When Major Finlay Urquhart was last on the battlefield, he shared a sizzling moment with daring Isabella Romero. Two years later, Finlay has one final duty to perform for his country, one that reunites him with this rebellious senorita! Except Isabella has her own mission, which means that no matter how much she craves Finlay’s touch, she can never tell him the truth. But she’s underestimated Finlay’s determination to protect her, and soon she finds herself letting her guard down, one scorching kiss at a time!
Publisher and Release Date: Mills & Boon, October 2015
Time and Setting: Basque Country, Spain – 1813/1815
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Wendy
This, the second in Marguerite Kaye’s Comrades in Arms duo, is set during the aftermath of the Peninsular campaign or what the Spanish preferred to call the War of Independence. It has at its centre, dashing and honourable Major Finlay Urquhart and bold, beautiful Isabella Romero.
Finlay is at a loose end after the bloody war that has seen so many of his comrades killed and injured; however, he is a career soldier, so when his friend and army colleague, Lieutenant Colonel Jack Trestain (Wellington’s code breaker from The Soldier’s Dark Secret) requests his help on a delicate matter, he eagerly complies. He is to mount a covert mission in which he will attempt to find and repatriate the elusive Spanish partisan, El Fantasma (The Ghost). El Fantasma is still very much operational in post-war Spain and has become an embarrassment to both governments. In Spain, he is surreptitiously printing and circulating propaganda leaflets proclaiming the rights of the common man: Spain has returned to a feudal culture, the Inquisition has returned, freedom of the press has been lost, and poverty and injustice is rife. From being a respected ‘soldier’ for the cause he has now become a dangerous traitor and must be removed. The threat to Wellington is also keenly felt; the duke and his coterie do not wish for certain, less savoury aspects of his leadership during the war to become known, either to the Spanish or the British public, especially as he makes his bid to become Prime Minister. So the race is on, who can get to El Fantasma first? Whomsoever catches The Ghost, will almost surely dispose of him, as what can be safely done with him? Finlay and Jack have their own agenda – they don’t feel that El Fantasma deserves death when he was responsible for saving hundreds of lives.
Finlay has a very weak lead in his search for El Fantasma; he has never forgotten his meeting with the bold, dark eyed beauty he encountered one dangerous night two years previously whilst Britain and Spain were allies in fighting the French. She has stayed vividly in his mind and he remembers that she told him she had direct contact with the partisan he seeks. He therefore sets out – with the cover story of being a wealthy wine merchant – to find the lovely, brave young warrior from the little information she gave him on that night. He finds her, not working on the estate she had mentioned, but very much to his surprise, living as a high born lady, sister of the wealthy owner of that estate, the largest vineyard in the area.
I find it difficult to explain why I did not immediately connect with Isabella. Marguerite Kaye normally excels at creating strong, likeable female characters, but I did not whole-heartedly take to Isabella. She did not seem to me to be the type of woman who would appeal to the pragmatic and discerning Scottish born Major Urquhart, a man with bucket loads of integrity and who is also by the way, utterly gorgeous! This is a man who has dragged himself up against the odds, through the ranks of the British army, without benefit of a wealthy and influential family and been so successful in his career that he is brought to the notice of Wellington himself. Sarcastically the Iron Duke dubs him ‘The Jock Upstart’, even while using his considerable talents to his own ends. Isabella makes some very thoughtless decisions based on her ideals, and although – with the help of Finlay – she eventually sees the error of her ways, I found it hard to credit that an intelligent woman in her position would think in such a way, without thought to the cause and effect of her actions. She isn’t lacking in courage – but perhaps in sense. In spite of this, however, I did eventually warm to Isabella (thanks to Finlay’s view of her) and by the end of the story I was happy enough with her.
That’s my only biggish niggle though, because as usual Ms. Kaye has crafted a thoughtful and beautiful love story with impeccable historical research. The sensuality and attraction between the protagonists is sparkling and when they eventually get together, which is way down the story line, the scene is beautiful and tastefully done.
What I particularly like is the way this author always draws parallels between history and life today. Whether she does it intentionally or not, it shows her to be a thoughtful and caring person. Nothing much has changed in the way our returning soldiers are treated after fighting for their country. Through her careful research, Marguerite Kaye has shown Wellington – the great hero – as a vain and egotistical man, deeply and unfairly critical to the soldiers who had no choice but to follow HIS orders. Comrades in Arms is a serious and thought provoking duo of stories about the dark and sordid side of war and the effect on the people left to pick up the pieces; the glorified side is definitely played down. Ms. Kaye never disappoints in her content and it is rare for me to be unhappy with one of her characters. All in all, The Soldier’s Rebel Lover is a highly recommended, excellent historical romance.