Gallant Match by Jennifer Blake
(Mira Books, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-7783-2619-9
Sonia Bonneval, a young French woman from New Orleans, is in a pickle. Her father has promised to marry her to Jean Pierre Rouillard, a man she’s never met and doesn’t want to marry.  Sonia is headstrong and resourceful, and she thinks that she will be able to escape before she’s packed off on a ship to meet Rouillard in Vera Cruz.

Unfortunately, Sonia’s overbearing yet wise father know his daughter.  He wrecks Sonia’s Plan A to escape her imminent marriage by hiring Kerr Wallace, a big Kentucky swordsman, to chaperone her way to Vera Cruz.  If she needs to be pushed, pulled, or carried to her new husband, that’s Kerr’s problem.

Right after Sonia meets Kerr, she tries to sneak out, and she’s thwarted.  Kerr catches her, and takes her to the ship to cool her heels, making certain that she will be on the Lime Rock when she departs in the morning.  As their voyage begins, Sonia tries everything she can think of to entice Kerr to help her escape, but his hardheaded, single-minded determination to see her delivered to Rouillard defeats her.

Kerr has his own reasons for going to Vera Cruz, which he has carefully kept hidden.  He has been searching for Rouillard for years, always just missing him when he comes close.  Kerr believes that Rouillard is responsible for his brother’s death and has sworn to avenge him.  He thought that bringing Jean Pierre’s bride to him would provide him with the perfect cover for his quest - but he never expected to be so attracted to the lovely, outspoken and spirited Sonia.

Gallant Match is a bit of an epic tale with a sea voyage, war declared, a mysterious arms shipment, a love story and a large cast of background characters.  As Kerr and Sonia sail through the days, we learn more about their powerful personalities and personal dreams.  An honorable mention goes to Alex Tremont, the mysterious, charming gambler that Sonia meets aboard the Lime Rock.  He is one of the most interesting characters I’ve read in a while.

Sonia is a bold heroine, and I liked that about her.  She says what’s on her mind, and tries to take care of herself.  However, Sonia is fairly unemotional and that makes her hard to read.  Instead of seeming independent, she seems calculating. She also seems sly.

Kerr is the consummate hero.  His broad shoulders are mentioned throughout the book, and he carries the burden of his brother’s death and his responsibility to Sonia with confidence.  Kerr is a man of few words, with a wry sense of humor.  Kerr is a lot more likeable than Sonia, and it makes their match a little uneven.

Setting the uneven match aside, the story is a sweeping adventure.  There is more than enough suspense and romance to keep the many pages turning.  If the heroine is lukewarm, well, at least Kerr is intriguing enough to hold up the love story.  Gallant Match is a great character-driven story that survives its romantic mismatch. 

--Amy Wroblewsky  

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