a bad leg.
Her ladyship, not one to back down from a challenge, decides to travel
to Sevenoaks and confront Jack. On the way, she stops in a small
village to discover the circumstances of the daughter of her own
goddaughter. She has learned that Kate Farleigh has been left penniless
and is planning to take a position as a maid. Kate is surprised at Lady
Cahill’s appearance and resists her offer of a home. She does not want
charity and she certainly does not want to appear in London society.
Kate had accompanied her father and brothers to the Peninsula and had
lost all three to the war. She had also lost her reputation. But Lady
Cahill is not to be denied. She kidnaps Kate and carries her off to
The house is as great a mess as Jack is and Kate sets out to set things
right. She is soon sparring with the master of the house. Lady Cahill
is delighted; her grandson is at least no longer mired in despair. Kate
tells her ladyship her sad tale to show why she cannot go to London.
Lady Cahill sees a solution; Kate will stay at Sevenoaks to bring order
to the house and its master.
And Kate does just that. Her unusual life with the army makes her just
the person to deal with both Jack’s physical and his emotional wounds.
The two clash and spar and, of course, fall in love. But Kate believes
that she can never marry, while Jack’s previous rejection has left him
leery of love.
Kate is a great heroine. She is brave and competent and charming and
lovely. She has borne more pain and sorrow than anyone should have to
bear, but she is not defeated. Jack is wounded hero but not an
unsympathetic one. If he sometimes blusters, he is more often kind in
his own particular way. He is used to being obeyed. Watching him deal
with a young woman who will not be cowed by his best “major” persona
provides more than a few humorous moments.
Gracie has a marvelous knowledge of Regency England’s history and social
mores. She does not make a single wrong step, but I would expect
nothing less than this from the woman who is the resident history expert
on the Heyer list. Nor does the author make a single wrong step in her
plotting, her characterizations, or her writing. She has an easy and
In sum, Gallant Waif has nothing of a “first book” about it.
This is as polished a piece of romance writing as anyone could want. I
certainly hope that Gracie’s books get the readership they deserve. I
want more stories by this extremely talented author. In lieu of another
Gracie book, I think I’ll stop now and go reread Gallant Waif.