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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.
To have these two people (and the lovers in the side stories) go through the challenges along the way was an excellent experience. Each phrase was elegantly turned, each sentence masterfully placed. There was just enough suspense to keep things interesting, with a couple bits where the suspense got deeper - an actual battle scene! A skirmish!
But really, the best scene was at the end - because, suddenly, Athena was assured happily ever after in more than just terms of her marriage.
Napoleon has been sent to Elba and he is on his way home via Spain and Portugal. And of course he has a mission on his way there!
A lady catches his eye, she is the advisor to the Princess of a tiny kingdom between Spain and Portugal.
The kingdom needs much rebuilding after being ravaged by French soldiers on their way through. Will is able to help with many things and also assist with finding a way to export their wine.
A great Rogue story!
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This was the first book I’ve read by Mary Jo Putney, but I went into it knowing she’d written many...Read more