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Friday, May 20, 2011

The Soldier by Grace Burrowes



The Soldier by Grace Burrowes
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (406 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

Even in the quiet countryside he can find no peace...

His idyllic estate is falling down from neglect and nightmares of war give him no rest. Then Devlin St. Just meets his new neighbor...

Until his beautiful neighbor ignites his imagination...

With her confident manner hiding a devastating secret, his lovely neighbor commands all of his attention, and protecting Emmaline becomes Deviln’s most urgent mission.

Redemption, in its most loving form, works its magic for Devlin St. Just, new Earl of Rosecroft in Yorkshire, as well as for Emmaline Farnum, even though they both think they are beyond it. Getting to share this emotional experience with them is a special treat for the reader. Grace Burrowes creates another enthralling tale just as captivating as The Heir.

Emmaline (Emmie) Farnum saw her mother and aunt used by men but does not plan for it to happen to her. The old Earl, grandfather of the despicable (now dead) Helmsley had protected Emmie as best he could. He gave her a house away from Rosecroft so she would not be easy prey for the grandson. She now makes her way by baking for the town’s people who do not really know her, yet think they do. She is considered a base-born woman but her beauty, intelligence, independence, education, and strength make many of the town’s women envy her. They whisper that they are sure she is “no better than she has to be” just like her mother and aunt. They feel she should bow her head in shame over who she is but she doesn’t.

Emmie, a good judge of character, especially male character, recognizes the barbarian element under the smooth sophistication of the new Earl of Rosecroft. She also sees his wounded spirit and the strong defenses he has erected to keep people at bay. She finds he carries old hurts from childhood and horrors of war that set him apart from others—even from his family that loves him unconditionally. Emmie, just like Devlin, guards herself against others. She holds her secrets tightly, making sure they cannot hurt little five-year-old Bronwyn (Winnie), her only kin.

Winnie, the illegitimate daughter of the despicable Helmsley, considers Emmie her best friend but runs away at times and roams the estate alone since the death of Emmie’s aunt and Helmsley. Emmie takes care of Winnie as best she can but has no authority over her.

Devlin St. Just, now Earl of Rosecroft, arrives in Yorkshire to find his “gift” from the king is a rundown earldom that had been used and abused. Devlin’s post traumatic stress syndrome from his years at war makes his temper flare easily and his nightmares drive him to the edge. The ‘do-nothing’ steward at Rosecroft sets Devlin’s nerves on edge. His rage boils when the steward says the child who acts like a little feral kitten: all, claws, teeth, and hissing anger, is Helmsley's illegitimate child and is now Devlin’s responsibility. He remembers his own mother who abandoned him when he was five. Granted she left him in the care of his father, Duke of Moreland and his Duchess that loved Devlin just as much if not more than all the other children. Yet, he had always felt flawed because his own mother did not want him. He grew up the protector of his siblings and went to war to protect his country and its people, but he found no peace for himself. Devlin connects with the insecure little Winnie and works gently to tame her. Like most kittens, she responses well to cuddling and comfort.

When Devlin and Emmie join forces in the best interest of Winnie, they each recognize secrets and self-esteem problems in each other, problems that thwart their finding peace, security, and love. With a few secondary characters like the Vicar and Lady Tosten with her marriage-age daughter causing even more conflicts, the new Earl of Rosecroft finds Emmie slipping away from him and Winnie even though he is sure she love them both.

If you have read other stories about the Moreland clan, you will get to catch up on what is going on in many of their lives—such fun to see that all is well with them. It is great to see that Val, with his piano talent, unstinting love, and good humor, keeps his strong tie with Devlin and brings joy to the fierce little Winnie. He is a bright spot in the story while Devlin’s brother-in-law Amery is a steady, positive companion for Devlin as he begins to put Rosecroft in order.

Devlin, Emmie, and Winnie all three fight their separate wars. They are survivors who heal together as they move along, stumbling often, toward a happy-ever-after.

Grace Burrowes takes the reader into the depths of the characters’ beings showing the horrible hurts, the bit by bit healing, and the heartfelt happiness that emerges victorious. Ms. Burrowes’ character development, use of imagery, and her ability to create a strong sense of place make The Soldier a breathtaking love story that lingers in the mind and heart.

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