|Grace Burrowes has thrown another winner into the ring with her second Winham family book, The Soldier. A newcomer to the historical romance scene, Burrowes is proving to be a rising star with her laid-back and often humorous style of writing in a genre that is often stuffy.
As with the heroine in The Heir, Emmaline Farnum is not the stuff society is made of. She's living on the edge of Rosecroft, the land that had belonged to a heathen named Helmsley (this is the family land of Anna, the main character in The Heir, who was the previous earl's sister), who had fathered a young child that is related to Emmie. The girl, Bronwyn, is Emmie's only family, though Emmie knows some day that Winnie will need to take her place in the real world and away from Emmie; Emmie's family are not known for their abstinence, and thus she fears association with her will drag Winnie further through the mud. A troubled little girl who has dealt with a lot of loss, Winnie's well-being is the most important thing in Emmie's world.
Though the oldest son of a duke and the brother to an earl, Colonel Devlin St. Just never expected to have a title himself, having been born, as they say, on the wrong side of the sheets. However, when his father and brother pulled some strings after Devlin saved Anna's life by taking that of her brother, he accepted the title of earl and the downtrodden land that came with it. Restless, wearied, and troubled by the many years of war he has seen, St. Just is looking for respite.
Emmaline is a baker and keeps very busy hours, but when St. Just takes over the care of Winnie, Emmie protests. St. Just, raised by a single mother, understands her plight and moves her into Rosecroft so that she may use his kitchen for her business and act as a temporary cook, thus enabling her to oversee Winnie as well.
The backbreaking labor involved in bringing the estate back around does exhaust St. Just to the point where he can almost relax, but it's Emmie Farnum who brings him the first measure of peace he's known in more than a decade.
Their romance is sweet, and both Emmie and St. Just are tremendous characters. Though there isn't much by way of social gatherings that most people expect from a Regency-era novel and some of the cultural interactions are more contemporary than historical, readers will be well-pleased by the novel. It's refreshing and cute and, at times, heartbreaking. The peripheral characters, especially St. Just's friend Amery and his brother Val, are exceptional additions; and the growth of Winnie as a character and as a girl will touch the hearts of mothers, aunts, or grandmothers. Grace Burrowes will become a mainstay for historical romance, and any fan of the genre should put her on their TBR shelf.