The Rebel is the third installment in the Men of Pride County series, and it is definitely a departure from the other two. While the hero is a man from Pride County, almost all of the story is set in territorial New Mexico. And unlike the other two, the bulk of the story takes place during the Civil War, rather than afterwards. While I enjoyed the book, it wasn’t quite what I had been anticipating. In the end, the strong characterization helped me get over my disappointment that the book wasn’t set in Pride County.
Confederate Major Noble Banning is a man with a real moral dilemma. He and his men are slowly starving to death in a northern prison in 1864, but they have been offered a chance for parole if they will fight for the Union army in New Mexico. Noble doesn’t want to turn his back on his people, but in the end he decides that allowing his men to die needlessly would be the greater sin. He has an additional reason for his decision; he will be serving under Colonel Crowley, the man who is responsible for capturing his unit. He knows that one of his own men betrayed him to the Union, and he hopes to be able to discover the man’s identity while they serve together.
Right before they leave for New Mexico, Noble meets Colonel Crowley’s daughter, Juliet. She will be making the trip as well, and she lets Noble know that she doesn’t trust him or his men. She is sure her father is making a big mistake by placing his life in the hands of these men. But once they get to New Mexico, Noble slowly begins to earn her respect. Although he is sometimes arrogant, he is also capable and industrious. As for Noble, he finds himself constantly thinking of Juliet. Although he had always pictured himself marrying a delicate Pride County woman after the war, he is drawn to Juliet’s intelligence and forthright personality. Colonel Crowley secretly hopes the two will marry, and he tries to throw them together at every opportunity.
Although they realize their feelings for each other fairly quickly, each has doubts about the relationship. Noble worries that his feelings for Juliet will distract him from the more important goal of finding out who betrayed his unit. Juliet is concerned that Noble is just using her to find out the identity of the traitor. Meanwhile, there is a rival for Juliet’s affection. Miles Dougherty has known Juliet for some time, and would very much like to marry her. As Noble and Juliet face several skirmishes with the Apache, they come to care more and more about each other. But before they can be together, each must learn to trust the other completely.
The best part of this book is the strong characterization, of both the primary and secondary characters such as Colonel Crowley and Miles. My favorite of this second-tier of characters was George Allen, who serves as the army chaplain. He and Noble have several discussions about the morality of war, and George has some interesting problems of his own.
Noble and Juliet are well-rounded, three dimensional characters, and I enjoyed watching them fall for each other. Noble constantly struggles with his decision to take his troops west. He feels responsible for every death, and he has trouble forgiving himself for any mistake. What I liked best about him was his honesty; he didn’t try to hide his feelings for Juliet or his moral struggles. Juliet is also an enjoyable and multi-layered character. Though she serves as competent hostess for her father, she has always longed for a real home. Hopefully the next book in the series will move it back to Pride County again, and we can see Juliet enjoy her new environment.
The sexual tension between Noble and Juliet is well-maintained. I wondered how they were going to manage to get together with Juliet’s father around, but they do. There are several interrupted encounters before the first real love scnene, and they serve to heighten the tension. The sub-plot involving the identity of the traitor was also very intriguing. I admit to guessing him correctly at the end, but his identity wasn’t at all obvious.
The flaws in this book are mostly historical; sometimes it didn’t feel as though a war was going on. At other times, reactions were blown out of proportion. And, author West had Noble and his men take the train to New Mexico about a decade before it would have been possible. For some reason, many romance authors are unsure of the timing of railroad expansion. Generally the mistake is the opposite of the one made by West and characters travel by wagon train when they could have taken a faster trip by rail. This is one of those things every writer needs to double-check if their characters journey west during the nineteenth century.
With its western setting, The Rebel is similar in many ways to the books that Rosalyn West wrote as Dana Ransom. Although I enjoy her westerns, I was hoping we would get to see a little more of the characters from the previous books in the series. But I did get over my disappointment, and these characters were certainly worth reading about. If you are willing to overlook the historical flaws, The Rebel is a good read. I wouldn’t rate it as highly as The Outsider, which received Desert Isle Keeper status from me, but it was a nice addition to the series.
|Review Date:||October 27, 1998|
|Book Type:||American Historical Romance | Frontier/Western Hist Romance|
|Review Tags:||American Civil War | Frontier Romance | Frontier/Western Historical Romance | Men of Pride County series | New Mexico | Southwest | Western romance|