“I could not love thee, loved I not honor more” or something like that.
(I’m not too good at remembering quotes.) This is the theme of Allison
Lane’s new Regency romance. Unfortunately, the hero’s love of honor is
so obsessive that it weakens what otherwise is a very interesting and
We meet Colonel Jack Caldwell several months after the Battle of
Waterloo. He has retreated to the estate he inherited to “recover” from
the grave wounds he received on that bloody day. He has little memory
of how he happened to receive his wounds, but he has fragmentary visions
of having murdered a fellow officer and fled the field like a coward.
This convinces him that the bad blood that he has sought all his life to
overcome (his “noble” father is a horrible fellow and his brother every
bit as bad), has finally come irresistibly to the fore. Never mind that
he has fought valiantly and heroically for years and is admired and
trusted by no less than the Duke himself. “Blood will out” - another
Jack decides that suicide is the only answer but honor demands that it
appear to be an accident. Just as he is about to “fall” over a
convenient cliff, he hears a woman scream. Then she rushes to the edge
and catches him before he can achieve his purpose.
Marianne Barnett recognizes the man on the cliff. He is “Jacques,” the
English officer who twelve years earlier helped a traumatized twelve
year old escape from France when war resumed after the failure of the
Peace of Amiens. Marianne immediately recognizes that she and Jack are
“kindred spirits” because both are emotionally wounded.
Marianne’s horrible experience of losing her entire family had left her
distressed and confused. Her unsympathetic aunt and uncle had concluded
that she was mentally deranged and had sent her off to the estate she
had inherited from her father. There she had remained for twelve years,
alone except for a few servants, guards and her books. Now approaching
her majority, she wants to take control of her property but is fearful
of meeting people. But she has no fear of Jack and he feels responsible
for the woman whom he saved.
Jack gives up his suicide plans for the moment as he tries to convince
Marianne to face the world. Then, when her greedy relatives threaten to
seize her property and send her to an asylum, Jack saves her and does
the only thing he can do to save her: he marries Marianne.
I found Marianne an intriguing character. Watching her gradually
overcome both the isolation imposed on her and her own fears about her
sanity was fascinating. Lane wisely does not minimize the difficulties
that her heroine faces. There is no instant cure; recovery takes time
Jack is a more problematic character. Perhaps I am demonstrating a lack
of sympathy, but his conviction that he is a murderer and a coward and a
disgrace is just not, well, heroic. Especially at the end when he
appears to be behaving dishonorably by ignoring a promise he makes to
his wife. Of course, all is made clear and all the loose ends are tied
up, perhaps too neatly.
Lane’s concept and heroine are interesting and the description of
Marianne’s gradual recovery and vindication are well done. However, my
problems with Jack detracted from my enjoyment of Kindred
Spirits. Hence, while I found it to be an acceptable romance, I
can’t quite recommend it.