Grace Burrowes sat just under my nose for a while before I finally discovered how great an author she was. She’s only been around for a few years, and yet she already has an impressive backlist, full of delicious reads. It comes as no surprise, then, that The Traitor should be as well-written as the novels that came before it.
Sebastian St. Clair is a very interesting character. As an adolescent, he was abandoned in France in the midst of a war. Although he was half-English and the heir to an English barony, Sebastian ended up as an officer in the French Army—one known for his skills at torturing English prisoners. A few years after the war’s end, Sebastian is back in England living with his aunt Frederica. He is now facing the wrath of his old captives, as various English gentlemen step forward to challenge him to duels. So far Sebastian has survived each duel he was forced into, but he knows it is only a matter of time before some determined victim manages to finish him off.
Then Millicent Danforth signs on as companion to his aunt, and Sebastian’s world is rocked.
It begins in small ways, this transformation. First, Millie’s elderly aunt dies, and Sebastian offers to drive her over to the aunt’s old house. He learns that Millie lived with her two aunts for many years, both because she loved them and because she could not bear to stay with her pompous cousin Alcorn and his abusive wife. Her new position with his aunt is the next step in escaping her odious cousin. He learns Millie adores her cat, Peter, and that she doesn’t look down on him for being the “Traitor Baron.”
After their outing together, Millie and Sebastian begin to spend more time together. It’s really lovely to watch them grow to care for each other, because it all happens so simply, so naturally. They talk, they discuss poetry, they sit companionably together to read and sew. And of course, they kiss, which is how—and why—they eventually end up married.
Of course, throughout all of this Sebastian is mired in an inner turmoil. On the one hand, he loves Millie and wants to be with her. On the other hand, he keeps having men coming out of the woodwork to challenge him to duels, and his position in society is precarious at best. Although I’m not generally one for overly-angsty heroes or heroines—martyrdom has never appealed to me much—I had no problems with Sebastian’s turmoil here. He definitely had a good reason for it, and ultimately it didn’t get in the way of his relationship with Millie.
Overall, I loved The Traitor. Grace Burrowes has done it again, has written another amazing book to add to her list of successes. Sebastian is a great character, and a great hero—he has been left battling loads of guilt over all of the atrocities he had to commit during the war, something he never feels ready to forgive himself for, since he was the despicable human being torturing others. It’s beautiful to see Millie help him accept and move past the war.
In fact, the only reason this book was a B+ for me and not a DIK was the fact that I was able to put it down when I finished. When I read a DIK, especially for the first time, I always end the book with a compulsion to return to the characters, to some meaningful scene, just so I can stay in the book a little longer. However, although The Traitor wasn’t quite at that level for me, I don’t doubt it will hit that mark for many other people.