This one offered an intriguing premise in that Captain Caleb Haslet is returning after two years at sea to court his own wife who he was married to for one day before he put to sea. See? Catches the attention doesn’t it? The story is set against the back drop of the volatile time just before the American Colonies declare independence and war is official though in many ways it has already started.
Caleb remained faithful to his wife in his absence and after a farewell meal of sorts with his crew he is eager to reunite with her. Before he leaves the tavern, he receives the disconcerting news from more than one person that his wife is a temperamental woman engaging in shameless activities. It seems daunting, but Caleb is determined so he presses on.
Caleb’s return sets Abigail’s world of kilter and she feels her betraying heart flutter. She has many grievances to air against him and plans to ask for her annulment seeing as how she refused him the night of their wedding. But if she thinks that Caleb will be anything like the cold abandoning husband she imagined, she ends up being surprised at every turn. When it comes down to it, her list of concerns reduces down to just two important matters. She absolutely cannot and will not give up her work taking needed items to the prisoners and she refuses to begin a relationship with her husband so that she can protect her heart against the time that he will leave her again.
For Caleb’s part, he finds his wife’s prickles exasperating, but he finds all the other things about her just even more reasons to love her and convince her to share a real marriage with him. Unfortunately, it is not just his wife’s issues of abandonment that he must deal with. It seems now he must get her released from prison.
The story is novella length so I knew going in that it would be a rapid moving piece and probably not get a chance to develop like something of longer word count would. I was right on both counts. I ended up enjoying the story particularly the ending, but my mind couldn’t set aside the fact that things were rushing faster than I was ready for. These two had huge trust issues and were nearly strangers. It should have taken quite a bit of time and patience to build trust for the sort of relationship that they both yearned to have with each other. The switch in narrators between chapters and scenes did help get to know the characters and what they were thinking. The scenes in the prison and afterwards were probably the best and they were really good. I wished for more closer from the ending though at least the main issue was resolved.
I was of two minds about Abigail’s character. I found the ‘tough talking, take the rough British soldiers to task, swearing, I-know-best’ attitude jolting because of how true ladies of her class at the time behaved, but then I applaud her for continuing her work in the prisons in the face of opposition and giving when she faces deprivations herself and that she has done well in the absence of Caleb.
Caleb’s character I really liked though I felt he was rushing Abigail and set some high expectations on things. He made me chuckle the way he seemed so lost and at sea when it came to dealing with his wife. It’s obvious he’s a man accustomed to command and living in an all male environment. I love that he is determined to have a real marriage and do what it takes to make it happen though he never crosses the line into being a brute.
All in all, it was a good read offering up the unique time period right before the war and a challenging, but engaging hero and heroine that fans of steamy historical romance with not enough time for novels might appreciate.
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