Desert Isle Keeper
A Question of Honor
Being a romance reader in the current publishing climate is not easy. Publishers, like television execs, seem to figure if something is a success then similar books will also be successful. Thus they keep publishing those same things, over and over and over. The thing in this particular case is the Regency-set historical and lately it’s become a challenge to find the good ones amongst all the bad. Nita Abrams’ debut novel, A Question of Honor, is well worth the effort.
I had a few uneasy moments in the beginning of the book as the hero, Captain Richard Drayton, is asked to go behind enemy lines and spy on the French, and the heroine, Rachel Roth Meyer, talks her way into a job as temporary governess with remarkable ease. Fortunately, the author very quickly put my fears to rest. These aren’t your stock Regency characters. Each acts to the best of his abilities while still making mistakes and facing consequences. Each action serves the story. More importantly, each also serves the characters.
First, let’s look at Richard. Yes, he’s asked to go on a mission behind enemy lines, but it’s not for his derring-do. In fact his superiors aren’t even sure he’s right for the job given his hot-headed behavior. What they are sure of is he’s the only one around with the necessary knowledge of engineering. They need detailed surveys of the bridges on their route, and Richard’s all they’ve got. Richard does complete his mission, but not without making a foolish mistake that nearly costs him his life. His wounds get him sent home to his sister’s care.
His sister is Lady Sara Barrett and she’s just hired Rachel Roth Meyer to be a temporary governess for her difficult niece. Rachel is the niece of a wealthy Jewish banker and must keep her identity secret in order to join the household. Being Jewish is enough to make her an unacceptable addition to the household, and her employers know nothing about her true goal – to stay in contact with her younger brother who is operating out of a nearby coastal village. Richard is immediately drawn to Rachel and vice versa. The nice thing is that they act rationally despite this fact. And by rationally I mean more like a Carla Kelly character than Stephanie Laurens one. Don’t get me wrong; I greatly enjoy Ms. Laurens’ books but her heroes and heroines wouldn’t be first on my list of most realistic/thoughtful protagonists. When the two are inadvertently compromised Rachel knows they cannot marry; she is unable to explain the reason to Richard, but is able to come up with an intelligent (though somewhat drastic) solution. These characters discuss their situation and relationship. They act like adults – behavior that is practically unheard of in most of the Regency-set historicals you’ll find in the book store.
Richard and Rachel’s difficult relationship is at the center of this strong debut. But they are not the only strength of this novel. Nita Abrams has very carefully drawn each supporting character as well. From eight-year-old Caroline (Rachel’s charge) to the villain – every character is multidimensional. The villain alone makes this a book worth recommending. Though seemingly “one-note” at first it becomes very clear that there is more to him than meets the eye. That’s something that can be said for just about everybody who makes an appearance is this book.
My only quibble is Rachel’s religion – or maybe the lack thereof. The author gives ample space to a discussion of how difficult Rachel thinks a marriage to a non-Jewish man will be, both for her and him. But up until that point the reader sees very little to indicate Rachel is Jewish, other then the telling. For the most part I got that her beliefs were strongly held, but only because of the strength of Rachel as a character, not because of anything the author put into the book.
As I finished A Question of Honor I put some thought into just how Ms. Abrams had made this book worth the hunt. Though there were many small things I think she did well, the biggest and best is that she made this story and time period hers. Not something that can be said of the many others in the endless supply of historical clones being pushed by publishers. That being the case, you should think of this review as a shortcut in the quest for a fresh read. Happy hunting!