It was the title. I saw the words ‘soldier’ and ‘secret’ so I just had to grab it. I love historicals and I was very taken with a post-Napoleonic War story that featured an English man broken by the war and a French woman artist who is searching for clues to her past.
The story begins when Jack Trestain leaves the army to come home to the civilian life at his brother’s estate. Something so horrific occurred during the war that he will never be able to forget and it will haunt him forever. Jack’s relations are concerned that he doesn’t seem to be getting better, but worse so they tip-toe around him while trying to make him welcome in his childhood home. They want to know about his glorious time in Wellington’s army, but he can’t bring himself to speak of it.
Into this situation comes a landscape artist hired to preserve the scenes around the estate now that Jack’s brother and sister in law make extensive plans to redo the estate grounds. Celeste is happy to have this commission in England, but her motives are not all just for the work. With her mother’s death and the receipt of a letter from beyond the grave, Celeste learns that everything she once thought about her family and her life is suspect. She needs the answers so she can move on. Encountering the brother of her employer side tracks her a little as she discerns that he has dark secrets that rival her own and just as she never plans to trust or open herself up to a relationship, the same is true of him.
Jack doesn’t know what to make of the woman who challenges him and claims that she feels nothing though she feels deeply behind that wall she puts up to the world. Celeste dares to question him and challenge him to let go his secrets even as he slowly pries hers from her as well. The attraction between them is palpable, but his guilt won’t allow him to move on it toward anything permanent and Celeste feels the same- or so he thinks.
When I began this story, it took me a bit to warm up to Celeste and settle into the story. The author chose to approach things by plunging right in before pulling back to slowly unveil their secrets. As the truth came out, my emotions were strongly engage for this pair who carried around such heavy guilt. Neither saw themselves as others saw them and didn’t feel fit for ordinary life. They have the star-crossed lover thing going strongly as a result.
The story moved along nicely and I enjoyed the little surprises that were tucked in as secrets were revealed. All the exciting moments happened in the past and this one stayed gently paced with just a few moments of sexual tension or moments when Jack or Celeste were confronting their personal demons.
I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of historical detail that added color and layers to the story. Jack’s involvement in the war, Celeste’s connection to the French Revolution, and their place now in peacetime England and France was all so well-told.
The romance is one that begins with sizzling attraction and some sultry bedroom scenes, but paired with that is the slow development of trust, understanding, friendship, and a strong yearning on both their parts.
In summation, this was an engaging and touching historical romance that I would recommend to historical romance lovers who enjoy a bit of spice and a nice dab of authenticity.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
This was my June To Be or Not to Be…Read vote winner. It was good stuff and as usual it adds a bit of excitement to read a book picked by someone else.
Romance Roundabout # 260 HR
Historical Romance # 70
New to Me # 126 author/series
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