This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Avon
Released on May 28, 2019
In the time of Reconstruction after the American Civil War, New Orleans is a roiling city. An intrepid Northern woman comes south to fight her own brand of independence and follow her dreams of teaching her own race and being her own woman like her grandmother. Valinda encounters Drake Le Veq and learns that passion and love are possible and she can dream of that for herself, too. My first read with this author and it won’t be my last the way history came alive and sensual romance made me swoon.
Rebel is the first book in the Women Who Dare series, but it is also the fourth book in the Le Veq series. I had no trouble beginning with this story as a first in series, but now I want to go back for the three earlier Le Veq stories and the closely related Indigo.
Valinda comes south from NYC to teach school under the auspices of a Convent and the Freedman’s Bureau. She comes alone and only with her father’s dubious blessing. She grew up free and educated in a fine upstanding family, but she never felt truly free knowing her father saw marrying her off as a business transaction at best. But, she has no intentions of marrying into a cold, arranged marriage and plans to marry a friend who won’t hinder her plans or have expectations. Right now, Cole is in Paris trying to get start-up help for his newspaper and she is temporarily in New Orleans to teach school.
But, it is dangerous times and she is set upon by three men who started squatting in the barn she was using as a school. A handsome man comes to her rescue and she is pulled into the intriguing world of the House of LeVeq descendants of pirates and their fierce, strong independent loves.
Captain Drake LeVeq is a catch around New Orleans and he isn’t intimidated by a courageous woman with plans. He is attracted to Valinda and is frustrated that she is intended elsewhere. He understands dreams with his work as a builder and architect and volunteer work in the Freedman’s Bureau and other organizations that protect and aid his own race and all people get a leg up after the war. Naturally, there are bigoted and prejudiced men who resort to threats and violence to have his way and his own Lieutenant is one of them. He tries to avoid Valinda, but finds her sweet innocence paired with the respect he feels for her capability and intelligence a heady combo to resist.
I went into this one eager because I’ve been meaning to try this author’s work for years. I even have a couple on the shelf, but this latest was the one that finally got me. The Reconstruction Era South and old New Orleans is something of a favorite period and setting for me. I was thrilled to discover shortly into the book that the author did her homework and painted the background and setting well. She brought in a free Northerner’s perspective, long-time free wealthy black business women, the sometimes snooty Creoles and the vibrant times and troubles for people trying to get their lives back after war and many starting over with nothing.
As to the romance, that is where I was on iffy ground. I loved both characters and thought they were great for each other. Respect and understanding was as important as the sexual attraction which was great to see.
However, I’m not a fan of my romance pair starting something even if its just kisses and spending time together with each other on their minds when they come with encumbrances. Valinda was engaged and Drake had a mistress. He eventually didn’t have the mistress, but it wasn’t because he left her- she took a better offer. I would have felt better if he had set the mistress aside earlier, but to be fair, he thought Valinda was going to leave and marry her intended.
It was Valinda who niggled me more. She was attracted to Drake and wanted to get rid of her own innocence so she kept up a light seduction to get him to show her and teacher her things. He was the gentleman who said no and kept his distance and she came onto him. It had a whiff of using him since she wasn’t planning to pursue him and that I found disappointing.
There was some late inning conflict when Valinda is forced to come to terms with whether she can trust that there really is such a thing as a love match between equals. Her waste of air father did some damage to her that now has to be handled. I get that, but at this point in the book after she’s been in intimate contact with three couples who are in love and are equal partners all from Drake’s family, her resistance to him felt a tad contrived.
I loved Valinda’s choice to provide education as her help to others and later realizing that practical skills paired with a fine education would serve people better than just handouts. The darker side of rape and pillaging from both sides, secret groups protecting their own and wrecking revenge, militant segregation, and evil people and opportunists taking advantage of the after-war chaos was also there and helped make up some of the book’s suspenseful moments.
Overall this was a splendid first outing with the author. I enjoyed her writing and will definitely be going back for more particularly the Le Veq family series and related stories. Historical Romance fans should definitely give this authentic-feeling, sensual, and engaging book/series a go.
I rec’d this book via Net Galley to read in exchange for an honest review.
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