A Wild Justice

Saving Sarah by Gail Ranstrom
(Harl. Hist #660, $5.25, R) ISBN 0-373-29260-0
Gail Ranstrom has written a unique story with several twists that work within the confines of Regency England despite my initial misgivings when I read the back cover. Don’t you be fooled either.

Saving Sarah is the story of Sarah “Sadie” Hunter, an heiress who has vowed to remain unmarried as a result of being raped by four hellions a few years earlier. In Ranstrom’s previous book, Sarah and several members of the Wednesday League (a group of adventuresome women who try to right wrongs done to other women) got revenge. Now, Sarah is trying to help another woman, Mrs. Whitlock. Her husband, Harold, who works in government, physically abuses her and has now taken her children from her to “keep her in line.” Sarah is determined to get them back and help Mrs. Whitlock get away to start a new life.

In order to find the children, Sarah dresses as a boy and goes out into the night, cavorting with other boys on the street that she enlists to find the children. A former Bow Street Runner is also assisting her.

But Sarah runs into Ethan Travis, a past military man who was accused of treason and shunned despite being the brother of an Earl. Ethan is known in the seedy sections of town as an importer and he still does some undercover work for the Dept. of the Ministry - a tricky situation because of the treason accusation, causing Ethan to be something of an outcast. He is currently on a job to protect Mr. Whitlock. Whitlock is trying to blackmail his old boss, and they want him kept alive until they can find the evidence Whitlock is threatening to expose.

Sarah, posing as “Sadie”, a common guttersnipe and prostitute, teams up with Ethan to learn how to follow someone. Ethan chooses to teach Sadie by following the man he needs to, not knowing that Sadie wants to follow him too. She thinks he will lead her to the children. Once she has found the children, she plans to take them back and then get rid of Whitlock.

Their lives are complicated when they begin to feel attraction for each other and Sarah feels things she never thought she could feel with any man. Ethan is enthralled with Sadie’s wit, her courage, and her blend of experience and innocence when she should have none. Things are further complicated when they run into each other in society. Sarah has always been in the middle of things, as the sister of an Earl and an heiress in her own right. Travis starts going into society in an effort to gather some information to help in his investigations.

Although complicated, the story moves at a steady pace with a great mix of romantic interludes, intrigue as they follow their quarry, and bantering over who is the real Sarah and who is the real Ethan. Both Sarah and Ethan are multidimensional characters who have reason to feel the way they do. It is easy to believe they are blindsided by these tender feelings for each other. They lust, but this is not the main draw to the other. It is their courage, their intellect and their quest that develops their relationship.

As this is the second story about the Wednesday League, the other ladies are not well developed. This story stands alone, but it was evident that there is a rich history to uncover about these other women that is not shared here. Sarah’s brothers are also cursorily drawn characters who flit in and out without any real substance.

The story stands on the strength of the plot and the two main characters. Even when a misunderstanding is thrown in towards the end, the story did not falter. The courage of her convictions along with Sarah’s sense of right and wrong help her recognize her error quickly and then she takes steps to make amends. And Ethan shows his strength by not rejecting her out of spite, rather handling things maturely and lovingly.

Just a quick note about the sensuality rating: I chose an R rating which may be misleading. There are only two love scenes, but these two scenes are explicit in their descriptions and may be offensive to some.

If Ranstrom’s first book showed promise, then Saving Sarah is when Ranstrom comes of age. Don’t be fooled by the back of the book, just give yourself a chance to enjoy a well-written tale of intrigue and romance.

--Shirley Lyons

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