Destined to Last
Alissa Johnson’s Destined to Last was just what I needed this week amidst my finals and papers: A solid historical romance with interesting characters and a well-developed relationship.
Lady Kate Cole isn’t known for her grace; She has a tendency to knock things over and trip, but it’s not because she’s clumsy. She’s actually a prodigious musician constantly distracted by the songs playing in her head. It’s a gift, but not one appreciated by most for being given to a woman of the peerage. In any case, her propensity for small accidents has driven away men who would otherwise be charmed by her beauty and kindness.
Except for Mr. Andrew Hunter, a former criminal and resident of a workhouse, and current reluctant agent for the War Office. He’s drawn to Kate, and fully intends to make her his wife. His term with the War Office is almost up, but he has one last mission: Attend a house party where there is a suspected smuggling ring orchestrated by a member of the aristocracy that may be bringing letters to French spies in England along with the brandy. The suspect is a known admirer of Lady Kate, and so she may be in danger of getting involved. Hunter is sent to keep an eye on her, which of course leads to adventures, kissing, and a growing attraction.
The beginning of the book disoriented me a bit. It could have used a bit more of a set-up. However, despite my initial reservations, things came together nicely. The smuggling ring is not forefront in the plot. It really is just a ploy (and not just an authorial one) to bring the two together, and as such there was a refreshing lack of drama or TSTL antics by the heroine in relation to spying and adventure-seeking. All in all, Kate was generally an intelligent person and didn’t do stupid things for the sake of adventure – she just took calculated risks, which the characters distinguish in the book.
Andrew is actually sort of the dumb one in this case. He suffers from what so many romance heroes have—the conviction that they will never fall in love. No, ma’am, they’re never going to let themselves get hurt like that. It’s trite, and causes the expected and often seen drama, but at least in this case it’s relatively well done.
The two of them together really work. It was interesting to see them switch roles—from she being reluctantly pursued, to he being the one trying to create some emotional distance. They had a wonderful emotional connection that was subtly developed. However, Andrew’s motives were difficult to discern for much of the book. It wasn’t until the last part that we finally got some explanation, and this led to some confusion for me up until that point.
It’s clear that Alissa Johnson features several of the couples that played minor roles in this book in others. If they’re anything like Destined to Last, I know I’ll enjoy them.