I just wish Merline Lovelace had made her heroine a year or two older.
Had this been the case, I would not have had to ponder whether or not to
recommend The Captainís Woman. But after much thought, I decided
to go with the coveted four-heart rating. I did read the book through
in more or less one sitting and this is my ultimate criteria for
recommending a book.
The too-young heroine is Victoria Parker, the daughter of a newspaper
publisher in Cheyenne, Wyoming. As the story begins, Victoria is a few
months past her seventeenth birthday. Despite her youth, she is already
an experienced newspaper writer, even if most of her stories have to do
with the the social goings-on of her hometown. Victoria has set her
heart on Captain Sam Garrett, late of the U.S. cavalry. Sam, a West
Point graduate, had resigned his commission and returned to Cheyenne
when his father suffered a serious accident.
Unaware of Victoriaís feelings, Sam sees her simply as his nieceís
pretty friend until she manages to steal a kiss. His own surprising
response to the embrace leaves him shaken; after all, he has long
admired another woman, the widow of the doctor who had trained her in
medicine. But Mary Two Feathers Pendergrast had apparently buried her
heart with her husband. Hence, when circumstances force Sam and
Victoria into a compromising position, Sam is quite happy to announce to
the world that they are betrothed.
The romance of Victoria and Sam is played out against the growing
antagonism between the United States and Spain. Indeed, the night of
that first kiss is also the night that news of the sinking of the
Maine becomes known. As the story progresses, we learn about the
American reaction to this event, observe the growing war fever, watch
the volunteers flock to the colors and discover how an unprepared
country heads off to war.
Sam is torn as war approaches. He had resigned his commission to help
his family but cannot help but feel that his country needs his services.
His father, understanding Samís feelings, arranges for him to become
regimental supply officer for the First Volunteer Cavalry regiment, soon
to become renowned as the Rough Riders. So Victoria must watch her
fiancť march off to war.
But Victoria is a determined young lady. She convinces her father to
send her to Tampa to write about the troops as they prepare to embark
for Cuba. She also talks her way onto the Red Cross ship that carries
Clara Barton had her devoted nurses to the battlefield. And she wins
her stripes as a journalist covering the war, but also the brave women
who care for the wounded and sick American soldiers.
The romance between Victoria and Sam is enjoyable. Because of the
circumstances that led to their engagement, they had never confessed how
they felt about each other. Victoria loved Sam but she believes that he
really doesnít love her. Sam knows he is attracted to his fiancťe, but
she isnít exactly his idea of the perfect wife - too stubborn and
strong-willed. So they have to work out their relationship against the
backdrop of war.
What made this book so fascinating to me and kept me turning the pages
was not the love story - however well done it may be. Rather, it was
Lovelaceís marvelous depiction of the historical background to the
romance. I have always enjoyed learning history painlessly. In the
pages of The Captainís Woman I learned a great deal about the
Spanish American War. I learned about the conditions that the American
troops faced. I met Teddy Roosevelt and Clara Barton and got to know
them better. I learned what it was really like when the Rough Riders
charged up San Juan Hill. I met the journalists who covered the war. I
came to appreciate the valor of the nurses who tended the troops at
grave risk to their own health.
It takes an immensely talented and knowledgeable author to combine an
enjoyable romance with fast paced action and an accurate recreation of
the realities of war into a compelling tale. Lovelace does this as well
or better than any other contemporary romance writer. Hence, I was able
to forget the implausibility of an eighteen year old woman becoming a
war correspondent in 1898 and simply immersed myself in the story.
Readers like me who want the history in historical romances to be more
than mere wallpaper may well enjoy The Captainís Woman as much as