Friday, August 18, 2017

Book of the Week - Once a Rebel by Mary Jo Putney

The second book in Putney's Rogues Redeemed series is in a way, a love letter to Baltimore. Wait a minute, Regency romances are set in England, usually London or Bath, but all the same, much of this book is set in Washington and Baltimore and on top of it, the story starts in 1799 (a good decade before the Regency). Readers who love this era, will enjoy Putney's latest.

Catherine Callista Brook, age 16, facing a horrifying marriage to a man three times her age, seeks help from her best friend who she calls Richard to escape the forced marriage. Unfortunately the two teens are caught by their respective abusive fathers and to keep Richard from being beaten to death, Callie accepts marriage to the Jamaican planter who has fallen for her devilish red hair. Fast forward to 1814 and Richard, now called Gordon, a world wise adventurer accepts a contract to go to America and in the midst of the war of 1812, to find and bring  the widow of Matthias Audley back to England. Callie Audley fled to Washington, with her teenage step children and their grandparents after her husband died and the will, freeing the slaves on his plantations including his beloved children and made provision for their futures, disappeared. In Washington, the English born Callie makes a decent living as a seamstress but worries about the future of her mixed race step children. When an attack on Washington seems imminent she sends her family off to safety in Baltimore while remaining behind to protect her home and business. Richard arrives just in the nick of time to rescue her from British soldiers, intent on rape, have burned her house.  Thus begins a series of adventures and dangerous events involving the Battle of Baltimore that inspired The Star Spangled Banner, several murder attempts, a secret passage, and an exploding tower.

Callie and Richard are independent, resourceful, intelligent, and determined protagonists whose relationship begins with a powerful friendship and develops into a passionate love. The setting is fresh. One doesn't usually find much historical fiction about the War of 1812 and the danger and adventure just keep coming. Readers of the Lost Lords series will delight at a couple of cameo appearances of fondly remembered characters.

The dedication to the memory of Jo Beverley brought tears to my eyes and the Historical Notes at the end were well appreciated show Putney's research and respect for history.

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