For the First Time
This was the first book by former AAR Reviewer Kathryn Smith that I’ve read, but it definitely will not be last. When I started the book I thought it was well done, but nothing spectacular or particularly new. Then I got a little further in and found myself charmed by truly likable characters which nowadays seem much harder to find than an original plot. As the book continued, I couldn’t help but enjoy it.
Lady Blythe Christian is not looking forward to the country party her brother Miles, the Marquess of Wynter, is throwing because she’ll be forced to spend time with the Earl of Carnover. Carny and Blythe were once engaged, but he went off to fight Bonaparte, was wounded at Waterloo, and was nursed back to health by Teresa, whom he married, effectively jilting Blythe. She’s spent the last two years hiding at her brother’s country estate in Devonshire and plotting to use her dowry to buy the nearby estate of Rosewood. Only her brother has also invited his friend Devlin Ryland, who’s also interested in purchasing Rosewood.
Blythe has another reason to dislike Devlin; he saved Carny’s life (causing him to meet Teresa and thus causing Blythe’s eventual embarrassment). Blythe doesn’t hold it against Devlin, who charms her from their first meeting – especially since Devlin is one of the few men in society who’s taller than her own six feet. Devlin makes her feel feminine and small. He also intrigues her with his humbleness. Most call him a war hero, he claims to just be a soldier doing his duty; he tried to stay alive and keep his friends alive as well. Yet, Blythe’s not sure she can risk her heart again, especially on a man that doesn’t even know what love is.
Even though I’m a mere 5’7″, I have a plethora of 5’0″ friends, and could easily identify with Blythe’s size issues and the joy at spending time with someone who makes one feel petite and feminine. So I admit she immediately won my empathy as a character. She kept it by being a genuinely nice person. She has every reason to be bitter towards Carny and to resent his wife, but short of a few sharp barbs to remind Carny he’d jilted her there’s no meanness in her. She even befriends his wife Teresa and becomes a sounding board for the couple as they work through marital issues. Blythe also doesn’t allow her brother Miles to manipulate her into a relationship, nor does she allow his machinations to blind her from the fact that Devlin is a worthy life partner. She doesn’t avoid pursuing happiness with Devlin just to spite her brother.
Devlin is also a very likable character. Haunted by his time as a soldier, he seeks peace from his dreams, and for someplace to belong. When he meets Blythe for the first time he begins to think he might be worthy of love. But he must learn how to trust and to let her in; he must allow her to see his demons and become part of the life he tries to hide from the rest of the world.
Unfortunately Devlin’s background leads me to my one real nit-pick with the story. As the youngest son of a viscount a military career makes sense, it would also allow him to move in the same social circles as Carny and Miles, but throughout the story we’re told he is nothing more than a common soldier, which makes his position in the story seem off. He was not impoverished so why did his family not buy him a commission? And would two officers, who are also members of the nobility, really fraternize with a common foot soldier? Let alone the Duke of Wellington, who, though he thought common soldiers were “the scum of the earth,” is still apparently a close friend of Devlin’s. Though essentially a nit-pick, it bothered me throughout the entire book.
Issues with the accuracy of the social structure aside, I really liked For the First Time. I believed in Blythe and Devlin’s love and that their happily ever after would truly last. Now I have to go search out Miles and Varya’s story Elusive Passion just so I can visit these characters again.