has also reviewed:

In this series:

Rebel
Surrender

As Heather Graham:

Drop Dead Gorgeous

A Magical Christmas

As Heather Graham Pozzessere

If Looks Could Kill
Never Sleep With Strangers

As Shannon Drake:

No Other Love
No Other Man
No Other Woman

 
Glory by Heather Graham
(Topaz, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-451-40848-9
****
Reviewing is inevitably comparative in nature. We evaluate each book not merely on its own terms, but also as it compares with other similar books. This is nowhere clearer than when one is reading a book in a series. So it is not surprising that my rating the latest installment in Heather Graham's saga of the McKenzie family of Florida is based, at least in part, on how it compares with the other books. I would say that it compares favorably with both Rebel and Surrender. Indeed, it is my favorite of the three set during the Civil War.

I believe I like Glory best because I like its heroine much more than those in the two previous books. Rhiannon Tremaine is, for me, a much more compelling and admirable character. I also like the hero, Julian McKenzie. But then I have liked all the McKenzie men. Graham sure does have a way with heroes.

Dr. Julian McKenzie has chosen to throw his lot in with his state and is a colonel in the Florida militia when the story begins. He and his men are fleeing an attack and he needs to find a place where he can tend one of his men's wounds. They approach a seemingly deserted house with caution. One of the men warns that a witch lives there and that she is a Yank sympathizer. But needs must, and Julian seeks shelter, leaving the impression that he and his men might be Yanks, not Rebels.

Rhiannon's has earned her reputation for magic for two reasons. The more prosaic is that she is a trained healer with a vast store of knowledge about medicine. More otherworldly is the fact that Rhiannon has dreams about the future, dreams she once welcomed, but dreams that since the war began have heralded nothing but tragedy and loss. Six months earlier Rhiannon had had such a dream about her beloved husband Richard. She saw him die in what she would later discover was the battle of Antietam. She is still deeply mourning her loss and seeking oblivion from her dreams in laudanum and other opiates.

Julian discovers what Rhiannon is doing to herself when he enters her room to discover the source of the pained sounds he hears. When he seeks to comfort her, the combination of her drugged state and his exhaustion lead to a mutual search for comfort, which Rhiannon denies the next day. When Yankee troops arrive (Rhiannon was not fooled by Julian's claim), Julian flees, but he returns the next day, determined to take Rhiannon with him, both for her healing skills and to force her to face and fight her addiction.

Thus we have the romantic leads. And thus we have Graham's "most favorite" plot device, at least for her Civil War romances: a hero and heroine who support different sides in this tragic war that split families as well as the nation.

In addition to this nicely done romance, Graham provides a comprehensive view of the war in the spring of 1863, culminating in the Battle of Gettysburg. Much of the tale centers on the challenges faced by doctors who have to fight disease as well as try to repair the horrible wounds that are the very personal cost of battle. We also meet all of the characters from the previous books and discover how they are coping with the war, with danger and with separation.

In Glory, Graham uses a device I remember from Rebel: a prologue which actually reveals the climax of the book. In this case, Rhiannon is helping with the Union wounded while Julian is across the way, ministering to the Confederates. Rhiannon has one of her dreams in which she sees Julian die. So she arranges for him to be captured by the Union forces, thus saving his life. Needless to say, Julian is not real grateful, though he does manage to turn the tables on her in a rather neat twist.

I am not sure how effective this device is. Certainly, I was curious about how the two came to that point. But I wonder why Graham has chosen to "upfront" what is clearly the climax of her story.

A warning. Glory suffers from what is possibly an inevitable problem with books that are part of a closely related series. There is a tremendous amount of back story as characters from the previous books make their appearances. Having read the other books, I found this a bit annoying. I cannot hope to predict how readers who have not read Rebel and Surrender will make sense of all the McKenzies.

Another warning. While Rhiannon's and Julian's romance is the central thread of this book, there is a lot more going on. The two spend a considerable amount of time separated by the vagaries of war. So if you like your historical romances to be solely "character driven," this might not be your kind of book.

A final warning. There is some redundancy and repetition in the book which, while not terribly annoying, is at least distracting. I don't know how many times we needed to be told that Julian's cousin Jennifer almost got hung as a spy (see Rebel or that Julian's cousin's wife Rissa is the daughter of a Union general (seeSurrender) or that Julian's family had never owned slaves. And there is one character who repeats the same speech twice. A bit of careful blue penciling might have helped here.

Still, when all is said and done, I am recommending Glory. As I said earlier, reviewing is often comparative. I gave Surrender three hearts; Glory is definitely better than Surrender. Ipso facto four hearts.

--Jean Mason


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