|Her Master and Commander by Karen Hawkins is first in a new series which features the ultimate butler, Reeves. If the continuing books in the set follow the same path as this first book, the series promises to be entertaining reading.
In Her Master and Commander, Reeves is given a mission to find the bastard sons of the now-deceased Earl of Rochester, and hopefully whip one of them into good enough shape to assume the title and complement the elegant estate that comes with it.
The first of these sons is Tristan Llevanth, a former pirate turned sea captain and war hero. Tristan and his twin, Christian, were separated at a young age when their mother was imprisoned for treason. Tristan was impressed, forced to become a sailor in the British Navy, and served aboard a navy ship until it was taken by pirates. When the pirate captain was killed, Tristan joined his ship to Nelson’s fleet, earning that man’s admiration and becoming a hero at Trafalgar. Tristan never forgave his father for abandoning Tristan’s mother in her time of need, and he never forgot his missing brother.
When the book opens, we find Tristan no longer a seaman due to war injuries, living in a seaside cottage and occupying himself making work for his former crew members. He misses the sea terribly, but misses his peace and quiet almost as much, since it has been disturbed by his new neighbor’s (the heroine, Prudence Thistlewaite) constant complaints against Tristan’s sheep. Tristan’s peace is further cut up by the arrival of Reeves, with wagonloads of servants and luggage, bearing the news that Tristan’s father has died and Tristan will be made Earl. Before Tristan can assume the title, though, Reeves has to polish Tristan’s sharp edges so that he can pass an examination by a board of trustees. In this endeavor, Reeves hires Prudence to teach Tristan some London manners.
While this book is quite entertaining, it is in no way perfect. The part that I found least plausible was that after Tristan’s father went through a lot of trouble to manufacture evidence that Tristan was his legitimate firstborn son, Tristan had to prove himself to a board. Why would a legitimate, firstborn son have to prove anything before earning his title? Worthy or not, Tristan should have inherited, period. That would have made for a pretty short story, though.
The portion of the book that concerns Christian is also implausible. More detail would spoil things, so suffice it to say that Christian’s presence was unnecessary and pretty much unbelievable except for the purpose of setting the stage for the next book.
The rest of the book is delightful. The little blurbs that begin each chapter of Hawkins’ previous books are present here, in the form of a book written by Reeves on how to be the best butler one can be. The love scenes are hot without being unromantic. The secondary characters are enjoyable and charming, such as Prudence’s mother, and their housekeeper, with whom Prudence has a running battle of homilies.
Prudence and Tristan are excellent main characters. Prudence tries so hard to do the right thing, due to circumstances of her past, but she has to battle her warmer urges almost constantly. Tristan is the most reluctant nobleman. He wants the title and money badly so he can afford to take care of his former crew, but he detests all the rules and chafes under the restrictions imposed upon him.
By far the best character is Reeves. Watching him run intellectual circles around his “betters” is a lot of fun. Her Master and Commander is definitely worth reading, and Reeves makes reading the next books in the series almost irresistible.