The Rebel and the Lady
by Kathryn Albright
(Harl. Historical #913, $5.99, PG)  ISBN 0373-29513-8
It is hard for an author to use a true historical event and build a story around it. It is difficult for a reader who thinks they know the ending to read a story wondering how the author is going to maneuver her way around the facts so the tale can have a happy ending. Kathryn Albright handles this situation and provides an ultimately satisfying yet shrouded story.  The Rebel and The Lady is the result.

The setting: Texas, 1836. The place: The Alamo. Result: defenders of the fort dead – all killed during an attack by Santa Anna and his Mexican army. What the reader can learn:  apparently there were a lot of people who wanted a Texas territory and were willing to fight for it. But what is little known (or at least to me, a girl from the Midwest) is that within the ranks of those fighting were Tejanos – men and women of Hispanic descent who also wanted a liberated Texas. It wasn’t just men like Jim Bowie and Sam Houston that the history books mention.

This is the story of one of those Tejanos – Victoria Ruiz. Victoria was raised as a lady on a Spanish style hacienda with the expectation that she would marry a Tejano who would take over her father’s lands and they would grow old together. One candidate was Estaban Castillo, a neighbor and young man who grew up with her in the same society.  But when it came time to choose sides, Estaban chose to join the Mexican army and Victoria was pure Texan. 

The hero is a Carolinian who just happens to be in Texas to find his brother, Brandon.  Jake Dumont is his own man. He and Brandon had a falling out and Brandon came to prove himself.  Jake is determined to find him and take Brandon home to his fiancée.  But Jake is a man of passion and finds Victoria beautiful. He is drawn to her courage and her willingness to sacrifice for something bigger than herself. He isn’t sure where he stands, but he knows he can’t leave her to die.

It is hard to fully describe this story without giving away the essence of it. Suffice it to say that Victoria and Jake end up at the Alamo and the author finds a way to get them out before the devastation. This story is really one of two people figuring out what they need to do to survive and having found love, doing what they can to ensure the other will live.  dissonant

Jake is a mystery man, hinting at secrets and reasons while on the surface being your typical posturing Alpha male. Victoria is a woman who had to grow up fast and finds herself in situations that would make most women cower in the corner. They are well matched. Their romance is intense at times primarily because of the backdrop of the war.  The story carries a sense of despair that is hard to shake, even when it looks like things are going their way. Not only do they have the war and Jake’s duty to his brother, they struggle with their race and class differences.  Always in her mind for Victoria is the fact that Jake is an Anglo and would never be accepted by her family. This uncertainty of the outcome left me as the reader feeling a little off kilter, so it was difficult to fully embrace the love story. It seemed so doomed to tragedy.

The Rebel and the Lady is ultimately a story with a happy ending, but it is also a story that never really gets the reader excited about the romance. There was too much war and too many complications with the question of whose side everyone was on – it was hard to pick out the bad guys at times. I found myself depressed through much of the tale. And then the ending seemed totally out of the blue, making the story feel even more dubious. If you like historical fact based stories, then this may interest you.  But don’t look for it to be an uplifting experience. 

--Shirley Lyons

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