Desert Isle Keeper
I don’t often have insomnia, but when I do, I look on it as an opportunity to read. Sometimes if the book is sufficiently dull, it puts me right back to sleep. This was not the case with Gallant Waif and I did something I haven’t done in a long time. I read it right through in a single sitting and wanted to read it again right after I had finished. This book is why I read romances. I loved everything about it and had not one single, solitary quibble. Gallant Waif was as good a book as I have read in a long time.
Major Jack Carstairs has come home from the wars with a scar on his face, and a ruined leg. When Jack comes to claim his lovely betrothed Julia, she lets it be known that she can’t stay with a man who is scarred – he’s ugly. As for Jack’s leg – he can’t dance and what use is a man who can’t dance or ride a horse, to a belle like herself. But the worst thing of all is Jack’s father has mostly disinherited him, and the Divine Julia can’t live in a pokey little old mansion like Sevenoaks, now can she?
Jack holes up at Sevenoaks drinking. His strong minded grandmother Lady Cahill who is worried about her beloved grandson, takes off to try and talk sense into his proud and stubborn head. Along the way, she stops to visit Kate Fairleigh, the daughter of her goddaughter. Lady Cahill finds Kate alone and in poverty, her father and brothers all dead in the war. Kate was overseas in the war with her father and brothers and upon their death, she has no one, so she has plans to go into service. Kate most definitely does not want any charity from Lady Cahill. But you do not say no to a proud, imperious regency Lady and before she knows it, Kate has been kidnapped and is on her way to Sevenoaks with Lady Cahill.
Jack is a mess. The house is a mess, and Kate who has grown used to creating order out of chaos is soon setting things aright to Lady Cahill’s delight and Jack’s despair. Jack and Kate are like match and tinder and their fights are a treat. I never ever thought I could like a character who throws things but I was cheering as crockery and coffepots whizzed by Jack’s stubborn head.
But this is not a Taming of the Shrew story at all. It is as good a story about the healing of two wounded souls as I have ever read. Jack has been hurt in body by the war and in soul by the faithless Julia. Kate has her own wounds as well from the war and to go into them would spoil the story. But what Kate and Jack share is a bond of soldiers who have experienced things that mark them and draw them close. That bond between Kate, Jack and his friends who also served in the war, is brought home in a scene where Kate is snubbed at a ball by haughty gossips who have nothing better to do than shred a helpless young woman’s reputation. Another scene, and one that had me in tears, was so superbly written I had to stop and re-read it. It involves Jack, his soldier friends, and even Wellington himself.
I loved the characters – each and every one of them. Jack was so hurt, so prone to bluster and command, yet so fundamentally kind and loving. And Kate was strong yet vulnerable, quick tempered and intelligent. I loved the secondary characters as well – especially Carlos, Jack’s devoted Spanish valet. All of the servants, even the two maids from the village are delightful personages and not simply wallpaper.
Whatever you do, please stop by the local bookstore, grocery store or wherever you buy your books and get this. Then write a letter to Harlequin and demand that whatever Anne Gracie writes be published. She is from Australia where this book was first published and I would hate to see her not get a contract with an American publisher. For me there have only been a handful of truly good historical romances so far this year, but I have no qualms in saying that Gallant Waif is going to rank very, very high on my list of the Best Romances for 2001. As a matter of fact, I’m going out to buy a second copy. This is one book I don’t ever want to be without.
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About the author
LLB: I heard raves about both books Anne Gracie has had published by Harlequin on our canwetalk discussion list. Rarely have I been so swayed by a reader comments as I was when I read about Tallie's Knight (her other book). I was so taken that I immediately ordered both at Amazon!