Third Son's a Charm
In Third Son’s a Charm, Shana Galen introduces us to some of the gentlemen who will feature in stories of their own as her new Survivors series progresses. These men are closer than brothers; they served together during the Napoleonic Wars under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Draven in a unit that was given the toughest and most dangerous missions – those most likely to result in death. What started out as a company of thirty ended as one of twelve, nicknamed ‘Draven’s Dozen’ and now the war is over, those twelve survivors have returned to a civilian life that is not always easy to navigate. Some wounds, most of them mental rather than physical, are still too raw to be put aside, but the men draw a measure of comfort from their comrades, the only people who can fully understand and appreciate what they’ve been through and how it felt to be valued for their skills while at the same time regarded as expendable.
Ewan Mostyn, third son of the Earl of Pembroke is still called ‘the Protector’ by his fellow survivors, his moniker gained because of his dedication to keeping his comrades safe and the untold risks he took to save those in trouble. He’s a big, well-built, extraordinarily strong young man and after his return from the war, bought a part share in the gambling club (Langley’s) run by another Survivor, and lives in a small room on the second floor of the premises. He’s content with his lot – especially as his father wouldn’t be seen dead in such a place so there is no chance of their encountering each other.
After breaking up a fight one night at the club, Ewan is approached by the Duke of Ridlington who tells Ewan he would like to hire him and asks him to visit him at home. Ewan doesn’t know anything about Ridlington, so he heads to the Draven Club to consult Neil Wraxall, another Survivor and one of his closest friends. Before he can get there however, Ewan literally runs into a young woman chasing a dog through the streets, throwing himself into her in order to prevent her being mowed down by an oncoming carriage. To Ewan’s surprise, the woman – who is very clearly Quality – doesn’t thank him for saving her and instead accuses him of almost flattening her dog.
Puzzled and perhaps just the teeniest bit miffed, Ewan continues on his way and meets with Wraxall, who tells him he knows nothing bad of Ridlington. Deciding he might as well find out what the man wants, Ewan presents himself at Berkley Square and quickly finds out. The duke’s daughter, Lady Lorraine is in love with an unsuitable man and has already tried to elope with him. Strongly believing the man in question to be nothing more than a fortune hunter, the duke is concerned to put a distance between his daughter and her swain, and asks Ewan if he would consider taking a position as her bodyguard until such time as Lorraine comes to her senses and realises the man is after her for her money and not for herself. Ewan is not at all keen – until the duke tells him that the gentleman in question is Francis Mostyn, Ewan’s cousin, which puts an entirely different perspective on things.
Lady Lorraine Caldwell – who is, of course, the young lady with the dog – is the only daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Ridlington, and is, at twenty eager to fall in love and get married. Her parents are kind and decent people who obviously love Lorraine, but the duke and duchess are preoccupied with their own concerns – not least of which is the state of their crumbling marriage – and Lorraine is keen to be with someone who will put her first. It’s clear that she’s in love with love rather than with Francis Mostyn, but she is determined to have her way and refuses to give him up.
Ewan and Lorraine are chalk and cheese; she’s a veritable chatterbox and he’s a man of few words, usually using two where others would use ten, and only speaking when he actually has something to say. His taciturn nature has often given others the impression he is an idiot, which is far from the case; Ewan is an intelligent, witty man with a good sense of humour who knows that he would never have survived the war had he really been stupid, but being thought so by others still stings, nonetheless. A childhood stammer and an inability to learn to read led his father to brand him a useless imbecile, and since his return from war, Ewan has supported himself by virtue of shrewd investments and his share in Langley’s and has effectively cut himself off from his family.
Francis Mostyn has taken care to give Lorraine a poor impression of her bodyguard, telling her how Ewan used his superior size and strength to bully and physically assault him when they were boys growing up together, but the more she comes to know Ewan, the more she comes to doubt the veracity of Francis’ words. She also doesn’t quite understand why her “Viking” fascinates her so when she is in love with another man, yet she can’t stop the indecorous images that flash through her mind whenever Ewan touches her or deny that she’s wildly attracted to him.
The relationship between Lorraine and Ewan is nicely developed as we’re shown the two of them gradually coming to trust and understand one another. Lorraine sometimes teeters on the verge of TSTL and gets into ill-advised scrapes that Ewan has to get her out of, but she ultimately shows herself to be a good-hearted young woman with a lot of love to give, and she redeems herself when she realises that Ewan needs help and persuades him to allow her to give it.
There are plenty of sparks flying between Ewan and Lorraine from the start, and the author infuses their romance with plenty of longing and sexual tension. She has also included a secondary romance between Lorraine’s estranged parents, and I freely admit that at times, I was more invested in that than I was in the one between Ewan and Lorraine. There was something very romantic in the duke’s determination to woo back his wife and I’d quite happily have read an entire novel about their second chance at love!
The one bum note in the novel as a whole is the massive hint around the halfway point about something that happens later on; it was unnecessary and so clumsy that it took me completely out of the story. I also wasn’t wild about the subterfuge employed by the duke and duchess towards the end; again, it seemed clumsy and unwarranted.
Third Son’s a Charm is an entertaining start to this new series and one I’m happy to recommend in spite of those reservations. Ewan is an absolute sweetheart, and while Lorraine did occasionally get on my nerves, she was sensible enough at other times to admit to her faults and try to do better. It’s a solidly enjoyable read, and I’m already sufficiently intrigued by the other Survivors as to be planning to pick up the next in the series when it comes along.