A Warriner to Protect Her
In this first volume of Virginia Heath’s four book Wild Warriners series, a desperate heroine meets a stubborn hero in the aftermath of a great drama and sparks fly in a tale that ultimately has its ups and downs.
The orphaned tea heiress Violet “Letty” Dunston has been through some horrible things in her life. When we first meet her, she’s been kidnapped by the ancient but evil Earl of Bainbridge, who was dragging her – bound, gagged and at knifepoint – to a forced marriage at Gretna Green, after which he planned to kill her and split her vast inheritance with Letty’s uncle. Letty has managed to escape from his rushing carriage and has literally staggered into Jack Warriner, Earl of Markham, falling – almost – at his feet.
The usually practical and mature Jack is slightly sauced when he bumps into a bound and gagged woman in the middle of a rainstorm. When she passes out in his presence, Jack – knowing that there’s no way she can fend for herself on the country road where he’s found her – puts her on his horse and carries her to Markham Manor, the slowly-rotting, ancestral seat that once housed his evil forefathers but is now home to Jack and his three brothers, Joe, Jacob and Jamie. The men nurse the mysterious woman back to health and Jack instantly begins to fall for her, but Letty is suddenly wary, determined to keep herself safe and alive for the month to come until her twenty-first birthday, when Bainbridge and her Uncle will lose any right or claim to her estate. She tells the brothers her story, and Jack declares that he will watch over Letty until her birthday, at which point he will return her to London and make sure she safely receives her inheritance. But with love, lust and danger rearing their heads, an eventful month looms ahead for them all.
A Warriner to Protect Her suffers a bit from the stricture that holds it together. While the plot complicates everything, the romance is almost frustratingly UNDER complicated. When the author says she was inspired by Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, she definitely meant it.
Jack is instantly protective of and solicitous toward Letty and Letty, once she’s fully conscious, is the same way with Jack. This doesn’t leave the author much room for tension that isn’t manufactured by outside sources, so Letty yearns for Jack while Jack, once he finds out Letty is incredibly wealthy, decides that there’s no way she’d marry a disreputable, poor Warriner, which means we have to endure pages of “HOW DARE YOU TREAT ME LIKE A CHILD I CAN TAKE CARE OF MYSELF…oops, I’m light headed…Wait, why are you ignoring me?” and ”I can never be worthy of her so I’ll be very angry in the direction of her money – but let us snog anyway” hot and cold interplay and everyone gets mired in an idiotic plot that could be resolved with a few unspoken words – all of it completely unnecessary when you have the hero and heroine sharing body heat in the first chapter. The good portions of their relationship – fine passages in which they bond over their mutual orphan-hood, the heat between them as Letty watches Jack rescue a lamb from a swollen river (yes, the requisite semi-aristocratic-characters-rescue-helpless-animals scene happens in this one) – still count quite a way toward balancing the picture out a bit, but those rough spots still exist.
Letty makes such a strong initial impression with her daring escape that watching her turn into your average shrieking, foot-stomping heroine for a couple of chapters was disappointing. Out of the blue she starts shouting about being a strong, independent type of gal who absolutely COULDN’T live unchaperoned with four men (by this time she has accidentally flashed Jack her legs after sleeping in his shirt, been living in their house for days, and has, again, bundled up with Jack and is currently sleeping in his BED), followed by an immediate fainting fit so Jack could scoop her up in those strong arms she lusts for. SIGH. When she starts demanding a cook and a maid after living with the brothers for days it’s only after thinking to herself a few pages back, these characters don’t have the money for servants, which felt like the author trying to overstretch the plot. Letty finds Jack attractive because he doesn’t scurry around to please her. Yet I love other parts of her behavior and character, which develops as the story goes on; her unpretentiousness, the way she puts a little elbow grease into the Warriner’s home, her actual strength when rescuing animals during a storm. Letty is a rounded-out heroine, so moments of regression in her personality are especially annoying.
Jack’s hot and cold act makes him difficult to like for roughly half the book. He does have a tenderness and sense of humor that exist in the beginning and from the middle on, but he goes from gently nursing Letty to being bitter about her wealth and throwing his alpha weight around completely out of the blue. She finds out more about his likes and dislikes by snooping around the mansion than actually talking to him. His determination to take care of his family and profit from his own efforts is admirable.
The chemistry between the brothers is amusing and well, feels brotherly. My only quibble with them is that they all have convenient skills or professions to help out the plot; one’s a trainee doctor, another an ex-soldier good at spying on conversations, the third knows everything about society because he’s addicted to gossip columns, etc.
A Warriner to Protect Her comes very, very close to earning a recommendation from me. But as much fun as I had with the supporting characters and as much as I truly liked Letty, generally enjoyed Jack and loved the supporting players and some sections of the central romance, the plot’s clichés infect the book so thoroughly that the characterization and love story develop unevenly, making this a classic ‘middling’ grade story if there ever was one.