Shattered Rainbows by Mary Jo Putney
*****
As a bookseller, I have a number of long-time customers who have come to trust my judgment. On rare occasions, when they walk into the store, I silently hand them a new book. They have come to know that this gesture means the book is outstanding, as close as it comes to a sure-thing -- a keeper. Shattered Rainbows is such a book.

Mary Jo Putney's latest book is the newest in her Fallen Angels series, and the long-awaited story of Lord Michael Kenyon. Happily, it will not be the last in the series.

Michael Kenyon and Catherine Melbourne's lives seem destined to intersect on the battlefields of Europe. Catherine, known as Saint Catherine by the soldiers for her virtue and her selfless nursing of the wounded, rescues a dying Michael after the Battle of Waterloo and uses daring measures to save his life. There is an immediate attraction between them, but neither is free - Catherine is trapped in a loveless marriage and Michael is tormented by visions of his troubled past.

After the war, widowed and nearly destitute, Catherine receives an unexpected inheritance. She has a chance to claim an island estate and a title, ensuring security for herself and her daughter -- but as a condition of this inheritance, she must produce a husband. Because Catherine has sworn never to remarry, she asks Michael to masquerade as her husband. Michael would do anything for the enchanting woman who saved his life.

Their journey to the Isle of Skoal leads them into danger and betrayal, but in developing this section of the plot, the author resists the temptation to resort to traditional villains and cliched endings.

Rarely have I read a book about two such wonderful characters---Catherine is a beautiful, intelligent woman with integrity and Michael a noble, moral hero. Both of them have suffered greatly, yet their suffering has made them strong, not vanquished. When their love is finally realized, their passion is expressed in a way so touching and so satisfying that it brought tears to my eyes.

Although many historical romances have used the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars and the Battle of Waterloo, Putney's description of the actual battle is electrifying. Her obviously intensive research includes fascinating details about battlefield conditions, the different types of military units, and prevailing medical practices. Even as I was holding my breath, worried about the lives of my favorite characters, I realized I was learning fascinating aspects of European history.

Books of quality such as Shattered Rainbows can only raise the standard for all romance novels. This is one of the best books of this year or any year.

--Dede Anderson


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