Into His Arms by Paula Reed
(Zebra Debut, $3.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-7723-8
Into His Arms is a debut novel for Paula Reed. This is one of the first in the new “Zebra Debut” line that features debut authors at a reduced price. Reed’s skill as an author rivals that of more seasoned romance writers. The romance is forefront throughout the story and there are no subplots, which leaves room to thoroughly develop the characters and tell a delicious tale.

Faith Cooper is a young lady living with her family in a small Puritan village in Massachusetts in 1671. The story opens with Faith contemplating the marriage proposal of a young man, Aaron Jacobs. He promises to be a good and loyal husband, but Faith was hoping for love. Before Faith is able to make a decision, Owen Williams, the Puritan minister in the village, visits the Cooper home. Williams is fairly new to the village and has so far proven to be a very harsh and unsocial man. Faith suspects that his visit is not going to be a pleasant one and, in fact, it’s not. Williams has come to voice loudly his disapproval of Faith’s continued unmarried state. He believes her to be a belligerent young woman who needs to be put in her place as a subservient wife. He offers himself as a husband for Faith. Being devout Puritans, her parents decide it wouldn’t be wise to turn down his offer since he is a man of God.

Faith is outraged. Williams obviously dislikes her a great deal and is sure to be a cruel and callous husband. Faith decides the only reason he could want to marry her is to serve his male desires, which horrifies her even more. Deciding to take her future into her own hands, she leaves and stows away aboard the ship of a privateer (a kind term for pirate) headed for Jamaica where her aunt lives. A day or two after the ship sets sail, Faith is rescued from the belly of the ship where she has been plagued by rats, darkness, hunger and extreme thirst. She ends up in the cabin of Geoffrey Hampton, the ship’s captain. Geoff finds Faith interesting and quite beautiful and wants to keep her safe from the men in his service. One man in particular thinks the Captain should share his wench with the men and strongly voices his opinion on several occasions. Faith doesn’t venture out of Geoff’s cabin often; he thinks it best if she doesn’t tempt his men with her presence on deck.

Faith questions the strict code of her Puritan faith as she becomes more and more attracted to Geoff. Her faith dictates that lust is a sin, even within the bounds of marriage. Things become even more difficult when Faith finds that Geoff does not believe in God; he also shows constant disdain for her devout religious beliefs. But, he has problems of his own. Geoff has promised his good friend and second-in-command, Giles, that he will not touch Faith or do anything to her that she doesn’t ask for first. He wants her more than any other woman he’s ever met and the temptation is great, but he has to make her admit she wants him, too.

The rest of the story is based on the romance that blooms between Faith and Geoff, which does go beyond the initial desire. Since Faith is Puritan, Geoff is atheist and Elizabeth, Faith’s aunt, is Catholic, there is a lot of dialogue on the religious thinking of the time. Reed does a wonderful job of keeping the religious dialogue benign, however. Geoff and Faith have several hardships to overcome that include finding Faith’s aunt, Geoff being wanted for plundering a Spanish ship and Faith ultimately re-visiting her family. But the end is quite satisfying. There is at least one heartrending moment that will have the reader reaching for the tissue box.

One thing that was lacking was any kind of passion between the hero and heroine beyond a certain point in the story. Without giving anything away, there is a major difficulty that is overcome by Geoff and Faith about three-quarters of the way into the book. Into His Arms is a thoroughly enjoyable story with the exception of lacking passion between the hero and heroine beyond their initial consummation scenes, which was a bit of a disappointment. I look forward to reading Reed’s next novel, but I hope the author is able to keep the fire going up to the end next time.

--Tracy Merritt

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