Sunday, December 12, 2010
The ton loves nothing more than a good scandal, and they're giddy with the appearance of wealthy Samuel Hartley. Not only is he self-made, American, and in the habit of wearing moccasins, but he is also notorious for fleeing a battle in which several English gentlemen lost their lives. What the ton doesn't know, though, is that Samuel is in London because of this massacre. He believes his regiment was given up to the enemy and won't rest until he finds the traitor.
Lady Emeline Gordon is captivated with Samuel. Not only does he defy convention with his unusual dress, his sensual smile, and his forthright manner, but he survived the battle that killed her beloved brother. Samuel suspects that the person responsible for her brother's death is Jasper Renshaw, Viscount Vale, a family friend since childhood - and Emeline's fiance. Despite Emeline's belief in Vale's innocence and her refusal to break off her betrothal, she and Samuel begin a passionate affair. But can their relationship survive the fallout from Samuel's investigation?
I really loved this book, I had no idea what to expect, but I knew I'd probably like it since I loved Elizabeth Hoyt's previous "Prince" series. If this first book in her Legends of Four Soldiers series is any indication of how the rest of it will be, then I think I'm going to love this series! This was a great story! It had romance, humor, a mystery, everything I love in a book. Colonial Samuel Hartley descends upon 1760's London in his unorthodox buckskin leggings and moccasins to solve the mystery of what happened during a fateful battle in the French Indian War and who was the traitor that set them up for the massacre in Quebec. Sophisticated Lady Emeline Gordon keeps insisting she is not attracted to this uncouth man, but she can't deny it - she is lost to his good looks and rugged countenance. Yet, she's engaged to someone else? What to do? I loved this!
Samuel Hartley is not your usual drop dead good looking, take charge, indomitable alpha hero. Although set during the 1760's pre-Revolutionary War, Samuel reads more like a modern hero. He's American, or rather a Colonial, since the Revolutionary War hasn't begun yet. He shakes hands, rather than bowing and scraping. He wears moccasins and leggings, forgoes a powdered wig. He wears a queue, no powder. No dandy, he sticks to browns and black, typical of a Colonial, despite his fortune (in trade!) Top notch with a gun, no one comes close to him in shooting with his Kentucky Long Rifle. He has a mystery about him as well, running alone amidst the darkened alleyways and backstreets of London in the middle of the night. He's a runner. I found this refreshing in an historical novel. Usually you find this sort of modern persona in independent minded historical heroines, which I find grating and out of character, but with Samuel I found it kind of neat for a change. Don't get me wrong, he's still very much the Georgian male animal who was a British soldier in the colonies fighting in the French and Indian War. While there, his regiment was massacred in a crucial battle near Quebec. He is convinced there was a traitor in their midst - an officer - who knew the plans of where the regiment would be heading. Ambushed alongside a river, almost all were lost. Samuel is, what today we would consider, a cross county runner. Upon viewing the carnage and total annihilation of his troop, he fled the scene and ran to get help - hence why he has been called a coward for running away. But in truth, he ran miles and miles, destroying his feet until they looked like bloody stumps to get help and notify his superiors of the ambush.
Now, several years later, Samuel is in London to learn the truth and find out who the traitor was. He systematically investigates all the possible officers that are still alive who could have been responsible. This is where we meet our heroine, Lady Emeline Gordon. A beautiful widow with a young son, Emeline is renowned for her respectability and decorum, the top of her class. Her brother also fought and died in the above mentioned massacre. Samuel seeks her out to find out whether she may be able to shed any light on the matter, although he does not want her to know what he's up to. He worries that she will think he is a coward for running from the battle in Quebec as well. His sister, who is in need of sophistication, is the perfect excuse for Samuel to "hire" Lady Emeline (who has a talent for this sort of thing) to oversee her debut and give her some polish.
Emeline is not the typical heroine either. I found her refreshing as well. Not some simpering miss, she is older - though still a beauty. She has a worldly sophistication about her. She is at home in London or at a country estate. The English aristocracy is her fishbowl, and she is a pro at maneuvering her way inside it. So, when she meets Samuel Hartley - she is a bit taken aback! He is not what she's used to. Somewhat coarse and unrefined, he is constantly surprising her with his manners and customs - yet she is drawn to him and soon finds herself finding ways to run into him - it doesn't hurt that he's rented the townhouse next door to hers or that her son has taken an immediate shine to him as well! The feeling is mutual, Samuel is attracted to Emeline and takes her son under his wing. The boy needs a male influence badly. But, did I mention that Lady Emeline is engaged to be married to one of the officer's at the massacre? Her fiance, Viscount Vale is an old childhood friend. I really liked him a lot - though he's not meant for Emeline. He becomes an ally of Samuel's and together they join forces to find the traitor. I'm sure another book will be about him and (I hope!) Emeline's dowdy best friend! Emeline is also interested in solving the mystery, for she was close to her brother and wants to get to the bottom of his death (a death so horrible they do all they can to spare her the details).
Samuel is not infallible. He cannot bear to be in crowds - the fetid smell of sweat and unwashed bodies haunts him and brings back memories of the war and battle. It is debilitating and a major chink in his armor. He's not the life of the party in a crowded ball room to say the least. He has his flaws and I loved the way Emeline rescues him more than once and doesn't lose her head. Simply put, they're made for each other, even if they come from totally different worlds. How on Earth are they going to come to terms with their different backgrounds and live happily ever after?
There are tons of details I'm leaving out, but take my word for it. This book has everything! Chock full of rich descriptions of Georgian England, there's a mystery regarding the massacre, some skulduggery and suspense regarding the real villain, plus a cartload of interesting characters with a delightfully unorthodox courtship between Emeline and Samuel. Their romance builds and builds, stringing the reader along, but if you're familiar with Elizabeth Hoyt's previous books you know she doesn't let her readers down when it comes to sex! ;) In addition, each chapter starts off with the "Tale of the Four Soldiers" which parallels the main story. This one is about the soldier that went into the woods. Very cleverly done! Read it and enjoy!