Celine is the first book in a new series, taking place in 19th century America. I love the sweeping, epic feel that good American historicals have, and this one certainly fits the bill. There’s family drama, romantic drama, actual danger, and a certain mysterious something that makes this novel just feel luscious.
Celine Kirkland, in one stormy night, lost her husband, father, and unborn child to a terrible accident. Luckily Justin Andrews, a friend of her father’s, is happy to take her in, and shelter Celine with his family at their plantation, Carlton Oaks. Unfortunately, she’s thrown out of her comfort zone when, after a year of staying with the family, the prodigal son returns. Trevor Andrews, known ladies’ man, is back in New Orleans after some time in England to expand the family’s shipping business. From the moment he steps off the paddleboat, however, he is captivated by the widow who has become part of his family. Their lack of communication and their expectations of what their lives should be rips them apart again and again, but their journey, sweeping across the American West, has just begun.
First, the setting. I am definitely a bit picky – as a New Orleans native, I was looking for a certain feel to the location. While there are a lot of different famous New Orleans sites (the St. Charles Hotel, the Garden District, and the Dueling Oaks to name a few), the story could have taken place just about anywhere in the South. There’s a bit of creole flavor hiding here and there, but it felt more researched than true. But then again, New Orleans is my home, and I want my home to feel real, rather than a just famous place to set a novel. The plantation setting, however, was gorgeous and real, and I loved it.
Now, the characters here were just fabulous – Celine and Trevor were complicated and interesting and infuriating and endearing all at the same time, and it was great. To start with, Celine is an incredibly strong woman. In a horrible storm, she is trapped under a carriage, pregnant, with her husband and father. While waiting to be rescued from the rising waters of the storm, she gives birth to her dead child alone, injured, and desperately scared. I kinda fell in love with her a little bit. Unsurprisingly, Trevor and Celine both suffer from a case of the stupids that leave them separating just when they should be getting together, but they both definitely still had growing to do as individuals before they could come back as a stronger couple.
Unfortunately, the end of the book takes a turn for the crazy. Apparently all the drama and the uncertainty from their relationship just wasn’t enough – we also get to read about wagon trains and Native Americans, meet the hero for the next book (who is actually utterly fascinating, and I would like to read his story now), and it all happens in under 100 pages. Now, I have no problems with any of these things, especially when reading about American history and travel into the American west. Sadly, it felt more like the author was given a list of things to include, and she ran out of other things to say so we get it all at once.
Overall, Celine is a good start to what promises to be an interesting series. I’m looking forward to Wolf’s story, which should be in the next book. There’s a lot going on, and it’s fairly formulaic, but I liked Celine and Trevor, and I wanted their happily ever after. So yeah, not the best I’ve ever read, but it’s definitely closer to the top of the good books pile than I expected.