In Name Only
An historical romance set in Cleveland?! Well yes, and it’s a refreshing change of pace from the old west settings of most American historical romances. For that reason alone, I was intrigued when I picked it up. In Name Only turned out to be not only intriguing but excellent – it’s one of the best American historical romances I have read this year.
In the prologue, Ian Patterson and his family come into church one Sunday. The Reverend MacPherson proceeds to preach a sermon condemning evil ways, all the while staring straight at Ian, who is his son-in-law and the man who donated the land for the church. What are Ian’s sins? He likes to smoke a cigar and drink a glass of brandy after the day’s work is done.
When the story begins, Ian’s wife Lily has died in childbirth, leaving him with four young children. As Ian is a shipping captain, and is sometimes gone for lengthy periods of time, his sister-in-law Valeriana (Ana) comes to help care for the children. Ana is a true daughter of her father. She is intelligent and could be a lovely woman, but she is stiff, rigid and as disapproving of her brother-in-law as her father is.
As she lives in her brother-in-law’s household, Ana can’t help but notice what a good man Ian is. He works hard, he is honest and charitable, his employees all admire and respect him, he loves his children deeply and they love him in return. Also, he is as handsome as can be, and soon Ana is beginning to have feelings that make her quite uncomfortable. Can such a good man as Ian seems to be really be the horrid sinner the Reverend says he is?
When Ian makes plans to move his family to an island in Lake Erie, Reverend MacPherson’s reaction is one that makes one wonder about his sanity. He threatens to ruin the good name of Ana. To protect her, and so she will not have to be separated from the children she has grown to love, Ian offers marriage, and Ana accepts on the condition that it be in name only.
Ana is not at all likable at first, but she is very, very real. We have all read historical romances where the heroines were nothing but 21st century women in starched petticoats. Not Ana – there is nothing modern about her thinking at all. Since she has spent all her formative years with her narrow Calvinist father, Ana has absorbed his attitudes and today we would call her a bigot. She bursts into a tirade when a family of Catholic Frenchmen move near them, and as a Catholic myself I was rather uncomfortable with her ranting. But the story was set in a time where the Nativist movement was beginning to stir in the United States. This movement was opposed to Catholics and the foreign born and Ana’s attitudes were common. Ana does unbend in the course of the story and most of her rigid attitudes get tossed in the lake, but it is to the author’s credit that Ana does retain a certain starchy rectitude even at the end. She still won’t drink herself, but she realizes that a glass or two of wine does not make one a sot.
Ian, is much more modern in his attitudes and that would be so given his profession. A shipping captain meets a broader range of people and has to respect them and their differences in order to do business. Ian is likeble from the start and his relationship with his children is especially well-depicted.
The history in In Name Only is deftly woven into the story. There are no spots where characters stand still and lecture the reader. I didn’t know what to expect when I began this book, but it didn’t take me long to fall in love with it. I loved the setting, I loved the characters and I especially loved how stiff, cold, unlikable Ana became a warm and loving wife. If you like historical romances set in America, but are tired of the West and cowboys, try In Name Only – here is a romance that really is different.