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Once a Soldier (Rogues Redeemed) Mass Market Paperback – June 28, 2016
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About the Author
Mary Jo Putney is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has written over 60 novels and novellas. A ten-time finalist for the Romance Writers of America RITA, she has won the honor twice and is on the RWA Honor Roll for bestselling authors. In 2013 she was awarded the RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. Though most of her books have been historical romance, she has also published contemporary romances, historical fantasy, and young adult paranormal historicals. She lives in Maryland with her nearest and dearest, both two and four footed. Visit her at maryjoputney.com.
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The hero of this book, Will Masterson, may be the least roguish of the bunch. (He is also the brother of Damien Mackenzie, the hero of Putney’s Nowhere Near Respectable.) Will blames himself for his wife’s death, but he’s an all-around nice guy, and an English lord, to boot. Because he’s such a good man, when he’s asked to check on conditions in San Gabriel, a small kingdom between Spain and Portugal, after Napoleon’s abdication, Will goes without protest. In San Gabriel, Will finds a country that has suffered greatly from the depredations of the French and is now vulnerable to attack by anyone looking to prey on the population. He also finds Athena Markham, an Amazon of a woman acting as advisor to the young princess Sofia, who stands to inherit the throne after her father and brother disappeared during the war. Will is struck with Athena, and Athena finds herself drawn to him as well. Athena is the bastard daughter of a courtesan, though, and she knows she has no future with an English gentleman. However, as Athena and Will work together to rebuild and strengthen San Gabriel, they may be unable to resist the attraction drawing them together.
This book probably won’t work for readers who like a lot of drama and passion between the H and h in their romances. While the romance between Will and Athena is sweet, Putney spends a lot of time on the conditions in San Gabriel and Will and Athena’s work there, rather than on building their romance. As a history buff, I didn’t mind that so much, but then I’m more likely not to get impatient with a conversation about how to rebuild a bridge using pontoon boats or a discussion of the wine trade. Other readers might not be so willing to become immersed in those kinds of details.
A secondary romance also distracts from Will and Athena’s story. That romance is between Princess Sofia and Justin Ballard, a Scottish wine trader in Portugal who is a friend of Will’s from school. (That school is the Westerfield Academy, which ties both heroes back to Putney’s Lost Lords series.) I liked their part of the novel, but it seemed like they got almost as many scenes together as Will and Athena did.
So, there are some strikes against the central story being told here of the relationship between Will and Athena. What elevated the story for me is Putney’s experience as a writer. That shows through in her ability to create four likeable characters to carry the action. Putney also knows her history, which is a real plus for me. I can’t stand historical romances where the period feels like mere window dressing, and that’s never the case with Putney’s writing.
While this won’t be the right book for everyone, readers who like their historical romances with likeable characters and a strong focus on history might want to give it a try.
An ARC of this novel was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I like Ms Putney's series so I will continue to read Rogues but I hope she does a better job of developing her characters. They have too much potential to be glossed over as she's done in this one and Lord Kirkland's story. It seems she enjoys developing their environment more than the characters.
THE STORY: Will Masterson went to war despite being heir to a title. He was running from his past but years of war have made him yearn for home in England. Now that the Peninsular Wars have ended, Will has one last mission to complete before he can return home. Will escorts a group of soldiers back to their home in San Gabriel in order to see how the kingdom fares. In San Gabriel, Will meets an Englishwoman Athena Markham. There are sparks between Will and Athena from the beginning, but Athena's past makes her distrust men especially titled gentlemen.
OPINION: This story is heavy on the action as Will and Athena work to save San Gabriel. The romance between them is slow and steady and wrapped in their duties toward the kingdom. I didn't feel that the romance was intense and sparkling but rather of two people who have the same values and loyalties finding one another.
While I enjoyed the story overall, I didn't feel that there was a deeply compelling romance between Will and Athena. I thought they were a match, but their story didn't have the intense interest for me that I consider a requirement for a 5 star book. On the other hand, I did believe that the book had a good overarching story (including a secondary romance) and likeable characters that I cared about.
Because the characters met in unusual circumstances, their behavior did not rely on convention which made their characters more interesting. Because the action of the book takes place far from the ballrooms of London, the characters are not as restrained and seem more free and real. I liked how modern Athena feels (not improper for the times, just strong and independent) and how Will is drawn to Athena because of those attributes.
I think this book is a good kick off to the new series and I hope we see more of Will and Athena in the future.
WORTH MENTIONING: This new series follows a group of men who met by chance when they were sentenced to die as spies and then escaped together.
CONNECTED BOOKS: ONCE A SOLDIER is the first book in the Rogues Redeemed series. The hero in this book also appears as a secondary character in the Lost Lords series. One doesn't have to read that series, however, to enjoy this book.
STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.